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Sen. Spreitzer introduces several bills
Mark Spreitzer - photo by 1st Lt. Joe Trovato

MADISON — On Jan. 30, Sen. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) introduced a package of three bills with Rep. Jimmy Anderson (D-Fitchburg) and Rep. Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire) aimed at improving and enhancing local journalism in Wisconsin. LRB 4790 would create a state tax credit for local newspaper subscriptions, LRB 4115 would create a Civic Information Consortium Board that would provide grants to support local journalism and media projects across the state, and LRB 4901 would create a journalism fellowship program within the UW System for beginning journalists. 

Following the introduction of the bill package, Sen. Spreitzer released the following statement: 

“Over the past twenty years, local news organizations have suffered deep cuts. A quarter of American newspapers have shuttered and the number of newsroom staff has declined, while one in every five Americans are now stranded in local news deserts.

“As a State Senator, I know first-hand how important local journalism is to the foundation of our democracy — keeping Wisconsinites informed about their government and local community, providing opportunities for discussion on important civic issues, and helping to cultivate an informed and engaged electorate. Every Wisconsinite deserves access to high-quality and affordable local journalism. This package is an important tool to support local news while encouraging civic participation.  

“I was proud to work with Reps. Jimmy Anderson and Jodi Emerson to introduce this legislative package to support the local newspapers that are the lifeblood of our communities, and I hope that my legislative colleagues will join us in supporting these important bills.”

Bipartisan Legislation Establishing Shared Revenue Advisory Council

Also on Jan. 30, Senator Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) introduced bipartisan legislation to establish a shared revenue advisory council in Wisconsin with Representatives Sue Conley (D-Janesville), Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville), Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee), Clinton Anderson (D-Beloit) and Melissa Ratcliff (D-Cottage Grove). Senator Spreitzer released the following statement:

“This session, the legislature came together on a bipartisan basis for the first time in decades to meaningfully review the distribution of revenue from the state to local governments. I was proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to improve 2023 Act 12 for our district and for communities across Wisconsin, but this critical conversation cannot happen just once every few decades.

“This new legislation ensures that the topic of shared revenue is addressed at least once every 10 years, and that experts come together to review how we can best move our state forward. This legislation creates a council including legislators, local government representatives, and the Department of Revenue, which is tasked with reviewing how shared revenue has been distributed and making a recommendation on how the shared revenue formula could be improved.

“The state’s commitment to local governments is critical to the success of communities of all sizes. This session’s work to update shared revenue distributions will have a tremendous impact as local governments work to provide services for their residents - but many communities have already been faced with tough choices while the state failed to act.

“We have communities in the 15th State Senate District that don’t receive their fair share of state funding under either the old formula or the new law. Chief among these is the City of Janesville, which has been locked into a low shared revenue distribution that hasn’t been updated since before the GM plant closed. This legislation ensures that stakeholders regularly recommend formula changes for the betterment of our entire state and consider changing circumstances in communities of different sizes.

“I was proud to work with a bipartisan group of legislators that came together to address this crucial issue for our local communities, and I hope that our legislative colleagues will join us in supporting this important bill.” 

Bill to Support Beginning Farmers

On Jan. 31, Rep. Jenna Jacobson (D-Oregon) and Sen. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) introduced legislation with Representative Dave Considine (D-Baraboo) to create a refundable tax credit for beginning and existing farmers for the sale or lease of agricultural assets, including farmland. LRB 5758 would create the Farming Forward Program in Wisconsin, which would help pass family farms on to the next generation by encouraging existing farmers to sell or lease farmland and machinery to beginning farmers and help beginning farmers with their startup costs.

“Family farms are central to Wisconsin’s history, culture, and infrastructure,” said Rep. Jacobson. “Wisconsin’s agricultural heritage and family farms are the backbone of our rural communities and our state. Farmers across Wisconsin have shared that one of the biggest hurdles to continuing and strengthening our agricultural legacy is expensive startup costs. At the same time, many farmers who are looking to retire rely on income from selling or leasing the farm to fund their retirement, and may not be able to afford to sell or lease their land at a discount to a beginning farmer. To address these issues, LRB 5758 creates the Farming Forward Program. This program provides a 5% refundable tax credit to beginning and existing farmers for the sale or lease of agricultural assets, including farmland. The beginning farmer may also claim a credit equal to 5% of the amount they paid for improvements on agricultural assets consisting of land and facilities. In this way, we can strengthen Wisconsin’s rich legacy of generational farms.”

“Family farms and agriculture are central to Wisconsin’s heritage and to our economy,” said Sen. Spreitzer. “We are proud to introduce legislation today to uphold Wisconsin’s strong tradition of agricultural excellence by supporting our next generation of family farmers. Wisconsin’s farmers are aging, even while farmland acreage and the total number of farms across our state are in decline. The Farming Forward Program would create an important incentive for farm asset owners to sell or rent agricultural assets — including land, machinery, equipment, facilities, and livestock — to beginning farmers at a more affordable price. The program will help beginning farmers afford critical startup costs and make needed investments in their farming operation to set themselves up for long-term success.” 

LRB 5758 is available for cosponsorship by the members of the state legislature through February 9. The bill was modeled on a previous beginning farmer tax credit program in Wisconsin, as well as successful programs in Minnesota and Iowa. LRB 5758 was drafted in consultation with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR), and has the support of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, the Wisconsin Farmers Union, the Dairy Business Association, and the Wisconsin Agri-Business Association.

Bill to ban child marriage in Wisconsin

On Feb. 1, Senator Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit), Representative Sue Conley (D-Janesville), and Representative Clinton Anderson (D-Beloit) introduced bipartisan legislation to ban child marriage in Wisconsin with Representative Jimmy Anderson (D-Fitchburg) and Senator Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick). 

“I am proud to introduce this legislation with my colleagues to end child marriage. Last year, Representative Sue Conley, Representative Clinton Anderson, and I met with members of the Zonta Club of Janesville and other Zonta clubs for an in-depth discussion on the negative impacts of child marriage in Wisconsin. The data is clear: the marriages this bill would outlaw are overwhelmingly between minor children and adults and have clear gender disparities, with the vast majority involving minor brides marrying adult men. Combined with research showing that child marriages have higher rates of domestic violence, it is crystal clear that child marriage must end in Wisconsin,” Senator Mark Spreitzer said.

“I deeply appreciated hearing from local advocates who understand how important it is that we stop child marriage in Wisconsin. Marriage is one of the most significant personal and legal commitments that a person can make, and state law must recognize that no child should be entering into such a consequential, legally binding contract. While child marriages continue to decrease each year, they are still happening because our statutes allow it. We can and should ban child marriage in our state,” Representative Sue Conley said.

“We must prohibit child marriage in Wisconsin, and we must provide minors who are currently married with the means and agency to leave that marriage. I hope that my legislative colleagues will join us in taking this essential step to protecting some of the most vulnerable Wisconsinites,” Representative Clinton Anderson said.