Tag Archives: mark pocan

Schedule: Women’s March on Madison

Madison’s solidarity sister march to the Women’s March on Washington will begin at about noon Jan. 21.

To keep track of march news — or share from the march — the Twitter hashtag is #womensmarchmadison.

Here are details from the organizing page on Facebook:

Marchers will meet up at the Library Mall near 728 State St. at noon and  march to the state Capitol for a rally that will last until about 3 p.m.

Scheduled speakers include:

• Sen. Lena Taylor.
• Sagashus Levingston.
• Abigail Swetz.
• Alder Maurice Cheeks.
• Grisel Tapia.
• Darla Lannert.
• U.S. Rep Mark Pocan


Performers include:

• Once A Month.
• Youth Spoken Word Poets
•Token Minority .
• Raging Grannies.
• Eastern Birds.

Other details:

A flash mob is being organized at: https://www.facebook.com/events/233712650388743/?ti=icl

Free shuttle busses are operating from East Towne Mall and Goodman South Library are full.

Grace Episcopal Church is opening its doors for marchers to use restrooms or seeking some quiet.

Mark Pocan: Fighting Trump to save eight years of hard-won progress

The end of Obama’s presidency leaves the LGBTQ community at a crossroads. While it remains to be seen whether the next president will rollback protections and civil rights for our community, the track record of the Republican party and Donald Trump’s recent Cabinet appointments do not give me confidence.

The president-elect, and many of the people he is surrounding himself with, have shown apathy and even contempt for LGBTQ people, women, people of color and immigrants. The radically conservative agenda they are proposing unfairly targets so many communities that have struggled to achieve equality. As an LGBTQ elected official and a proud member of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus, I am on the frontline of the battle to save the eight years of hard-won progress that is now in danger – and I will embrace that role.

The LGBTQ community intersects with all other communities, spanning every demographic group. We are all genders, races and members of every religious community. We come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, levels of education and hold different systems of belief.

When our community is under attack, everyone is under attack. This is why it is important we begin to operate in unison with a shared mission and vision to fight anti-equality efforts.

Together, we must fight to make sure employers cannot discriminate against anyone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity — in Wisconsin or anywhere in our country. I am incredibly proud that Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to protect people based on sexual orientation, yet 34 years after that landmark bill was signed, we have yet to protect transgender people from being fired from their jobs or denied service at a grocery store, simply because of who they are.

This injustice extends to the majority of states in our nation, and the absence of a federal law makes the LGBTQ community incredibly vulnerable. This is just one of many equality issues we expected to address in Congress next year, but now seems in peril given the election results.

There is still progress that needs to be made, and we cannot allow the momentum we gained over the past eight years to falter.

It is now more apparent than ever that LGBTQ representation in elected positions at every level of government matters. With this election, we now have 500 out and proud elected officials in the country. The support of allies is invaluable, but it cannot replace the understanding of a lived experience — knowing what it’s like to be denied relationship recognition or being targeted for violence because you are holding your partner’s hand. LGBTQ elected officials understand the gravity of these issues, so in this post-election uncertainty, we are coming together to use our collective power to effectively oppose efforts to target the rights of the LGBTQ community or any other community.

The fight won’t be easy — but know that as your Congress member, I will be an outspoken and relentless voice for equality regardless of who is in the White House, and I will do everything I can to protect our progress in the coming months and years.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan represents Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District

Democrats urge DOJ to assist in overseeing Wisconsin elections

Dear Attorney General Lynch: As you are aware, Wisconsin, which we represent, is among 14 states that have adopted new voter restrictions in advance of the November 8 election.

The state’s 2011 voter identification law, one of the strictest in the country, has been repeatedly challenged in federal court due to its discriminatory effects on vulnerable populations’ voting rights.  Due to the law’s contentious nature and poor implementation, coupled with a political environment that is becoming increasingly intimidating, we are requesting the Department of Justice’s assistance in overseeing the state’s monitoring of the election, including by providing poll-monitoring services in Wisconsin.

In 2014, a U.S. district court noted that more than 300,000 Wisconsinites lacked the newly requisite form of identification, and that this population disproportionately included persons of color. Judge Lynn Adelman further observed that state officials “could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past,” casting serious doubt on the official rationale for the policy.

A second federal court determined earlier this summer that even the “safety net” built into the law to help voters who have trouble obtaining ID was a “wretched failure” that “disenfranchised citizens” who are “overwhelmingly African American and Latino.”

