Tuesday night we attended the regular County Board meeting. The Board is rather large at 29 members, and therefore, they've been moving to electronic agendas, and just recently have purchased tablets for retrieving documents and for use with their new electronic voting system. Aside from a few glitches, the members seemed to be adapting well to the new system. One of the intern supervisors, Tiana Glenna, gave a report on the county's progress in the area of alternative sentencing systems. Eau Claire County is a leader in the nation on this issue. In fact, when we were here 6 years ago, one of the interns worked on the research necessary for implementing a Drug Court. Shelby Knapp has been working this summer with Tiana on coordinating the data collection and reporting systems for the various alternative programs they have put in place over the last few years. Below is a picture of Tiana reporting to the Board on the progress.
A representative from the Wisconsin Counties Association was present to give a comprehensive update on the state biennial budget process. The fiscal year begins July 1, and the State Legislature is working hard to finish the 2-year budget by month's end. The news was generally not very good for local governments, including counties.
Another hot topic on the agenda was a resolution to encourage the State Legislature to accept money associated with the expansion of Medicaid. This generated some public comments from interested citizens who were there to encourage passage of the resolution, and then when the Board took up the issue, a good discussion was held with several members expressing support, but a couple of members expressing concerns about the expansion, and therefore, their opposition. When the vote was taken, the resolution passed by a good margin. It remains to be seen what the state will do, as Governor Walker is not in favor of the straight expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
Here are student reactions to the Board meeting.
The county board meeting illustrated significant interactions between Eau Claire County and the state government. From the issues discussed in the board meeting regarding key issues that affect counties such as new state laws, seems like an attempt to micro-manage county governments. Examples of state interference in county governing matters include capping property tax levies and enacting unnecessary fees on counties in an attempt to twist the arms of local governments. This state really takes Dillon’s Rule to the max. In Wisconsin, counties seemed to be treated as "creatures of the deep."… Terrence Williams.
Last night we attended the County Board meeting which I found to be quite different than a city council meeting. During the beginning of the meeting people are able to sign up to speak in front of the board, whereas that happens the day before in the city. Also, there were presentations from Tiana Glenna and Jon Hochkammer on the Criminal Justice Collaborating Committee and an update on the proposed state budget. They then went on to discuss the accepting of federal funding to improve Badger Care and Medicaid expansion. It was definitely interesting to see the County Board interact with one another, they seemed to like each other more than the City Council. Also, the way they operated was quicker and a little more efficient; even though people spoke on issues they still seemed to get through things quickly. I also noticed the compassion the board members had for the people of Eau Claire, a few board members spoke about how health care was so important and they believed it was their job to give it to the people of Eau Claire. This is when I could clearly identify the difference between the city and the board. The City Council members seem to be more concerned with the political aspect of things, especially when they would interject and do some position taking. Where as the county board members spoke more freely of taking care of the people. Overall the County Board meeting was a very friendly atmosphere where they warmly embraced the people in attendance…. Brianna Betts.
When I first saw the signs for that said “say yes to Badger Care” I was confused. I had never heard of Badger Care before then and so I did not know what to expect when the first lady came to the podium to speak on behalf of it. She talked about how Badger Care had helped her with depression and anxiety and how important Badger Care is to people like her. I was still not completely sure what Badger Care was, I just knew it was a controversial issue that some were very passionate about. Later on I learned that Badger Care is a health care plan that helps with many individuals. These people were faced with the potential end of the funding. In the end Badger Care was saved by the commission and the few that came to speak on its behalf were really excited.
Tiana, the supervisor of the Criminal Justice Collaborating Council, discussed the treatment programs of offenders that I thought was interesting and progressive. The department has worked to make treatment available for offenders rather than putting them in jail for certain types of crimes. She discussed that these treatment programs have helped to keep first time offenders from reoffending. I feel like this type of system is not implemented in many places. This was really interesting to hear about. Overall the meeting was a lot less formal than the city-council meeting because it was open to the public. You could feel the tension between the members on controversial issues. At one point a member pointed out that another member had already spoken his maximum number of times and she seemed to look very annoyed about it. The meeting was interesting all around and it was great to hear all of the different viewpoints of the many members… Brittany Williams.
The County Board Meeting last night was very interesting as well as informative. The beginning of the meeting started out when certain members of the public came in to voice their opinions. The first two people who voiced their opinions were talking about the importance of passing the clean energy law that will be coming up. The second group of people that came were users of Badger Care who wanted to let the board know how important it was to them and if they voted against it, how terrible their lives would become. After the public voiced their opinions a mayor from another town came up to talk about the WCA. The WCA talk was about the state budget and how it is affecting local government. The categories that he further went into were the state budget, taxation and finance, county organization & personnel, Judicial and Public Safety, Health and Human services, transportation, and Agriculture Environment and land use. The mayor went into depth with all of these categories and helped explain exactly what the state is doing with the budget. After the mayor's presentation, the Board discussed if they should help improve Badger care. The main points that were brought up about it were that it was a double positive for the county, as well as that it will help out many poor people in the state. One of the board members was completely against it and believed it would be better to give these poorer people money to buy private insurance instead. Over a large amount arguing back and forth between the one board member who opposed it they voted on it and it passed. Once Badger Care was voted on we left the board meeting due to the time… George Cooper.
Last night we attended the Eau Claire County Board Meeting. This meeting was very helpful to me in learning about the budgeting process. We were able to see a PowerPoint on the 2013-2015 proposed state budget from a WCA Legislative Director. It was neat to see what the state would be spending funds on in the next few years. We were also able to see some concerned citizens share their views on Badger Care. This was very cool to see; it was great to see that people were sharing their feelings on the issues that they cared about. These citizens wore matching shirts and even held signs that said "Say Yes To Badger Care." The board ended up passing the motion on Badger Care, which these people were very happy about…Karen Daniel-Hamberg.