State News

“Forward Together:” Democrats discuss legislative session priorities, emphasize increased action

Democrat Representatives propose solutions and outline priorities for the upcoming legislative session while expressing frustration toward Republicans who they claim are holding up solutions they see as necessary for improving the lives of Wisconsin families. 

Image By: Will Cioci

Democratic representatives outlined their priorities for the upcoming Fall session in a press conference, “Forward Together,” at the Senate Parlor Monday focusing on values that put “families, workers and communities first.” 

The 20-minute meeting led by Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, Rep. Sheila Stubbs, D-Madison, and Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, carried a frustrated tone on the lack of legislative action occurring, which representatives linked to the state of Wisconsin’s tense, split government.

“Our job as state legislators is to, quite frankly, have an obligation to the people of our state,” Sargent said, explaining the Democrats intentions to pass laws based on their proposed goals.

With little policy change occurring since Gov. Tony Evers’ inauguration, Democrats discussed some of the priorities they feel deserve more attention: gun control, cannabis legalization, justice reform and upholding democracy. 

“Why won’t these Republican legislators get to work?” Taylor asked, indicating where she believes the problem lies. 

Cannabis remains an issue Democrats have pushed hard on presenting forward bills centered around both medicinal use and outright legalization. 

Sargent mentioned the “multi billion-dollar industry,” the benefit for farmers, the need for medical usage and combating inequality in the state as reasons for supporting legalization.

Taylor mentioned the most recent bill, which was authored by legislators on both sides of the aisle. Despite having bipartisan support from the Assembly and the Senate, marijuana is still unpopular for the majority of Republican representatives, making major policy changes toward legalizing cannabis unlikely.

“The Republicans are refusing to have conversations with us and give these policies any consideration,” Sargent said. 

Stubbs paralleled feelings of discontent when she spoke on the extreme problems of racial inequality. Arguing that “it is time to move our state forward,” she emphasized the particular need for a “groundbreaking” plan involving schools, healthcare and justice reform. 

“Earlier this year, it was reported that 92.7 percent of white students graduated from high school, compared to only 67 percent of Black students,” Stubbs said. “Wisconsin, the state that I represent, is the absolute worst state to raise a black family.” 

The “Forward Together” initiative looks to address these goals by expanding access to early childhood education, increasing the minimum wage and ensuring a fair judicial system.

The group addressed the potential special session on gun legislation proposed by Evers last week surrounding ERPO and red flag laws, which intend to change legal firearm ownership. 

Taylor expressed her irritation with the insufficient amount of hearings on gun control, and supported universal background checks. She also noted a special session is less preferable to holding hearings and passing bills in the regular session. 

Sargent encouraged her Republican colleagues to join Democrats “at the table,” to which Taylor added, “If Republicans did their job, we wouldn’t need a special session.” 

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