By The Associated Press

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. April 23, 2023.

Editorial: Finally, some progress

Robin Vos’ announcement last week that Republican legislators are working on some sort of medical marijuana bill was welcome news.

We have a hard time believing the timing was an accident — it took place on 4/20 — the movement appears to represent a shift in the Republican caucus’ approach. Prior sessions saw bills for medical marijuana or full legalization go nowhere, with staunch opposition from legislative Republicans.

Wisconsin is considerably out of step with other states on the question of whether to legalize marijuana use. Both Illinois and Michigan allow adults to use marijuana recreationally. Minnesota and Iowa allow medical use.

As we noted back in January, this isn’t a red state/blue state issue. No one would call Louisiana or Mississippi strongholds for the Democrats. But both allow for medical marijuana and have decriminalized possession. Utah, by far one of the most conservative states, allows medical marijuana.

Being out of step with other states can cause headaches, but it isn’t an inherently troublesome issue. States, under a federalist system, have considerable latitude to govern themselves. Being out of step with Wisconsin residents, on the other hand, is more problematic.

Polling suggests legislative opposition is badly out of sync with most of the state’s residents. An October poll from Marquette University’s law school showed 64% of people favor full legalization. That was up from 59% in 2019.

That 2019 poll showed support for medical marijuana was even stronger, with 83% of those surveyed in favor of it. Given the trends in public opinion and the fact the latter poll is now four years old, we’d be surprised if support for medical marijuana isn’t approaching 90% in our state. Support that strong rarely occurs for anything.

Those levels of support show something else, too. There’s virtually no downside to a politician supporting medical marijuana. Opposition, on the other hand, could carry a political penalty. The simple reality is that Republicans in state government can read the trends as well as anyone, and they know the foot-dragging approach from prior years is wearing thin with voters.

Comparatively few voters cast their ballots solely on this issue. But given that Republicans have largely underperformed in elections since last year’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, it’s unlikely those in Madison want to leave any excuses laying around for people who might be on the fence on Election Day.

Vos isn’t the only Republican to have made comments suggesting a real shift is underway. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said in January a bill could pass during the current session. For the first time, there appears to be genuine public support from Republican leaders in both chambers.

Being one of only 11 states that still absolutely prohibits marijuana use in any form isn’t a badge of honor. Nor is the federal government’s stubborn refusal to abandon its stance that marijuana has no valid medical uses. That’s clearly an outdated argument, and the vast majority of states have recognized that reality. Federal regulators may be comfortable being stuck in prior decades but the rest of the country, including Wisconsin, has clearly moved on.

Changes to the Wisconsin’s approach are justified by financial incentives with the likely windfall from taxes for any form of marijuana legalization in the state. They are justified by political calculations. And, most of all, they are justified by the opinions of the people of this state.

It is past time for the Legislature to get serious about this issue and to unveil a reasonable proposal for members to vote on. Vos and LeMahieu should pick up the pace.


Kenosha News. April 19, 2023.

Editorial: Tweak state law on alcohol licenses

Whenever government puts its thumb on the scale of open commerce with intentional constraints on supply, we’re bound to see a little chafing from fledgling entrepreneurs who can’t get in the door.

That’s what’s going on in Burlington these days as the city finds itself maxed out on the number of Class B liquor licenses, which allow restaurants and other establishments to offer on-site consumption of all beverages – beer, wine and liquor.

That’s because state law limits liquor licenses based on a community’s population – one license for every 500 residents.

The squeeze in Burlington came in January when the City Council was forced to choose between two applicants for the city’s final Class B license and had to turn down Noli’s Taps and Spirits, a new drinking establishment proposed at 2657 Browns Lake Road.

It’s hard to run a taps and spirits bar when you have no spirits.

Burlington currently has the ability to grant 26 Class B licenses and, under that state law, it can’t issue a 27th until its population grows by another 500 residents.

Another option under state law is to purchase unused licenses from neighboring communities – but only ones that are directly adjacent. In Burlington’s case that means only Rochester, Spring Prairie, Lyons and the Town of Burlington.

Burlington approached those communities, but none was willing to sell a license.

