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Superior Days delegation prepares for trip to Madison

Roughly 50 people will take part in the grassroots lobbying effort Feb. 22-23.

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Sidewalks are mostly empty around the Wisconsin State Capitol on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Madison.
Angela Major / WPR

SUPERIOR — Superior Days delegates met Wednesday, Feb. 16, on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus to prepare for the annual grassroots lobbying effort. The in-person event, set to take place Tuesday, Feb. 22, and Wednesday, Feb. 23, in Madison, has received the tentative green light despite the most recent surge in COVID-19 cases statewide.

A smaller delegation is making plans to head to Madison to lobby state officials.

“I’m getting a little excited,” said Douglas County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert. “For a while I wasn’t. Now I think everybody should get a little psyched up because I believe Superior Days is going to happen.”

COVID-19 shuttered the last two Superior Days events, although it was held virtually in 2021.

“So we are grateful to be going,” said Superior Mayor Jim Paine.

The in-person event is a chance to build relationships with legislators and agency leaders, and remind them of the unique challenges Douglas County faces, officials said.

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"In my opinion, the progress we’ve made rarely has to do with the issues we bring. Sometimes the issues work out, but we form connections with our legislators, but also with the secretaries, and they remember us and they help us out in other ways. That’s where I think it’s incredibly useful," said Dave Longsdorf, deputy director for the Douglas County Health and Human Services Department.

This Superior Days, the 37th, will be a streamlined version. The event has been simplified in an effort to make it as effective as possible, Paine said, and pared down to a delegation of just over 50 people.

To be presented at Superior Days, an issue needs to be unique to Douglas County, something that can’t be solved at a local level. The majority of topics delegates will be bringing to Madison are repeats.

“So all these issues, they’re old, but they are important, and if it’s an important issue you’ve got to continue to push even if you can’t make any traction on it, because you never know when it’s going to tip,” said Liebaert, who called them “good, common sense asks.”

In teams of three, Superior Days delegates intend to meet with all 132 legislators in the Capitol on Wednesday. Each team will set up meetings with about eight legislators. The three issues they will lobby for include:

  • Increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes to reimburse facilities for the actual cost of care and services.
  • Changing the tuition reciprocity agreement between Minnesota and Wisconsin to allow the institution the student attends to retain any difference in tuition. Currently, the difference in tuition paid by Minnesota students lands in the state’s general fund.
  • Allowing Douglas County to impose a 0.5% sales tax, with the proceeds directed to road repair and maintenance. Liebaert said that move could net the county about $4 million annually.

In addition, delegates will have the opportunity to meet with various agency leaders Tuesday to discuss specific issues that require action at the state level. The list includes:

  • Tax reciprocity between Minnesota and Wisconsin so people who live in one state and work in the other would not have to fill out two income tax forms every year.
  • A pilot program aimed at retaining graduates that would provide student loan forgiveness for University of Wisconsin-Superior graduates who live and work in Douglas County.
  • Medical license reciprocity between Wisconsin and Minnesota, which would make it easier for Douglas County residents to access critical services in Duluth such as detoxification and behavioral health.
  • Changes to the state’s broadband policy that include increasing the minimum standard of broadband to 100 mbps download and 100 mpbs upload and updating grant policy and maps to cover more than the minimum of one customer per census block.
  • Making direct, specific requests for how Infrastructure Bill funds will be administered at the local level.

Most important, Longsdorf said, it's a time to make connections, particularly after two years without meeting face-to-face.
"It's a great opportunity for us to meet with the (DHS) secretary and really kind of get Douglas County on the map that way," he said.

South Range Democratic Rep. Nick Milroy introduced legislation to allow out-of-state health workers to provide virtual care during the pandemic.
Superior Days old
Superior Days old
Forged a trail to Madison that has been traveled for 25 years. The annual event showcases grassroots political action at its best, said legislators in Madison. (Submitted photos)
Superior Days
Superior Days
Douglas County Supervisors Jim Paine, Doug Finn and Mike Coyle head to a meeting with the Wisconsin Counties Association in Madison on Monday afternoon. The three are part of Superior Days 25th delegation

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