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U2FP's Blog > Keeping you current on the movement to cure paralysis
Mar 20, 2024

Wisconsin Update: Our Work Continues

Matthew Rodreick

I needed a few days of reflection before I wrote this update to all of you. If I had written down how I was feeling too soon after getting back from Madison last week, I’m afraid I would’ve said some things that I might want to take back later.

The Wisconsin Capitol in Madison.

Unfortunately, we did not pass our Wisconsin SCI Research Grant bill out of the Senate and into law last week. After the Assembly passed it on February 22 by a vote of 93 to 3, we received signals from various legislators that we had the necessary momentum to succeed in the Senate. We were wrong.

It turns out there is an unspoken rule that the majority party often follows, called the “Rule of 17.” We were unaware of this rule until a week before the end of the Senate session. The “Rule of 17” stipulates that the majority party (currently Republicans in Wisconsin) will not schedule a bill for a vote on the Senate floor unless 17 members of the majority party(out of 22) have committed to voting yes despite the total number of yes votes across parties. 

Initially, it was hard for us to even find out which Senators were against our bill. Once we did - thanks to some dogged work by U2FP CAN managers Jake Beckstrom and Jason Stoffer, along with WI CAN advocate John Martinson - we drafted rebuttals and began contacting those Senators asap.

With the groundwork laid, I traveled to Madison and joined our advocates at the capitol last week. We spent two days going door-to-door, trying to turn those 9 No votes into Yes votes. We successfully turned 5 of them, but not in time for the Senate Majority Leader to schedule a vote on the floor. 

What is most frustrating is that if the bill had been put to a vote, it would have passed  20 to 13 (by our count). That’s more than a 60% majority. But when one party has a super majority, they often only pass bills that their party can carry alone, as a symbolic show of strength and unity. 

So, unfortunately, a few Senators delayed the passage of our bill for the SCI community in Wisconsin. Depending upon your perspective, this was not a very democratic practice for all of Wisconsin’s citizens.

I want to thank so many of you who wrote and called Wisconsin legislators on behalf of our effort. We were told by many offices that they had been hearing from lots of you. I also want you to know there is a very committed group of folks that show up at the Capitol to press our cause.

Shout out to the crew that was able to show up last week to push our way into the process and make the case for this bill. From left: Samantha Troyer, Murray Blackmore, Mike Mohr, Dan Hellenbrand and John Martinson.

Together we made a pretty strong case and as I mentioned above turned several legislators around to our cause. And as usual, there were dozens of other SCI advocates equally committed to joining us at the capitol, but unable to make it for all the reasons our community is too familiar with: caregivers, travel, time, and health complications - all arising from the challenges of living with a SCI.

Despite this setback, I want you all to know that we are not giving up. We plan to head back to Madison next session and pick up where we left off, a little savvier and with a clearer understanding of the challenge before us. We hope you will stick with us as we try to move our Wisconsin SCI Research Grant bill towards passage to bring meaningful results for our community.

Finally, watch for an upcoming podcast with our guy Jake Beckstrom (U2FP CAN Manager) detailing the drama of these last few weeks of the session, along with our strategies going forward. 


P.S. - Our presence at the Capitol in Wisconsin has made a real difference in chipping away at key legislators. Our strategy, planning and messaging efforts are all a critical part of this campaign to get a win in Wisconsin. And we couldn’t do that without the support of our monthly donors. Consider supporting our on-going effort in Wisconsin (and future states) by becoming a monthly donor today.