Lobbying paves way despite Madison strifeIn the midst of protests, fireside chats, missing senators and an all-night Assembly session, Superior Days took place this week. Approximately 250 youth, business people, elected officials and everyday folk from northwest Wisconsin trekked to Madison to share their concerns, meet new people and make connections.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
In the midst of protests, fireside chats, missing senators and an all-night Assembly session, Superior Days took place this week. Approximately 250 youth, business people, elected officials and everyday folk from northwest Wisconsin trekked to Madison to share their concerns, meet new people and make connections.
“Superior Days does embody a pure form of Democracy,” former Superior Mayor Dave Ross, now secretary of the Department of Regulation and Licensing, told the delegation Wednesday.
“As challenging as it will be around the Capitol today, I’m proud you’re here,” he said. “I’m proud you will be heard.”
Some delegates were uneasy about the reception they would get, as controversy over Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill continued in the Capitol.
“I had a lot of doubts when I left home about what we were going to be able to do,” said longtime Superior Days participant Larry Luostari, chairman of the town of Cloverland. “But it worked out.”
Wednesday, delegates spoke one-on-one with legislators or their aides, highlighting three points — continued support for education at all levels, a new tax reciprocity agreement with Minnesota and including a study for the possible expansion of U.S. Highway 2 in the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s 2030 plan.
Luostari said his team received a very good reception from legislative aides and Rep. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield. The representative had snuck into his office for a rest in the midst of Assembly session debate on the budget repair bill, which began at 10 a.m. Tuesday and continued through the night.
“We talked to him for about 20 minutes,” Luostari said. “We had a very friendly conversation.”
His wife, Pat, ended up splitting her team to cover two meetings that had been scheduled at the same time. With a few phone calls, they were able to touch base with aides in two other offices. After the lobbying effort, they stopped by the senate chambers for a tour.
“It was a wonderful educational experience,” said Pat Luostari, an English teacher at Northwestern High School.
Amanda Tesarek, a Superior High School junior, said her lobbying group met with Rep. Jennifer Schilling, D-La Crosse. The representative told them she had been up all night debating amendments to the budget repair bill.
“And you could just see that she was so tired,” Tesarek said. “But she was still willing to talk to us and just full of energy. So that was really nice to see. Even going through such a stressful time, people are still trying to take it and just make the best of it.”
The group almost got to talk to another representative, Tesarek said, but he had to sprint to the Assembly chambers for a vote.
Reba Buczynski, a SHS senior, said her team’s visit with Rep. Peggy Krusik, D-Milwaukee, was open and friendly.
“It wasn’t really like a lobbying effort,” she said. “It was more like a conversation.”
For Dan Corbin’s team, the morning meetings offered an opportunity to let those they spoke to know more about the area.
“Nobody knew where northern Wisconsin was,” he said, except one aide who had driven through Superior once on his way to Hibbing.
Even one of the absent senators met with delegates.
“Our lobby team actually met with Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, over the phone, obviously — and Reps. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, and Nick Milroy, D-South Range, all at the same time,” said Caitlin Pendleton, an SHS student. “And they were all really passionate about our issues.”
Not everything they heard was positive. During meetings with legislative aides for representatives Ed Brooks, R-Reedsburg and Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, the lobby group led by Douglas County Supervisor Jim Paine was warned of cuts to shared revenue in the next state budget, set for release next week.
“[Local governments] are going to be under some budgetary pressure because the state isn’t going to be kicking in as much as it used to,” said John Flynn, an aide for Brooks.
Jeff Curry, an aide for Tranel, stated it more bluntly.
“You guys do know they’re going to cut everything,” he said, referencing the current budget shortfall and upcoming budget deficit.
After Levi Felton, a senior at SHS, talked about the importance of continued funding for education, Flynn advised the lobby team to keep tabs on local funding and start asking questions now about where cuts would be made.
“It’s really important to stay in touch with local officials right now,” he said.