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Volume 6, Issue 40, Feb 19, 2024
 Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce, Eau Claire, Wis.
Published the first business day of each week
Business Advocate Past Issues
Public Meetings Calendar
Chamber Events Calendar
The Chamber's Advocacy Principles
The Chamber's 2024 Business Issues Agenda
"Talking Po!nt" Podcast
Contact: Scott Rogers, VP Governmental Affairs


In this issue:
• Legislation to repurpose $15 million in unspent state funds goes to Governor
 • HSHS Prevea Task Force continues its work
 • Visit Eau Claire Director Benny Anderson stepping down
 • Last chance: Downtown Eau Claire parking survey
 • New maps put some incumbent legislators in same districts
 • Chippewa Valley Rally is Wednesday in Madison
  National and economic stories
 • Food for thought
 • Mark your calendar
Note on article links: A subscription is required for those marked with "$"
Publications known to have article limits for non-subscribers are marked with "+"


Eggs & Issues: Legislative Breakfast
We've invited members of the State Assembly and Senate who represent the Chippewa Valley to join us for a final update on the current legislative session. We'll get a recap and perspective on how key regional economic priorities fared in the legislature, and discuss still-pending issues that are likely to carry over to the next session.
 • Friday, Mar 15, 7:00-9:00 a.m., CVTC Business Education Center
Click here for details and to register

Eggs & Issues: The State of the City - Altoona
Altoona Mayor Brendan Pratt, City Administrator Mike Golat, and members of the City's leadership team will lead a presentation highlighting the accomplishments of the City of Altoona during the past year and its priorities, challenges, and opportunities for the rest of 2023.
 • Friday, Apr 12, 7:00-8:30 a.m., River Prairie Center
Click here for details and to register

Chamber Business Hours:
Mon-Thu 7:30a-5p, Friday 8a-2p


Bills to repurpose unspent $15 million in state funds go to the Governor's desk
   Bills proposed by local legislators to access $15 million in unspent state funds originally intended for healthcare in the Chippewa Valley passed both the Assembly and State Senate last week and are now on the desk of Governor Evers to sign. 
   Back in the 2021-22 budget, the state approved $15 million for HSHS to expand their psychiatric mental health bed capacity. Unfortunately, HSHS never came to claim those funds, and the money is still waiting to be dispersed. The proposed legislation would repurpose those monies to a new grant program that would serve as a short-term bridge to continue emergency services until other providers can scale their capacity to meet the needs of the community.

   The legislation includes one bill to transfer funds from the State Building Fund, and another to authorize the Department of Health Services to provide grants, subject to approval by the Joint Committee on Finance. The move is urgent because this is the only opportunity to access these funds before the legislature adjourns for the year.
   The bills passed the State Senate last Tuesday and the State Assembly last Thursday, the latter's last day for the 2023-24 legislative session. Although Democrats sought to expand the flexibility for use of the funds, Republicans did not go along with the change. The Eau Claire Chamber has urged the Governor to sign both bills.
More information:
Bills: SB1014SB1015 
Wisconsin Legislature website
Bill funding emergency rooms in Chippewa Valley heads to Gov. Evers desk (WEAU 13 News)

HSHS/Prevea Task Force continues work
   The region-wide Task Force created to address the announced closures of HSHS and Prevea facilities in western Wisconsin is continuing its collaborative work.
   The Task Force, along with our local communities and area providers, will continue to work to move forward collectively and to identify solutions that will best serve the Chippewa Valley Region—preparing for a new healthcare landscape in our community and promoting an open dialogue about how best to address future healthcare needs.
   The Task Force is maintaining a website to provide information, as well as an opportunity to sign up to receive updates.
More information:
Click here for the Task Force website to stay informed and sign up for updates
Video interview: Update on HSHS/Prevea Recovery Task Force (Judy Clark interviews Dave Minor, WEAU 13 News)

More healthcare stories...

Emergency detentions to be cost to county after HSHS/Prevea closures
(Leader-Telegram $)

City of Augusta looking for a buyer for local clinic impacted by the healthcare shutdowns
(WEAU 13 News)

Mobile Meals in Chippewa Falls finds new provider
(Leader-Telegram $)

Three New Medical Providers Aim to Fill Gaps Left by HSHS, Prevea
(Volume One)

OakLeaf Medical Network expands capacity, seeking to fill gaps in western Wisconsin
(WQOW News 18)

Gateways Counseling Services finds new Eau Claire location, looking for more counselors
(WEAU 13 News)

Our View: We need to be smarter about health care
(Leader-Telegram editorial $)


