MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - In front of Wisconsin's lawmakers Wednesday night, Gov. Tony Evers laid out his policy agenda and goals for the upcoming year in his second State of the State address.
"In my last State of the State address, I asked the Legislature to set politics aside so we could work together on the issues facing our state. I said I expected bills to be passed with broad support and in the spirit of bipartisanship. So one of the things I'm most proud of is that more than 95 percent of the bills I signed my first year in office had bipartisan support," the Democratic governor said.
The governor emphasized the new effort to combat climate change in the state with the Climate Change Task Force.
He says when it comes to criminal justice reform, there's still much that needs to be done but important progress is being made.
Gov. Evers announced he's starting a task force on student debt, which will work on making higher education available to more Wisconsinites.
He spent several minutes discussing the state's agriculture industry, citing the number of dairy farms the state has lost in just the past decade and the challenges farmers continue to face.
Gov. Evers announced he's calling a special session next week for lawmakers to take up legislation to invest in Wisconsin's farmers, agricultural industries and rural communities.
"We're losing more than two dairy farms a day, and for each day we delay the challenges will get harder and harder. So, I want to be clear: I am not under the misguided belief that what I'm proposing today is the silver bullet. In the coming months, it's going to take more listening than talking to hear from our farmers and our rural communities about how we can continue to invest in agricultural and rural prosperity across our state. But we have to start somewhere, and we have to start today."
The governor closed out his address with emphasis on nonpartisan redistricting legislation to draw the boundaries where people vote for their elected officials. In the near future, he said, a commission will be created to draw what he called "The People's Maps." He said the commission will consist of people from around the state but not elected officials, lobbyists or consultants.
This State of the State address was a chance for Gov. Evers to highlight his upcoming agenda, but based on reaction from lawmakers he will need lots of bipartisan support. Republicans control both legislative chambers and much of the applause was from the Democratic side of the aisle.
"It was consistent with Governor Evers. It was a positive message. Obviously, I think he framed redistricting really well. There's a lot of issues the public supports that aren't happening in the Legislature, and I think it's because of the districts we have that allow them to allow the people's priorities," Rep. Gordon Hintz, an Oshkosh Democrat, said.
"The governor rolled out a lot of policy initiatives today. At the end of the day, us in the Legislature are all ears if he can come up with ideas that can move our state forward," Sen. Roger Roth, an Appleton Republican, said.
Lawmakers also had plenty to say about the announcement of a special session to tackle the state's dairy crisis, after the governor said there's been a record number of farm bankruptcies and farmer suicides.
"It's obvious he's kind of acknowledging the fact he's kind of ignored rural Wisconsin the last 13 months, and there's a number of measures he talked about today I heard a lot of blue ribbon commission comments. A lot of task forces. The devil's in the details with all that kind of stuff," Rep. John Nygren, a Marinette Republican, said.
"There's a lot of people both urban and rural that are concerned with what's happening in the dairy industry. I think the governor was measured in his expectations, but when the details come out that's something Republicans and Democrats should be able to get done."
Any talk of bipartisanship will be put to the test right away, as one of the first bills likely to be taken up this session targets teen vaping.