Reps in the News: Protecting State’s Water; More
Representative Joel Kitchens
Protecting the state’s water from polyfluoroalkyl substances, more commonly known as PFAS, was one of the main discussion topics during two recent public hearings in front of the Assembly’s Environment Committee and the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality.
PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals that have been used in a variety of industries worldwide since the 1940s. They are considered to be “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down and can accumulate over time in both the human body and the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there is sufficient research to show that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes, including low infant birth weight, thyroid hormone disruption and cancer.
The Assembly Environment Committee, chaired by Rep. Kitchens, held a public hearing on a bill that would place limits on the use of firefighting foams that contain added PFAS. Under the legislation, these foams could be used only in emergency firefighting operations or testing approved by the Department of Natural Resources.
“I decided to be a co-author of this bill because I believe it’s important that we create a better balance between reducing the negative environmental impacts of these chemicals and giving our emergency personnel the tools they need to keep our residents safe,” Kitchens said. “But, as was pointed out during the hearing, there are still many more products that consist of PFAS, so our work is far from over. Fortunately, we received a lot of great information that will help lead us in the right direction during the recent Water Quality Task Force public hearing in Marinette. To watch that hearing, visit wiseye.org.
Source: Kitchens newsletter
Governor Tony Evers
Two more of Gov. Tony Evers’ secretary picks have received nods of approval, yet questions linger about whether and when the Republican-controlled Senate will formally confirm the Democratic governor’s growing cabinet.
A state Senate committee on Tuesday approved the nominations of Caleb Frostman as secretary of the Department of Workforce Development and Sara Meaney as secretary of the Department of Tourism.
Frostman is a former Democratic state senator from Sturgeon Bay and a former executive director of the Door County Economic Development Corporation. He was elected to the Senate in a 2018 special election but lost in November to Republican Rep. André Jacque.
Meaney was the chief marketing and development officer for Milwaukee Film and has worked as the managing director of advertising agency BVK.
Until Evers’ cabinet members are approved by the Senate, GOP leadership can remove them.
Senator Tammy Baldwin
Sen. Baldwin – ranking member of the Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard – and 13 Senate Democrats led by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) wrote to U.S. Department of Commerce Inspector General Peggy Gustafson demanding answers following recent reports of improper behavior at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), including one that commerce department officials threatened to fire NOAA employees for contradicting the president’s false assertions about the projected path of Hurricane Dorian.
In their letter, the senators also denounced the administration’s repeated attempts to censor, withhold and undermine science for partisan political gain at the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and the Interior and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Scientists within the federal government work for the American people, not for private industry or the president’s personal vanity. Individuals and families across the country rely on weather forecasting to determine everything from what they wear each day to the decision to evacuate a home during extreme weather events. As deadly extreme weather becomes more and more common, maintaining public trust in these reports becomes increasingly important. Agency officials should not be sacrificing trustworthy weather reporting for political gain,” the senators wrote.
The senators also requested the following information related to the circumstances surrounding the past week’s events within NOAA:
• Whether department officials who are not subject-matter experts have suppressed or altered – or are actively suppressing or altering – scientific products or communications;
• Whether department officials were pressured or explicitly directed by the White House to take the actions reported or to overrule career staff;
• The legality of any actions by department officials, who are not subject-matter experts, who altered or witnessed any alterations to scientific products of communications; and
• Whether department officials retaliated or made political decisions that have impacted NOAA’s ability to fulfill its mission to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts; to share that knowledge and information with others; and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.
Source: Baldwin press release
President Donald Trump
President Trump on Wednesday continued his verbal assault on the Federal Reserve, which he blames for slowing the economy, tweeting that the central bank should cut interest rates to zero or even set negative interest rates. The president also called Fed officials “boneheads” in the tweet.
“The Federal Reserve should get our interest rates down to zero, or less, and we should then start to refinance our debt. Interest cost could be brought way down, while at the same time substantially lengthening the term,” he said.
A Fed spokesperson declined comment on the latest Trump salvos.
The president also made a new suggestion not seen in some of his past attacks on the Fed: that the country should refinance its debt load. The U.S. has $22.5 trillion in debt, $16.7 trillion of which is held by the public.
That debt load has grown $2.6 trillion, or 13 percent, under Trump. Taxpayers have paid $538.6 billion in interest costs during the 2019 fiscal year – easily a record.