Reps in the News: WisDOT Launches Podcast

Governor Tony Evers

A new, monthly podcast series is available that discusses the state’s transportation challenges, issues and opportunities, including safety, engineering, multimodal investments and DMV topics. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) launched its first episode of “Transportation Connects Us” on Wednesday.

In the new episode, Gov. Evers and WisDOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson discuss concerns regarding the state’s transportation needs, the need for better roads and the importance of ongoing funding.


Senator Tammy Baldwin

Sen. Baldwin, along with Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) blasted AveXis, a subdivision of pharmaceutical giant Novartis, for falsifying data in order to obtain approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its new gene therapy, Zolgensma, which was developed through taxpayer funding and is now sold for $2.1 million. In a letter to Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, the senators urged the FDA to hold AveXis accountable through all appropriate criminal, civil and regulatory actions and to restore public confidence in the agency’s approval process.

Zolgensma, a new biological product, is the most expensive medication in American history, with a price tag of $2.1 million. On May 24, the FDA approved Zolgensma for children who have a severe form of spinal muscular atrophy. This is an important medical breakthrough for a vulnerable patient population. However, AveXis failed to disclose to the FDA the inaccuracy of its product testing data until June 28 – despite apparently having prior knowledge of the issue in March. AveXis was the beneficiary of numerous federal taxpayer-funded benefits and incentives, including National Institutes of Health (NIH) research and accelerated FDA reviews.

“It is unconscionable that a drug company would provide manipulated data to federal regulators in order to rush its product to market, reap federal perks and charge the highest amount in American history for its medication. Such greed cannot be condoned by the FDA,” the senators wrote. “This scandal smacks of the pharmaceutical industry’s privilege and greed, and Americans are sick of it.”

Source: Baldwin press release

President Donald Trump

The Trump administration announced on Monday that it has finalized a controversial rollback of protections for endangered species, including allowing economic factors to be weighed before adding an animal to the list. The Interior Department regulations would dramatically scale back the Endangered Species Act – America’s landmark conservation law – by limiting protections for threatened species, limiting how factors such as climate change can be factored into listing decisions, and limiting the review process that’s used before projects are approved on their habitat. 

“These changes crash a bulldozer through the Endangered Species Act’s lifesaving protections for America’s most vulnerable wildlife,” Noah Greenwald, the Center for Biological Diversity’s endangered species director, said in a statement.

Monday’s rule finalizes an earlier proposal from the Interior Department and prompted threats of lawsuits from many environmental groups that say the changes will gut the law.

The Endangered Species Act, first passed in 1973, is considered a success globally, surpassing protections for flora and fauna in many other countries. Environmentalists see it as one of America’s premier environmental laws.