Sen. Tim Cullen: Eight changes I hope to see in the future
It has been an honor to serve in the state Senate. In coming years, the debate will continue on big issues such as Medicaid funding, tax reform and raising the minimum wage. Other important issues may not grab headlines but deserve our consideration. Here are changes I believe would greatly benefit Wisconsin:
1. Voters will increase turnout percentages as big money in politics goes too far and citizens rebel. When I first ran for state office in the 1970s, races were much more about personal contact with voters and less about money. An average candidate would raise around $15,000, and little came from outside groups. In the last four years, we've seen $6 million, $8 million and $10 million state Senate races!
2. Legislative redistricting goes to a neutral agency so legislators can't guarantee themselves jobs for the next 10 years. We should adopt a plan similar to Iowa's model, which requires a nonpartisan agency to draw maps.
3. The public will come to the defense of public education and demand that public tax dollars go only to public schools. Our current governor and Legislature are determined to diminish public education. We must reinvest in public schools, not defund them and then blame them for failing to meet the educational needs of students.
4. Tackle football will be banned for children younger than age 14. More and more studies prove the negative long-term effects of early childhood brain injuries. This won't be a popular decision, but it's necessary to protect our children from lifelong injuries. Moms will first support the change, and dads will follow.
5. A future legislature will reverse the new mining law and restore the environmental protections our laws included before the 2013 change. If mining is to happen, it should occur under strong, progressive environmental protections, not through a mining-at-all-costs approach.
6. Legislation to encourage small business start-ups will include a large, sustainable Investment Capital Fund. We passed a $25 million investment bill in 2013, but a fund that would make a real difference needs at least $100 million. If we're serious about creating jobs, we must help new businesses prosper—new businesses and small businesses create the vast majority of new jobs in America.
7. Voters will demand that Wisconsin Supreme Court justices be appointed rather than elected after outside money decides one too many elections. Our Supreme Court justices should be independent and unbiased, yet we continue to allow outside money to decide state judicial races. It's time to change that.
8. Seat belts will be required on all Wisconsin school buses. Children are required to be restrained in vehicles from the day they're born—until their first day on the bus to attend kindergarten. We know belts save lives. It's time we fully protect students.
Will these ideas be accomplished? As I join you in a few short weeks as an outside observer, I can't be sure. But I'm certain that these changes will benefit our state. And I remain hopeful they will occur if the people demand them.
Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, serves the 15th Senate District, which includes most of Rock County and Whitewater, as well as parts of Jefferson, Green and Dane counties. Until Jan. 5, readers can contact him at 608-266-2253; email [email protected].