Two vie for District 71 assembly seat
Compiled by the League of Women Voters of the Stevens Point Area
STEVENS POINT – The Nov. 3 general election will see contested area races in the state assembly and the state senate.
The League of Women Voters of the Stevens Point Area invited these candidates to tell a little about themselves and weigh in on state issues.
Responses were received from Katrina Shankland, incumbent representative for the state assembly District 71.
Challenger, Scott Soik declined to participate.
Please provide a brief biography:
Since 2013, I have served Portage County as the State Representative for the 71st Assembly District. I am 33 years old and live in Stevens Point with my husband Jed. I received a Master of Science in Community and Organizational Leadership from UW-Stevens Point and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from UW-Madison.
As the Vice Chair of the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality, I led the effort to introduce ten bipartisan clean water bills and passed them unanimously through the Assembly. I also authored the state’s community paramedic law, making healthcare more accessible for rural folks, and passed legislation to help people with disabilities find meaningful employment. From working across the aisle to keep Skyward in Wisconsin to supporting county leaders in their efforts to save the Portage County Health Care Center, I have a history of successful public service.
Do you support a non-partisan redistricting process? Please explain your rationale:
I strongly support nonpartisan redistricting reform and have coauthored legislation every session since I have been elected to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission to draw fair maps. Voters should choose their representatives – not the other way around. Portage County and other communities have voted overwhelmingly for fair maps in advisory referenda. We must wrest the power away from all politicians and put it in the hands of a nonpartisan redistricting commission. I’m proud to support the push for fair maps, and you can count on me to continue fighting to end partisan gerrymandering.
Wisconsin communities have seen increasing water contamination issues from lead pipes, PFAS, and agricultural pollution. What do you think needs to be done to ensure clean, safe drinking water for all Wisconsinites:
As the Vice Chair of the Water Quality Task Force, I held 14 public hearings in every corner of the state and introduced ten bipartisan bills to clean up and protect our drinking water, all of which passed the Assembly unanimously. From investing in county conservationists and private well testing to supporting farmers with proven conservation practices and jumpstarting the UW System’s Freshwater Collaborative, these bills will make a meaningful difference. I have cosponsored legislation to replace lead laterals, create standards to protect the public health from PFAS, and prevent nitrate contamination and agricultural runoff. Through my work on the task force,I’ve proven that I can reach across the aisle to get results, and I’ve included farmers, conservationists, public health experts, and scientists in the legislative process.Locally, I attend meetings for Farmers for Tomorrow and Farmers of the Mill Creek and support our producer-led watershed groups. I also frequently attend groundwater meetings in the county and Central Sands region to provide information and support. I will continue to work across the aisle to ensure everyone has access to clean water.
What is your position on Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin? Please explain your rationale:
I have cosponsored legislation to accept our federal tax money and expand Medicaid during every session I’ve been in the Legislature. If we passed this bill, we would save $324 million in state taxpayer money while covering 82,000 more adults with BadgerCare. We are in the middle of a global pandemic, and people need affordable health care coverage. It only makes sense to cover more people with good health insurance and save more taxpayer money. Let’s put our federal tax dollars to work for us.
Prisons are the third most expensive item in our state budget, and Wisconsin incarcerates a higher percentage of our population than any neighboring state. What are your ideas to reform the criminal justice system and reduce the prison population?
I support investing in proven prevention programs like Treatment Alternatives and Diversions (TAD) while funding treatment courts to divert people away from incarceration. Portage County is a leader on this, and I applaud Judge Flugaur and Justiceworks for their foresight. TAD reduces recidivism, saves taxpayer money, and treats the whole person. That’s why I’ve cosponsored bipartisan legislation to increase funding for TAD. If we fully funded the TAD program, we could keep 3,000 people per year out of the state’s prisons and more than 27,000 from ever going to jail. I also have cosponsored several bills to decriminalize and legalize medicinal and recreational cannabis, which would save the state money in the corrections budget while infusing more than $200 million in revenue each state budget cycle.
