I learned early on as an elected official that talk is cheap. That’s why, when I was elected to the legislature thirteen years ago, I promised I’d get the job done and I got right to work.
It all sounds so simple, right? Just talk a good game and go out and do it.
At every turn there are competing ideas, competing agendas, limited resources and most of all, competing egos.
To me, representing you isn’t just about the title. I just turned 50 years old and I still raise my son on the same block I grew up on. Some people get elected to office and turn into politicians. I’ve worked very hard to ensure I stayed a public servant. Because to me, you are not just my constituent, you are my neighbor. That’s why you deserve the best possible representation I can give you. Over the past 13 years, I’ve worked hard in the following areas:
Everyone knows legislators write bills and they try to help them become law. Most are happy if they get a few bills into law. Well, in 13 years, I’ve written over 600 bills and 101 of them became law. These bills have done everything from requiring that police officer-involved deaths be investigated by an independent law enforcement agency, to forcing domestic abusers to surrender their firearms, to improving care and medical treatment for rape victims.
There’s more to being a legislator than writing and voting on laws. Wisconsin spends more than $70 billion every two years. The powerful Joint Committee on Finance controls most of that money. Early in my career, I made it a point to get on that committee and bring as much money back home as I could. In my career, I’ve secured over $139 million for Milwaukee Public Schools and millions more for Glendale, Shorewood and Wauwatosa schools. I also played a leading role in 2009 to pass the most sweeping accountability measures that reformed the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. After all, it’s about accountability of taxpayer funds. In every committee appointment and every budget proposal, I see an opportunity to improve the lives of my constituents.
I have been able to achieve all of this while there have been both Democratic and Republican majorities in the Senate. Whether Democratic Governor Jim Doyle is in office or Republican Governor Scott Walker, I have worked with both of them to pass good policies and bring badly needed funds back to the district. In politics, some people see compromise as a dirty word. Not me. When you promise to get things done, sometimes you have to compromise. You can always come back in a future legislative session to finish the job. For example, I know the independent review of officer-involved death law isn’t perfect. I’d like to see an independent review board and more training for officers just to name a couple changes. But, I had to work with a Republican Legislature and a Republican Governor to get the bill done. A half a loaf is better than no bread at all.
Many of these laws were written after conversations I’ve had with constituents. Unlike most state legislators, I also maintain a district office in Milwaukee, which has enabled me to build a bridge of communication between my people and the politicians whose laws affect their lives.
During my time in the Senate, over 50,000 people from both inside and outside my district reached out to my office. These include inmates seeking assistance with their medical treatment, citizens angry about delayed construction projects and people whom just want to make sure their voice is heard.
In 2013, Toba Kramer of Shorewood slipped into a coma at 86-years-young. Due to the coma, she faced stiff late penalties for property taxes she was unable to pay. Because of her, I wrote the Toba Kramer Medical Hardship Exemption Act, which would have given local treasurers flexibility to ensure nobody else is treated with such disrespect by their government. Legislating hasn’t always been easy. Not every bill becomes law and that is why I am even more motivated to keep working to pass legislation to help all the Toba Kramers of my district.
I do the job because I love the 4th Senate district. Representing you is an honor. I’m not finished yet. I’m proud of my 101 bills, but what keeps me motivated is knowing there’s so much more work to be done.