Visit Eau Claire Director Benny Anderson stepping down
   Visit Eau Claire has announced that Executive Director Benny Anderson is stepping down effective March 1. 
   "Benny oversaw great challenges and changes during his time with the organization as executive director," noted Board Chair Becky Squires. "Under his leadership, Visit Eau Claire survived and thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our community programs expanded, and our tourism numbers grew at a record pace, thanks to the strategy and planning the Visit Eau Claire team executed under Benny’s leadership. We at Visit Eau Claire are incredibly grateful to Benny for his energy, vision, and heart that he dedicated to our organization and the partners we served these past four years. We wish him the absolute best in all his future plans and endeavors."
   Visit Eau Claire has named Deputy Director Kenzi Havlicek to serve as interim executive director while a search begins to fill the position.
   "Benny has built a great team at Visit Eau Claire, and we have every confidence in our staff’s ability to make this a smooth transition for the partners across our programs," said Squires.
More information:
Visit Eau Claire’s executive director to step down (WEAU 13 News)

Last chance to respond
Downtown Eau Claire seeks input with parking survey
   Downtown Eau Claire Inc (DECI) is looking into public input regarding current experiences and future needs for parking in the city's downtown area. The City of Eau Claire will be performing a Parking Study that will be used to decide the future of paid parking in the downtown area.  DECI is looking for information from downtown business owners, employees, residents, and visitors to help inform the City and City Council on the needs and interests of these important stakeholders.
Click here to take the parking survey (DECI)

Meeting this week:

Eau Claire City Council
 • Monday, Feb 26, 7 p.m. Public Hearing Agenda Packet (18 pages)
 • Tuesday, Feb 27, 4 p.m. Legislative Session Agenda Packet (76 pages)
    2024 Budget website (City of Eau Claire)
    Link to videos of city meetings (City of Eau Claire)
    City Council Online Comment Form (City of Eau Claire)
    Contact information: City Council members (City of Eau Claire)

More local stories...

Science center for UW-Eau Claire open for bids
(The Daily Reporter +)

Ayres Associates invites students to job fair for career connections
(Leader-Telegram $)

Eau Claire school board approves border expansion petition
(WQOW News 18)

E.C. Police Chief Among E.C. Chamber of Commerce Awardees
(Volume One)

Children’s Museum of Eau Claire Celebrates 20th Anniversary
(Volume One)

New Bike Route Signage Pops Up in the Valley (Volume One)
New bike route signs get installed across the Chippewa Valley (WQOW News 18)

UW-Eau Claire partners with city to assess public health risk

Dr. Louisa Rice named associate vice chancellor for academic affairs

Menomonie School District referendum fails overwhelmingly
(Leader-Telegram $)

CF motel seeks approval to convert to apartment complex
(Leader-Telegram $)

Chippewa Co Board reviews final Hakes report, has "no confidence" in him
(Leader-Telegram $)

Spring 2024 Election
Tuesday, April 2
Local candidates on the Spring election ballot (Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce)


30th Annual Chippewa Valley Rally in Madison this week
   More than 120 area business and community leaders will be in Madison this Wednesday for the 30th Annual Chippewa Valley Rally. Organized by the Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, and Menomonie Chambers of Commerce, the event visits legislative offices in the State Capitol and interacts with other state policymakers on economic issues important to our region.
   The 2024 Rally has a strong "thank you" theme, given the enactment of key priorities for the region in 2023, including capital projects at UWEC and UW-Stout, the shared revenue compromise, repeal of the personal property tax, affordable housing legislation, and the first step in the expansion of passenger rail corridors. Participants this year will also acknowledge the state's role moving forward in addressing the current healthcare crisis with the closure of HSHS and Prevea facilities in the area. 
More information:
Click here for the 2024 Chippewa Valley Rally Issues

More state and regional stories...

New legislative maps pair several area incumbents in same districts
(Leader-Telegram $)
Six things to know about Wisconsin's new legislative maps (The Cap Times)
A Closer Look at the Partisan Implications of Gov. Evers’ Proposed Maps (John Johnson, Marquette University Law School)
A game-changing moment for Wisconsin Democrats. New maps put legislative majorities within reach (Journal-Sentinel +)
Paired incumbents weigh political futures under Gov. Tony Evers' maps (Wisconsin State Journal +)
New maps mark a transformational change in Wisconsin legislative elections (Journal-Sentinel +)
Here are the 10 most competitive districts under Wisconsin's new legislative maps (Wisconsin State Journal +)
Our View: Legislative maps obscure instability (Leader-Telegram editorial $)

Now that Wisconsin has new legislative maps, are congressional maps next? Here's where the issue stands
. (Journal-Sentinel +)
Tony Evers urges Wisconsin Supreme Court to reconsider congressional maps (Journal-Sentinel +)

Wisconsin Assembly backs buildout of statewide electric vehicle charging network
(Journal-Sentinel +)

Gov. Evers, DWD Celebrate Success of New Youth Apprenticeship Child Care, Education Pathways
(Office of the Governor)

Wisconsin Democrats talk a lot about Child Care Counts. But what is it?
(Journal-Sentinel +)