Racial disparities exist in child poverty rates, educational opportunity, infant mortality rates, incarceration rates, and other issues facing Wisconsinites. What will you do to reduce racial disparities throughout Wisconsin:
We must work to dismantle systemic racism and recognize it as a public health crisis.Wisconsin is considered one of the worst states for racial disparities, and racial disparities are public health disparities — consider the disproportionate effect that COVID-19 has on communities of color.I support restorative justice programs; housing and rental assistance programs; the Fair Funding for our Future school funding formula; raising the minimum wage; the Minority Business Development program; strengthening voting rights; and investing in the Healthy Women, Healthy Babies initiative to reduce racial disparities in healthcare access and infant mortality rates.The speaker of the Assembly recently created a Task Force on Racial Disparity, on the heels of the governor introducing his own package of reforms. It’s positive that both parties have acknowledged the need for action, and I am committed to continuing to work across the aisle and in our community to address inequity, injustice, and discrimination in our state.
What is your position on promoting energy efficiency and increasing the utilization of clean energy sources in Wisconsin. Please explain your rationale:
Clean energy costs less, invests in the local economy, strengthens energy independence, creates family-supporting jobs that can’t be outsourced, and protects the public health. I’ve worked at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, where I helped build solar training capacity in the Midwest, and I’ve been a leading voiceon clean energy in the Legislature. I have introduced legislation to expand investment in clean energy every session I’ve held office, including authoring a bill to create the Wisconsin Renewable Energy Development Authority. This new state authority would kickstart the clean energy economy, create jobs, and support manufacturing, research, and technology advances in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Additionally, I was proud to be the first Wisconsin legislator to attend the Clean Energy Legislative Academy, a bipartisan national training program.
From your perspective, what role does the State government play in a public health crisis? What do you see as a way forward, and what will you do to move the state forward from COVID-19 and its impact on economy, health, and institutions:
Since day one of the pandemic, I’ve participated in weekly calls with local, state, and federal government leaders. We must ensure everyone is working together to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Legislature must de-politicize the COVID-19 pandemic response and work closely with all stakeholders while relying on scientists and public health professionals to inform our work. I voted for Act 185, the state’s pandemic law, which accepted $2 billion in federal funds and required that COVID-19 tests be covered by insurance. Most of the $2 billion in COVID-19 relief has been distributed to hospitals, local health departments, renters in need, farmers, educational institutions, and local governments. I also voted for an amendment to the bill that would require insurance companies to cover COVID-19 treatment. Additionally, we must ensure we have enough testing supplies and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). I’m proud to be a cosponsor of the Healthcare Heroes Act, which would invest in our frontline health care heroes and ensure they have the PPE, hazard pay, and sick leave they deserve. Finally, I believe the Legislature must work together to remove red tape and bureaucratic barriers for folks who apply for unemployment insurance and for small businesses that are struggling due to the pandemic. We need to pass the package of bills I coauthored to permanently remove the one-week waiting period and speed up the unemployment insurance process, in addition to bipartisan legislation I cosponsored to double financial support for our small businesses. Together, we’ll get through this.
Please identify priorities for your term in office, and what policies you will support to address those priorities:
Our state is grappling with budgetary constraints which will severely affect our local governments’ ability to offer the community services we all rely on. We must advocate for additional federal support and pass a fair and balanced budget that prioritizes a strong public health response, support for our local governments, and ensures our public education system at all levels can properly fulfill the needs of our students. In addition to addressing the state budget and the COVID-19 pandemic, we must also continue the work we started to ensure that everyone has access to clean and safe drinking water.Earlier this year, I introduced bipartisan legislation to create a state clean water fund and will work to pass this bill and the water quality task force bills into law so we can protect our water for years to come.This session, I also introduced legislation to protect first responders, fire fighters, and law enforcement from reckless drivers, and we must pass this bipartisan bill into law. Additionally, I introduced a legislative package to invest $100 million into rural broadband and give farmers priority in broadband expansion grants and will continue my work to get these bills signed into law. My priorities are to continue listening to our community members and championing their needs in the Legislature, and I truly appreciate the opportunity to serve the community I love.