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Delegates set agenda for 2023 Superior Days

Local residents identified challenges for Northwestern Wisconsin that require legislative action and agency intervention to resolve.

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Superior Days delegates gather in the Yellowjacket Union Great Room on Monday, Sept. 26, to discuss issues they will educate legislators and state agencies during the 38th grassroots lobbying effort in February.
Shelley Nelson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — Plans for the 38th Superior Days are well underway after a brainstorming session Monday, Sept. 26.

Almost two dozen delegates, including five first-timers, gathered at the University of Wisconsin-Superior Yellowjacket Union to identify issues to bring to the attention of state legislators and agencies in February.

Delegates gathered in groups of three to six people to hash out ideas before pitching their thoughts to the whole group.

Within 90 minutes they succeeded in sketching out four issues to take to the Legislature and another six to discuss with state agencies. Another two agencies — the departments of tourism and transportation — were identified for possible meetings, although specific topics of discussion were not identified.

Among the issues for legislators to consider are some that have been talked about for years, like allowing counties to increase the sales tax by 0.5% to help pay for roads; income tax reciprocity with the state of Minnesota; and allowing UWS to retain revenue generated by tuition reciprocity rather than putting it into the UW System’s general fund, which would allow the local campus to benefit from tuition reciprocity.

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A bill was introduced on tuition reciprocity last year, but the session ended before it was fully considered, said Ilsa Hoeschen of the Link Center at UWS.

Douglas County has been pushing for the sales tax for roads since 2014. A bill was introduced the following year by then-state Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, and then-state Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, that would have allowed voters to decide if counties could raise revenue for roads that way. The bill failed to gain support from the Legislature.

“Both Douglas and Bayfield County are borrowing money just to try to keep up,” said Bayfield County Supervisor Fred Strand. “And we can’t do that well enough.”

The proposal would benefit businesses, transportation of goods and tourism, in addition to giving residents better roads to drive on, he said.

A new idea this year has taken different forms in the past, but calls for real cost reimbursement — or Medicaid reciprocity — to ensure recipients can get the physical and mental health care they need. Reciprocity is important on a number of issues, like mental health and health services, because the main medical community in the Twin Ports is in Duluth, Superior City Councilor Ruth Ludwig said.

“One of the strengths of Superior Days is we can all find issues that we agree on,” said Douglas County Board Chair Mark Liebaert, co-chair of Superior Days.

Other issues delegates plan to discuss with state agencies include broadband; medical license reciprocity; juvenile correction placements; overdose rates and location of treatment centers; veteran nursing homes; project boundaries in Ashland and Iron counties for the North Country Trail; a child advocacy center; and meat inspectors.

“One of the issues that we have is local meat processors and state inspectors,” Strand said. “If you’re someone who raises a few animals for butchery, there are very few places that do custom butchery on a small scale … the ones that do exist have trouble getting state inspectors in.”

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Superior City Councilor Mark Johnson asked if students would be participating again in Superior Days.

Douglas County Supervisor Sue Hendrickson, who was unable to attend Monday night’s meeting, advocated to bring students to Madison in 2023.

“As you know, youth are very popular with the legislators and can open doors that are sometimes hard to penetrate,” Hendrickson wrote in an email forwarded to the delegation.

Mayor Jim Paine, co-chair of Superior Days, said students would once again be able to participate.

Superior Days was launched in 1985 when about 80 residents headed to Madison to advocate for a four-lane Wisconsin Highway 53. While the state didn’t cut a check immediately, the four-lane divided highway between Eau Claire and Superior was completed in 1999.

The 38th Superior Days is set for Feb. 21-22 in Madison.

“We’re very proud of the fact that this is the very first citizen lobbying organization,” Paine said. “I know this is a little bit hard to believe because everybody does it now, but the idea that we, as a regular group of citizens … will go down there and lobby every single legislator and the governor in a single day? It’s always proven to be very effective.”

This story was updated at 8:15 a.m. Friday, Sept. 30 to correct the spelling of Ilsa Hoeschen's name. It originally posted at 7 a.m. Sept. 29.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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