MENOMONIE — Sen. Sheila Harsdorf said Monday she is working to get one of the state budget hearings in the western Wisconsin area.
Harsdorf, R-River Falls, serves on the Joint Finance Committee. Public hearings would likely start in April, she said during a listening session Monday at the Dunn County Judicial Center.
“They are well attended,” she said. “Literally hundreds of people come to testify so your testimony will be limited to two minutes. You can expect to stay all day.”
The budget includes additional funding for broadband Internet access.
We know broadband is a huge issue especially in rural Wisconsin,” Harsdorf said. “Frankly I see broadband access essential for our sustainability for rural communities.”
The lack of broadband and the fact that not everyone has access to the internet is why Harsdorf said she did not support Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to scrap the requirement of publishing public meeting notices and minutes in local newspapers.
“Maybe at some point that could be a different situation,” Harsdorf said, noting having one of three required public notices on a local government website might be a good balance.
She also addressed the audit of the state Department of Transportation, saying one of the major concerns is the department overruns on 16 major projects and not following best practices.
Harsdorf said she enjoys holding listening sessions, even though she and those attending may not agree on all issues. About 50 people attended her listening session Monday.
“I don’t want to silence people,” she said. “I believe these listening sessions are valuable.”
When asked about campaign advertising, Harsdorf said she believes the public should know where campaign funds originate.
“To me the challenge is knowing what you can believe,” Harsdorf said. “We have to be critical thinkers and critical readers.”
Dick Lamers of Colfax urged Harsdorf to eliminate policy issues being a part of the state budget.
“Put a lock on the policy issues coming into the budget so we as the public have a chance to discuss them,” Lamers said.
Kitz Cleary of Colfax implored Harsdorf to support independent redistricting of legislative districts to prevent gerrymandering.
Harsdorf said the key is ensuring a group truly is nonpartisan.
Luisa Gerasimo of Menomonie spoke against a proposed bill making it illegal to challenge the capacity of a high capacity well.
“Why should one individual or corporation benefit from using something that is basically a public resource?” Gerasimo said.
Harsdorf said her understanding was the legislation was introduced to protect agricultural businesses so those with livestock or large crop farms could transfer their property or have maintenance done on a well and not have to have a high capacity permit renewed.
Concerns were also brought up about cutting state Department of Natural Resources staff and the loss of scientists.
Harsdorf said nine of the 18 positions being cut are vacant. She noted there are 40 scientists in the DNR, and they are not being eliminated.
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