Deeming the provision unconstitutional, Judge James Peterson mandated changes in practice and public education to ensure that that process better serves all Wisconsinites with documentation challenges in obtaining identification so they can vote. Concurring with Judge Adelman, Judge Peterson also expressed “misgivings about whether the law actually promotes confidence and integrity,” and observed that prior to 2011, “Wisconsin had an exemplary election system that produced high levels of voter participation without significant irregularities.”

Unfortunately, since that court order in late July, we have continued to see how Wisconsin’s voter ID law puts the franchise of many Wisconsinites, particularly people of color, in real jeopardy. Over the last month, press reports have revealed that on numerous occasions, Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicle employees provided erroneous and incomplete information to potential voters who are unable to obtain IDs due to a lack of required documentation (like a birth certificate), despite their eligibility for alternative credentials.

These revelations led Judge Peterson to remark on October 12, “I’m very disappointed to see that the state really did nothing in response to my order,” noting that voters are “at the mercy of the DMV, and its staff wasn’t trained well enough to guide people through it.” We are deeply troubled by the prospect of such misinformation contributing to voter disenfranchisement in this election. While further scrutiny by the federal court has prompted state officials to institute additional training and public education efforts at the DMV, there is entirely too much at stake in the limited time left before the election to let this continue without additional oversight.

In addition to misinformation, we are also concerned about potential voter intimidation at the polling places, particularly in light of recent, high-profile rhetoric that alleges “election rigging.” National figures have suggested that there is widespread voter fraud in our country and have encouraged private citizens to monitor the voting behaviors of certain communities for potential misconduct.

Given the flawed efforts thus far by state officials to properly implement this law, with proof of demonstrably false information having been disseminated to voters just days before the election, we fear that irreparable harm may result—particularly to voters of color, who disproportionately bear the brunt of these policies and any Election Day intimidation efforts.

We ask the Department to provide any resources or assistance it can in order to help our state navigate these unsettling circumstances.  For example, the Department has historically provided poll monitors on Election Day to help ensure that all eligible voters will be permitted to register and exercise their fundamental right to participate in our democracy. We therefore urge the Department of Justice to utilize any available election monitoring resources to ensure voters in Wisconsin are able to safely access the polls.

The right to elect our public representatives is unrivaled in its importance to a fully functioning democracy.  With few days remaining until the election, it is imperative that we do everything in our power to limit the amount of harm caused to our state’s voters.

Thank you for your consideration of this request and for the Department of Justice’s ongoing efforts to ensure the fairness of all elections in our country.

Military might: After ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ reform is still needed

Do ask.

Do tell.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan wants ex-service members to tell about the harm caused by discharges under the now defunct ban against gays in the military.

And the Wisconsin Democrat wants Congress to ask about the harm caused by the ban years after the its repeal.

Pocan and U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., want the House Committee on Armed Services to examine the challenges faced by gays and lesbians discharged from the military.

Recently, however, the committee refused to hold a hearing on the bill.

A year ago this summer, the congressmen introduced the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, which would help former service members discharged solely due to their sexual orientation correct their military records to reflect their honorable service and to restore benefits they earned.

The bill, according to Pocan’s office, has 113 co-sponsors in the House, including four Republicans. A companion measure in the Senate has 38 co-sponsors.

In a letter this spring to Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, who is the chair of the Armed Services Committee, Pocan and Rangel wrote, “Since World War II, more than 100,000 individuals are estimated to have been discharged from the military due to their sexual orientation. Today, thousands of gay, lesbian and bisexual veterans are tarnished with discharge statuses other than honorable. This status affects both their access to benefits they have earned from their service and their opportunities in civilian life, potentially hindering employment opportunities and the right to vote.”

Pocan’s office said even gay service members who received honorable discharges may face discrimination because the “Narrative Reason” for their discharge may refer to “homosexual conduct,” “homosexual act” or “homosexual marriage.”

In the 1992 race for president, Bill Clinton campaigned on a platform that included a vow to lift a ban against gays in the military — a prohibition applied in various ways over the years. But Clinton faced stiff opposition in Congress and eventually offered a compromise — “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The policy allowed for gay people to serve if they didn’t tell, and military leaders were prohibited from asking about sexual orientation.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” was not administered as Clinton proposed, and investigations about sexual orientation continued, with service members still losing careers and benefits as had happened for decades before.

