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  • IT’S A NEW DAY IN WISCONSIN: A DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR AND THE CHANGING POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT FOR NASW WI IN MADISON

    Marc Herstand

    by Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

    The election of Tony Evers as Wisconsin’s Governor has provided NASW WI with unprecedented access to a Governor’s administration.  As reported in the front page of this newsletter, NASW WI President Kristi Wood and I met with Governor Evers’ Outreach Director Jamie Kuhn for close to 90 minutes on January 30th.  At this meeting we presented our legislative priorities, asked how we could help the Governor’s agenda and were asked by Ms. Kuhn if we had any items we would like to get in the Governor’s budget.  We had never been offered this before from a previous Governor.  A few weeks later I received a weekend phone call from Jamie inviting us to the Governor’s press conference on Monday regarding his support for legalizing medical marijuana, decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and expunging criminal records of marijuana offenses.  Finally NASW WI received two tickets for Governor Evers’ Budget Address and to visit the Executive Residence after the address. 

    Kristi and I have begun to meet with the Governor’s Department Secretaries and the atmosphere of these meetings is very different from our previous meetings with Department Secretaries and staff in the previous administration.  There is a sense of shared values and goals, which is very refreshing and hopeful

    Wisconsin still has a Republican controlled Legislature and many of Governor Evers’s budget initiatives that we strongly support will encounter major resistance.  However a budget must be passed and the Governor and the Legislature will need to come to an agreement.  They will have to compromise on the areas of disagreement.

    It also seems that the 2018 election overall as well as our Wisconsin elections where the Democrats took every statewide office may have loosened some previous Republican queasiness to get involved in gun violence prevention legislations that is supported by a majority of Wisconsinites and Americans.   In addition I am hoping that this new political environment may lead to progress on issues long stymied including student debt load, reducing county caseload sizes, expansion of Medicaid, the legalization of medical marijuana, criminal justice reform, and increasing support for public schools and the universities. 

    The upcoming redrawing of our legislative line could further result in policy changes in Wisconsin.  In 2021 when the legislative districts will need to be redrawn, we will very likely have divided government with Evers as Governor and the Republicans likely still in control of the Senate and Assembly.  The new legislative lines will probably be redrawn by impartial judges and result in many more “swing” districts.  This could result in changes in control of the Senate or Assembly with the resultant policy changes.  There is also the hope that with more “swing districts” the elected officials would be more moderate and more pragmatic.   One can hope for a return to Wisconsin’s progressive tradition over time.