Frustrated, Burlington Mayor Jeannie Hefty has gone to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, with a proposal to allow communities to purchase Class B licenses from any other community in the county – not just ones adjacent to it.

That would likely resolve Burlington’s current situation, at least for the time being, and it seems like a reasoned approach to the license shortage problem.

Hefty has said she “doesn’t want any other community to go through what the City of Burlington was faced with.” She said the state limit “stunts economic growth” and called on state communities to back her proposal to “help make a difference to expand future growth and economic development in our counties and municipalities.”

A spokesperson for Vos said the area lawmaker recognizes the challenge Burlington and other communities are facing and his office is “making progress on a package to address it.”

But any package changing state law on alcohol sales will likely face scrutiny from the powerful 5,000-member Wisconsin Tavern League and they have steadfastly opposed previous attempts aimed at increasing the number of liquor licenses in the state – after all that would likely increase competition for its members who are already doing business.

Hefty’s proposal, however, would not increase the total number of licenses that communities can issue statewide; it would only facilitate inter-municipality transfers of the Class B licenses and that might gain the blessing of the Tavern League.

A slight tweak of the law would resolve Burlington’s issue for now and probably help communities around the state who face their own issue with state imposed constraints on licenses.


Wisconsin State Journal. April 23, 2023.

Editorial: Goodbye, coal plants; hello, solar

Coal plants are shutting down in Portage, Oak Creek and Sheboygan. Solar and wind farms are going up in Cambridge, Darien and Grant County.

With Wisconsin and the world celebrating Earth Day this weekend, our progress toward a clean energy future is reassuring and significant.

Yet more must be done faster to ensure future generations inherit a stable and healthy planet.

Wisconsin is heading in the right direction by lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Total emissions from all sectors and fuels in Wisconsin peaked in 2005 at about 142 million metric tons and had fallen by 18% to 116 million metric tons by 2020, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The burning of carbon-based fuels such as coal and gasoline sends greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, trapping heat from the sun. The result is a warming planet with more extreme weather. The last eight years have been the hottest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

That’s bad for Wisconsin farmers, who struggle with heavier rainfall, deeper floods and longer droughts. Those same factors contribute to pollution washing into and fouling Wisconsin’s lakes. Failing to act risks ever-hotter summers and vanishing winters. More frequent natural disasters threaten our homes, businesses and economy.

Gov. Tony Evers’ Clean Energy Plan seeks to make all of Wisconsin’s electrical generation carbon-free by 2050, which is an ambitious yet doable goal. While the Republican-run Legislature has been slow to embrace the cause, private utilities and businesses keep advancing. A dramatic decline in the price of solar panels has boosted their popularity. Similarly, high gas prices have convinced more motorists to purchase hybrid and electric vehicles.

Democrats accelerated that trend in Washington last year by approving $369 billion for clean energy and related initiatives. This includes more charging stations and tax breaks for electric vehicles as well as incentives for manufacturing jobs.

Wisconsin still burns a lot of coal compared to other states. But Madison-based Alliant Energy and its partners plan to shut down the coal-fired Columbia plant in Portage by 2026.

Another Alliant coal plant in Sheboygan and a We Energies coal plant in Milwaukee County are slated to close in 2025. WEC Energy Group in Milwaukee plans to eliminate coal from its portfolio by 2035. Madison Gas and Electric says it has no controlling interest in coal-fired resources and should be entirely off coal by 2035.

To make up for lost power, Wisconsin utilities are investing heavily in renewables. Alliant Energy, for example, has built three large-scale solar projects with nine more in construction. Those solar farms will eventually power 300,000 homes and create an estimated 2,000 jobs, according to company officials.

To make sure the lights stay on when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, the utility plans to store energy in batteries and tap its natural gas plant in Beloit. Natural gas is still a contributor to climate change but produces about half as much carbon-dioxide when burned.

Besides governments and power companies investing in clean energy, homeowners and renters can volunteer to buy wind and solar from their utilities. Property owners can erect their own solar panels, conserve energy and pick efficient appliances and lights.

It’s important to stay positive, rather than fixating on doomsday scenarios for rising temperatures. Thanks to technology, a carbon-free future is on the horizon. We should celebrate that future and work together to speed its arrival.