The ban was repealed in 2011, allowing gays, lesbians and bisexuals to serve openly in the Armed Forces.

A year after the repeal, a study from the Palm Center, an independent research institute in San Francisco, found:

• Only two service members, both chaplains, were identified as having left the military as a result of the repeal.

• The Pentagon reported not a single episode of violence associated with the repeal.

• Pentagon data show recruitment and retention remained robust after the repeal.

• Survey data revealed that service-wide, troops reported the same level of morale and readiness after the repeal as they did before.

• Data also showed trust among troops improved following the repeal.

The transgender front

Still, nearly five years later, the struggle for full equality in the military continues with the campaign to remove barriers to transgender people serving openly.

Last summer, this effort was boosted by a vote of the American Medical Association, which adopted a resolution finding “there is no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals” from U.S. military service and urged that transgender service members be provided with necessary medical care “according to the same medical standards that apply to non-transgender personnel.”

The AMA also said the anti-transgender policy is out of date.

Four U.S. Surgeons General — Drs. Joycelyn Elders, David Satcher, Regina Benjamin and Kenneth Moritsugu — reached the same conclusion.

This spring, a Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Pentagon and first reported on by The New York Times found that repealing the ban on transgender service would not negatively impact the Armed Forces and would lead to no more than 129 of the military’s million-plus troops seeking transition-related care each year.

Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, said the Rand report confirmed his institute’s research on the issue. “Inclusive policy will not compromise readiness, will not be costly and will not be difficult to formulate or implement,” he said.

There have been hints the Defense Department, which created a working group to examine the issue, could announce its plan for allowing open transgender service this spring.

Congress likely would play a role in any reforms, and the House Committee on Armed Services would get an early review.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state is the ranking Democratic member on that committee. He’s a supporter of lifting the ban on transgender service, as well as an advocate of equal and fair treatment of gay service members and those discharged because of their orientation.

Pocan says he’s undecided on Clinton, Sanders

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan says he does not know whether he will vote for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders on April 5 in Wisconsin’s presidential preference primary.

The liberal congressman from Madison said that he likes both candidates and either one would be better than any Republican running for president.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin. — PHOTO: Courtesy
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin. — PHOTO: Courtesy

Pocan is also one of 10 Democratic super delegates in Wisconsin who can support whichever candidate they wish, regardless of whom primary voters back.

The representative says he wants to wait until after the last primary in June to decide who he will cast his super delegate vote for.

And he acknowledges it could be for someone different from who he votes for on April 5.

Five other Wisconsin super delegates have said they will back Clinton.

On the Web

Details for April 5 voting in Wisconsin.

Digital divide: Wisconsin congressman launches rural broadband caucus

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, has launched the bipartisan Congressional Rural Broadband Caucus with Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont and Republican Reps. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Bob Latta of Ohio.

Their goal is “to facilitate discussion, educate members of Congress and develop policy solutions to close the digital divide in rural America.”

Pocan said, “Access to reliable, high-speed internet service is vital to economic growth in communities across America. Whether, it is for commerce, education or public safety needs, broadband service allows individuals and businesses in rural communities to take advantage of new technologies and stay connected to a 21st century economy. There are many parts of my district where residents experience extremely slow download speeds even as low as one megabit per second.”

Several communities in Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District, including the towns of Vermont and Cross Plains, have publicly adopted resolutions voicing concerns over the lack of quality broadband service available to residents. 

“Broadband access is not a luxury, rather it is a necessity,” Pocan said. “I want to ensure people in my district, and across the country in rural areas, have updated broadband infrastructure and access to a reliable connection.”

A significant digital divide remains between urban and rural America.

More than half of all rural Americans lack access to this basic standard of service.

In 2015, the FCC updated its broadband benchmark speeds to 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads.

According to the FCC, using this updated benchmark, the 2015 report finds that 55 million Americans — 17 percent of the population — lack access to advanced broadband.

Walker hints at lawsuit over Obama’s executive actions on guns

President Barack Obama’s plan to tighten restrictions on gun sales brought praise from Democrats in Wisconsin’s congressional delegation and accusations of executive overreaching from Gov. Scott Walker.

The president, on Jan. 5, detailed his plans to curb gun violence in America and offered his reasoning for taking executive action — Congress’ inability or unwillingness to act.

Central to the president’s 10-point plan is new federal guidance on who is in the business of selling firearms and who must acquire a license to sell guns. The president wants to close a loophole that allows dealers and buyers to avoid background checks in the retailing of guns online and at shows and flea markets.

