Monday, November 30, 2009

Joint hearing

It’s no surprise that Sen. Jon Erpenbach and I have heard a few wisecracks about scheduling a “joint public hearing” on our bill to allow suffering patients the option of medicinal marijuana.

But when the state Senate and Assembly team up for a hearing – it’s called a joint hearing, no escaping it. And that is what the health committees of the two bodies are doing on the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana bill on Dec. 15 at the Capitol in room 412 E at 10 am.

We expect to hear from folks representing some of the nonprofit groups that back our bill, such as the Epilepsy Foundation, HOPE the hospice and palliative experts association, Wisconsin Nurses Association and the ACLU.

Some national groups will fly to Wisconsin, including the Marijuana Policy Project. The Drug Policy Alliance will be represented by Daniel Abrahamson, and if his last name is familiar, that’s no coincidence. He happens to be Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s son.

Pot jokes aside, this joint hearing is a positive sign that this bill is being seriously considered and debated in the Capitol. And that's no joking matter for patients who are suffering.

I’m haunted by stories I’ve heard of a suffering mother who had to send her teen to the street to illegally purchase marijuana so she can keep down food or ease her pain.

I expect we’ll hear from quite a few patients suffering the devastating impact of such debilitating and painful diseases as cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS and post traumatic stress disorder.

They highlight two reasons for this bill: common sense health care and compassion.

Many of Wisconsin’s newspapers, including the Wisconsin State Journal, the Appleton Post Crescent, the Wausau Daily Herald, have editorialized in favor of our bill and we appreciate their support.

I was particularly struck by today’s column from Capital Times editor emeritus Dave Zwiefel: “The time for Wisconsin to become the 15th state to allow patients to use pot to make their lives a bit more comfortable is long past due. My own father, who was suffering mightily from the pains of pancreatic cancer, found some relief from marijuana I was able to illegally purchase for him in the last weeks of his life.”

That’s why we need to pass this bill.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

If a job is created in Wisconsin ...

What if you created 53,000 jobs and nobody noticed?

I’m a bit stunned. I know it’s more fun to talk about what is bad about government than good. Heck, I’ve done more than my share of that in the day.

But in the last week, two private industry reports were released that show a cumulative effect of roughly 53,000 jobs being created or retained in Wisconsin thanks to federal recovery dollars, the Wisconsin stimulus bill (Act 2) and the state budget. And no media outlet seems to have noticed or cared.

Yes, the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association (road building firms) and several unions released a report Tuesday that shows 28,500 jobs. And the Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin, Inc. (construction firms) released a report last Thursday showing the creation of more than 25,000 jobs. Both reports credited government with helping create private jobs.

The business community understands what got done this year.

However, others apparently don’t. If a job is created in a state and no one is around to talk about it, does it actually count? Heck yah! Just ask the worker who is now bringing home a paycheck.

It’s easier to criticize mistakes on federal reports about recovery dollars with wrong zip codes and the like than to talk about real jobs created in Wisconsin.

Even better, Rep. Robin Vos, a Republican from Racine County, put out his own press release admitting the federal recovery dollars worked in creating jobs. A GOP first: Obama does good!

But he failed to mention the $300 million the state legislature approved in Act 2 for road construction. Also not mentioned was the additional $250 million spent on roads that was added to the state budget to spur jobs. Maybe he leaves that out because the Republicans voted against both times. And let’s not forget the building projects approved in the capitol budget that - say it with me - the Republicans voted against.

So while the private employers of 53,000 people in Wisconsin are thankful at this time of year for the jobs created by the Democrats at the federal and state levels, it appears no one else seems to want to also notice the mammoth undertaking.

If only they had listed a wrong zip code on their press release…maybe it would have made headlines.