State News: April 3 – 10

Fred Risser, Nation’s Longest-Serving State Legislator, to Retire

Democratic state Sen. Fred Risser – the nation’s longest-serving state legislator – announced March 26 that he won’t seek re-election, bringing an end to a career that has spanned 64 years.

The 92-year-old Risser was first elected to the state Assembly in 1956, then to the state Senate in 1962. Risser leaves as the Legislature’s last surviving veteran of World War II.

During his career, he has worked with 13 governors. According to the press release from his office announcing his retirement, he has never missed a roll call.

Risser listed his work on the state’s building commission as one of his biggest accomplishments, including his oversight of the restoration of the state Capitol building. He was also the author of Wisconsin’s statewide smoking ban.

Almost immediately, Risser’s retirement news initiated a scramble among those looking to fill his seat in the center of the state’s Democratic stronghold – a district that hasn’t been vacant since John F. Kennedy was president.

DPI Seeks Waiver from Standardized Testing

A mandate by the state’s Department of Health Services to move all public and private classes online through April 6 had teachers pounding out lesson plans to be delivered online as most students across the state began e-learning at home.

As Wisconsin’s teachers and administrators try to stay afloat while news of COVID-19 keeps changing, the state’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is asking the federal government for a waiver to release students from taking mandated standardized tests at the end of the year.

Holly Prast, advocacy and influence chair for the Wisconsin Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, said when students return to school, the focus should be on reacclimating them to the classroom environment. If testing is still mandated, that means teachers will need to spend time preparing for the test instead of providing instruction.

Prast sent an email to U.S. senators and the U.S. Department of Education to urge lawmakers to grant a waiver.

“We implore you – please waive federal testing requirements for the 2019-20 school year,” she wrote, noting that teachers and administrators must remain focused on helping students to learn from home. “Their energy should not have to be spent on worrying about testing.”

Law-Enforcement Community Weighs In on Stay-at-Home Order

With Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order in place, those in Wisconsin’s law-enforcement community say they’re prepared to enforce the order, which went into effect March 25. It will stay in place until April 24 unless another order is made.

As part of the order, Wisconsinites are allowed to leave their homes only to do essential things such as go to a doctor’s office, pharmacy or grocery store. People are allowed to go outside to exercise, but they are required to practice social distancing by remaining six feet away from other people.

Although people don’t need permission to leave their homes under the governor’s order, law-enforcement agencies do have the authority to enforce the order and issue citations.

Officials at some police departments have said their communities have been following the order and that they have had only a few calls regarding possible violations. However, officials at each department stressed that there are consequences if individuals violate the order.

“They could be looking at up to at least 30 days in jail or up to a $250 fine or both,” said Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith. “But we have not had to do that so far.”

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