“Accomplished with the support of people across the state,” Coggs says
Sen. Spencer Coggs’ Progressive legislative agenda of educating children, protecting toddlers in day care centers, bolstering the rights of workers, providing justice for the under-privileged and enacting landmark legislation recognizing key individuals and events in the Civil Rights Movement met with success as the twoyear session of the Legislature ended last week.
“This two-year session has in some ways been the culmination of more than a decade of working with people across the state, and in other instances it has been an immediate recognition of positive, common-sense ideas and programs to improve the lot of everyday working Wisconsin families,” Sen. Coggs said. Bills and resolutions authored by Sen. Coggs that won legislative approval and have been or are expected to be signed into law by the Governor include:
Juneteenth State Holiday: Now law, this bill is a culmination of the efforts started in 1987 by Sen. Coggs and his late Aunt, state Rep. Marcia Coggs. During this session of the Legislature, Sen. Coggs’ initiative was approved establishing June 19th or Juneteenth Day as a state holiday, commemorating the date in 1865 in Galveston, Texas that men, women and children slaves were notified of their freedom three years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.
Bully Bill: Sen. Coggs’ legislation, awaiting the Governor’s signature, was incorporated into the School Safety Act that contains a number of initiatives to make schools a safe learning environment. Under the Bully Bill, school districts are required to adopt policies that deal with bullying, and to establish a Bullying Awareness Day to bring greater public recognition to the problem.
Jeannetta Robinson Memorial Highway: Designates a portion of Interstate Highway I-43, in the heart of Milwaukee as the “Jeannetta Robinson Memorial Highway,” honoring one of Milwaukee’s greatest activists for youth and nonviolence.
Housing Trust Fund: The legislation, which passed, allows cities such as Milwaukee to create a Housing Trust Fund to provide quality, affordable housing and to promote improvements in existing housing.
Race-based Logos: After 13 years of advocating for this legislation, Sen. Coggs met with success when the Legislature approved his bill last Thursday. The legislation provides a mediation process, largely for Native Americans, to deal with harmful, stereotypical school team nicknames, logos, and mascots in public schools throughout the state. The bill awaits the Governor’s signature.
Minority Cancer Awareness Day: This initiative has brought public awareness for two years in a row to the disproportionate number of African Americans and other minorities who are diagnosed with cancer. As an example, a disproportionate number of African-Americans die each year from colo-rectal cancer (colon cancer), despite its preventable nature.
Day Care Van Alarms: Following a series of deaths of infants left in day care vehicles and similar near-tragedies. Sen. Coggs introduced legislation, now law, that requires vehicles used by day care centers to be equipped with occupant alarms.
Victims Fair Housing: Women who are abused have often found that they must continue to live with their abuser or be responsible for a lease or rent if they move. Under Sen. Coggs’ bill, which is now law, a victim of abuse may now terminate a lease if there is proof of abuse such as court papers or police reports.
Unemployment Insurance: As Chair of the state Senate Labor Committee, Sen. Coggs led the way in making important changes to the state’s Unemployment Insurance System, which provides income support to workers who have lost their jobs. The legislation neither cut benefits nor increased unemployment insurance taxes on businesses.
Mandatory 5 Year-Old Kindergarten: Recognizing the importance of early education, Sen. Coggs’ bill, which is now law, requires attendance by children who are enrolled in 5 year-old kindergarten. Prior to this law, school districts were only required to provide 5 year-old kindergarten, not to require children to attend.
Public Defender: Authored by Sen. Coggs and signed into law, this legislation updates the standards to qualify for public defender legal assistance. More needy defendants will now qualify, preserving the constitutional right of access for all to have legal representation. The legislation also realizes a cost savings to counties. Without the counties would have to pay for higher-priced private attorneys to represent poor people.
Worker Freedom Act: Sen. Coggs’ bill, awaiting the Governor’s signature, prohibits employers from requiring workers to attend meetings on non-work related matters. The legislation seeks to prevent “captive audience” meetings where employees’ jobs are unfairly put in jeopardy unless they participate in meetings not related to the performance of their job duties.
Worker’s Compensation: Now law, Sen. Coggs’ bill provides an increase in supplemental payments to workers who become permanently disabled as a result of a workplace accident. This is the first time in seven years that the payments have been increased.
Anti-union busting: Sen. Coggs’ bill, which awaits the Governor’s signature, would prevent the use of taxpayer money to conduct or hire an outside firm to organize activities that discourage union organizing.
Transitional Jobs: Sen. Coggs was successful in amending Wisconsin’s state budget bill to create a Transitional Jobs Demonstration Project. The project utilizes federal funding to provide at least 2,500 transitional jobs to residents who have exhausted their unemployment compensation and Wisconsin Works benefi ts. The program provides real-life work experience and assistance during this economic downturn. Recognizing the merits of Sen. Coggs’ initiative, later legislation expanded the program past the original 2,500 jobs based on an increase in available federal funding.
“These accomplishments would not have been possible without the support of my constituents in my district and those across the state who share our values and priorities. These endeavors are the product of teamwork and a commitment by all to make Wisconsin a better place to live and raise a family,” Sen. Coggs said.