Gov. Evers Announces Support is Available for Many Northern Wisconsin Businesses Affected By Lack of Winter Snow
(Office of the Governor)
Businesses in areas designated by the federal Small Business Administration can apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans; Chippewa, Eau Claire, and Dunn counties among those eligible

Republican Eric Hovde seeks to unseat Democrat Baldwin in Wisconsin race for US Senate
What to know about Tammy Baldwin's new challenger, Eric Hovde (The Cap Times)

Wisconsin Ethics Commission: Trump campaign, Janet Brandtjen evaded campaign laws to oust Robin Vos
(Wisconsin State Journal +)

Senate sends $2.1 billion in tax cuts aimed at low and middle earners to Gov. Tony Evers
(Journal-Sentinel +)

Wisconsin bills to fight ‘forever chemicals’ pollution, speed ballot counting in jeopardy

Bills advance to ease licensing requirements for some Wisconsin educators

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction asks lawmakers to approve new reading curriculum

Senate committee advances 3 Natural Resources Board appointees after rejecting 4 previous Evers picks
(Journal-Sentinel +)
Wisconsin Senate tosses out Evers appointees, limits his hiring power (The Cap Times)

Wisconsin governor’s partial veto powers would weaken under proposed amendment

Wisconsin Gov. Evers makes stop in Superior
(Superior Telegram +)

Gov. Evers Signs Bill Aimed at Bolstering State’s Workforce by Creating a Direct Admission Program for UW System
(Office of the Governor)
Wisconsin's top high schoolers now guaranteed UW system admission (The Cap Times)

Economist says state headed for ‘soft landing’ rather than recession

New home construction in Wisconsin picked up last year, but more is needed

Gov. Evers Awards $16 Million in Community Development Block Grant Housing Rehabilitation Grants
(Office of the Governor)

These are Wisconsin's best companies to work for in the U.S., according to Forbes
(Journal-Sentinel +)
Blain's Farm and Fleet named top employer by Forbes (WKOW)

Milwaukee leaders again asking for change in state law to allow red light cameras

One less cruise line on the Mississippi River: American Queen Voyages shuts down, cancels all trips
(La Crosse Tribune +)

Lack of bus drivers challenging school districts
   Wisconsin has seen a 17.7% drop in licensed school bus drivers over the past 15 years, creating challenges for school districts and the families they serve. This problem may get worse before it gets better, as more than one-fifth of licensed school bus drivers are 65 and over. Transit systems across the state are facing a similar problem, with the number of people licensed to only drive passenger buses falling by 19.6% over the same time period, and the average age of these drivers rising by nearly six years.
Report: Who's driving the bus? (Wisconsin Policy Forum)

TDA "On The Go" Podcast 52 - Riding The Rails
   Scott Rogers, the vice president of governmental affairs at the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce, joins TDA Executive Director Debby Jackson on the latest On The Go podcast to talk about passenger rail.

Scott and Debby discuss the economic benefits of passenger rail for the region and the recently announced federal grants to study passenger rail in the state. Jackson also takes the opportunity to get tips for long-distance train trips from Rogers, a longtime train traveler.
Podcast: Click here to listen (TDA of Wisconsin, 19:07)

National and economic stories...

Fed Minutes Show Unease Over Premature Cuts
(Wall Street Journal $)

Biden cancels $1.2 billion in student debt six months ahead of schedule
(Fox Business)

Retirements spike again as stock market booms

Trump beats Nikki Haley in South Carolina GOP primary
(NBC News)

Off to Michigan, Haley is staying in the race despite Trump’s easy primary win in South Carolina

The Life and Death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny
(The Dispatch)

Food for thought...

The Flip Side: Both sides of important issues
(The Flip Side, daily digest)

Trust in government, and opportunities to rebuild it
(Route Fifty)

Confidence in state and local government may have been waning in recent years, but there are ways communities can help to bolster their resident’s faith in them.

COVID-19 Resources:
Eau Claire County COVID-19 Information Hub (Eau Claire City-County Health Department)

Mark your calendar:

30th Annual Chippewa Valley Rally
 • Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024

Eggs & Issues: Legislative Breakfast
• Friday, Mar 15

Spring 2024 Election
 • Tuesday, April 2
Local candidates on the Spring election ballot

Eggs & Issues: State of the City - Altoona
 • Friday, Apr 12

2024 Human Resource Conference
 • Thursday, Apr 18

Eggs & Issues
• Thursday, May 9

Chamber Royale
 • Thursday, May 16, 2024

Golf Day in Eau Claire
 • Monday, Aug 5, 2024

"Bravo to Business" Awards
 • Thursday, Oct 17, 2024

Public Meetings Calendar
Click the link above for the our regularly updated schedule of public meetings.

Thanks for reading this issue of Business Advocate.
If you have comments or questions, contact Scott Rogers, Vice President G
overnmental Affairs, at 715-858-0616 or rogers@eauclairechamber.org

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