The president also wants federal agencies to research technologies to reduce accidental shootings, increase funding for mental health care, implement procedures to better track lost or stolen guns and hire more federal examiners to conduct background checks.

“This is not going to solve every violent crime in this country,” said Obama, who wiped away tears as he spoke at the White House on Jan. 5. But the executive actions could “save lives and spare families the pain of these extraordinary losses.”

Walker, who has signed legislation weakening Wisconsin’s gun restrictions, suggested the state likely will sue over Obama’s executive actions. The Republican governor said he asked the attorney general to review the president’s plan and accused Obama of “disregarding the constitutional principles of separation of powers and exceeding his authority as chief executive.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, said the courts or voters would undo the president’s actions. “No matter what President Obama says, his word does not trump the Second Amendment,” Ryan said. “We will conduct vigilant oversight. His executive order will no doubt be challenged in the courts. Ultimately, everything the president has done can be overturned by a Republican president, which is another reason we must win in November.”

From Wisconsin’s Democratic leaders, there was praise for the presidential action.

State Rep. Chris Taylor of Madison said executive action is “desperately needed to stem the tidal wave of gun violence and deaths.”

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, welcomed “this practical and measured response to the ongoing inaction in the House and Senate that has compromised the safety of communities across the United States.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said Congress should build upon the president’s actions.

“Instead of Congress holding moments of silence on the House floor, we need moments of action to reduce the senseless gun violence that is rampant in our communities,” said Pocan, who supports the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, which would expand the background check program.

Bringing Wisconsin values to DC

Halfway through my second term in office, it is my Wisconsin roots that have shown me how to make things work in an unworkable Congress to accomplish things that matter to our district.

Amid the year end business, a bill I authored with Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI) to save the Perkins Loan program, at the request of UW students and staff, passed so a lifeline to low and middle-income students trying to finance their education will again be available.

In the rural town of Vermont where I reside, I frequently hear that broadband speeds are slow and kids cannot do their homework. This is why I led a bipartisan group of Members of Congress in the creation of a Congressional Rural Broadband Caucus.

My colleague and friend, Rep. Reid Ribble (WI-08) and I teamed up this year to bring Wisconsin values to DC by working on two bills to reform our federal budget process to provide more accurate and long-term budgeting.  

I always stand up for my beliefs and helping working families and there is much more work to be done, but we can still find paths forward, often with bipartisan collaboration. I learned that in my 14 years in the Wisconsin legislature and I will keep working with colleagues and moving the needle a little bit, day by day.

As I head into 2016, I will continue to fight for the priorities important to Wisconsinites, including raising the incomes of working Americans, responsible investments in research and infrastructure, affordable and accessible education, a solid foundation for retirement security and a constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. As always, I am committed to making sure your voice is heard in Washington and I want you to know my door is open.

I hope you enjoy the upcoming holidays with family and friends, and I wish you a safe and happy New Year. 

Pocan seeks meeting over plans to close Oscar Meyer HQ

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan wants a meeting with Kraft Heinz’ CEO after a confusing conversation with a Kraft Heinz representative following the company’s announcement it was closing the Oscar Meyer headquarters in Madison.

Kraft Heinz announced earlier this week it was shutting down the Oscar Mayer plant and headquarters, which has employed hundreds of Wisconsinites for nearly 100 years.

“Today, I requested a meeting with the Kraft Heinz CEO to discuss their decision to close the Oscar Mayer operations in Madison,” Pocan said in a news release. “Workers and their families, along with members of the Dane County community were shocked by this loss. The intention of this meeting is to explain Oscar Mayer’s deep roots in the community and the devastating ripple effect this closure would have on our local economy.”

“We must seek answers from Kraft Heinz regarding unanswered questions we’ve heard from constituents,” continued Pocan. “I’ve requested a meeting as soon as possible. … Time is of the essence to ensure workers, the Dane County community and other stakeholders are involved in decisions about the Oscar Mayer plant moving forward.”

State officials said the news of Oscar Meyer’s departure took them by surprise, even though Heinz Kraft merged in July and laid off 165 workers at the plant, stoking concerns the facility would shut down.

The AP reported that Gov. Scott Walker said the decision to close the 100-year-old plant and relocate the headquarters to Chicago “has nothing to do with Wisconsin.”

Walker said his economic development agency had been in touch with Heinz Kraft and “provided assistance,” which he says the company declined.