County parks running out of time

October 30, 2009

By Jon Richards, 19th District State Representative

The Milwaukee County Parks were once the envy of the nation. Historically, the system’s over 140 parks and 15,000 acres of land have been a source of pride for our community for over 100 years.

Unfortunately, they have fallen into disrepair in recent years. One concrete example of the dire fiscal state of the Parks Department is seen when evaluating the overall department budget in 1986 compared to the 2009 allotted budget. In 1986, the overall operating budget was over $45 million, while the budget for 2009-23 years later-was reduced to just over $43 million. These numbers, when adjusted for inflation, are depressing.

In 1986, the overall operating budget was over $45 million, while the budget for 2009-23 years later-was reduced to just over $43 million.  »Read more

Wisconsin still working on health care reform

October 1, 2009

By Jon Richards, 19th District State Representative

Health care reform has been the hot topic at the federal level over the past couple of months. We are also still working on health care reform here in Wisconsin.

Honoring End-of-Life Decisions

End-of-life care decisions are very personal and often very difficult. In the absence of any expressed preference from the patient, family members are left to anguish over what sort of care should or should not be administered. I have convened a diverse working group to explore implementation of Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) protocols in our hospitals and clinics. A POLST form is used in addition to advanced directives and durable power of attorney for health care to ensure that a patient’s wishes are followed as they relate to end-of-life care.

Electronic Medical Records

For years health care organizations have invested substantial resources to implement electronic medical records (EMR) systems, which theoretically improve access to accurate and up-to-date medical records. Currently, EMR stay within a particular clinical setting or health network. To maximize the usefulness of EMR, providers need to have the ability to share information between hospitals, emergency rooms, and clinical settings outside of a defined network.

To speed this process along, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services is working on a plan to create a centralized database that can be used by health care organizations from around the state to access certain information from a patient’s medical record. Their plan, which is expected to come before my Health and Health Care Reform Committee, will achieve this goal by creating a database called the Wisconsin Health Information Exchange. The exchange will both protect patient privacy and help translate information between different EMR systems.


With the growing switch to “consumer driven” health plans, like Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), it is important to get health care providers to post prices on specific procedures and office visits. I am currently working with Democrats and Republicans on legislation to require health providers to post cost information. There are many ideas on the table, and it is my hope that a plan will be referred to my committee for action this fall.

Jon Richards is the state representative for Wisconsin’s 19th state Assembly District, which includes Bay View, the Third Ward, eastern downtown, and the East Side. His website is He can be reached at (888) 534-0019 or

New BadgerCare Plus program

August 27, 2009

By Jon Richards, 19th District State Representative

Health care coverage and access has taken center stage in national debate, with the president working with Congress, health care providers, insurance companies, and consumers to find a national solution to the crisis we’re facing. There are over 40 million people in America without any health insurance. In Wisconsin, however, we have worked to ensure that access to basic health services is provided for as many of our residents as possible.

The BadgerCare program has extended coverage of health services to uninsured children and their parents. BadgerCare Plus broadened this program to cover pregnant women and family planning services. These programs have been indispensable to families who do not have the means to pay for rising health care costs. This year I am proud to have worked with the Department of Health Services and my colleagues in the Assembly to extend coverage to childless adults under the BadgerCare Plus Core Plan.  »Read more

Highs and lows for Milwaukee in budget

July 30, 2009

By Jon Richards, 19th District State Representative

Last month the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly passed the 2009-11 biennial budget. This budget called for hard compromises as we worked to fix the record $6.6 billion shortfall that Wisconsin faced this biennium.

While there were some low points of the budget for Milwaukee, there were some high points as well for economic development and job creation in our region.

There was some great news in the budget for Milwaukee with the approval of investment in University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which included money for a new research vessel and facilities for the new School of Freshwater Sciences, the School of Public Health in downtown Milwaukee, and new research facilities for the Engineering School.

Milwaukee can be a national center for better, higher paying jobs and this funding is a key investment into making this a reality. This is the largest single investment in UWM ever and a major vote of confidence in Milwaukee’s future.

I worked with my colleagues in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin to honor the voters’ decision to remove the transit and parks in Milwaukee County from the property tax burden and create a 1-percent sales tax to cover the costs of fixing our ailing transit and parks systems in Milwaukee County.

Unfortunately the 0.35-percent increase in sales tax for Milwaukee County Parks was removed in compromises between the Senate and Assembly. I was disappointed when the governor also removed the 0.5-percent increase for transit funding and 0.15-percent increase for emergency services.

We must recognize that good parks and transit systems will draw people to our area to live and create jobs. I will continue to work to ensure that these two things receive all the resources they need in order to survive and thrive.

Although it was difficult budget, I am proud that we were able to deliver some of the resources Milwaukee needs to continue to grow and become a world-class city, and I will continue to work to deliver these resources and opportunities to Milwaukee.

Jon Richards is the state representative for Wisconsin’s 19th state Assembly District, which includes Bay View, the Third Ward, eastern downtown, and the East Side. His website is He can be reached at (888) 534-0019 or

July 8 parks & transit funding listening session hosted by Rep. Richards, Rep. Sinicki, and Senator Plale

July 6, 2009

Dear Neighbor,

Please join me, Representative Chris Sinicki and Senator Jeff Plale at a listening session this Wednesday, July 8, 2009, to discuss regional parks and transit funding. Please find the information below and attached to this email. I hope to see you there!

Listening Session to Discuss Regional Parks and Transit Funding with Representative Jon Richards, Representative Chris Sinicki and Senator Jeff Plale.

South Shore Park Pavilion
2900 South Shore Drive
Wednesday, July 8th
6:00pm – 8:00pm

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about this or any other issue either by submitting a comment on my website at or by emailing me at . Please stay in touch.


Representative Jon Richards
19th Assembly District

Smoke-free victory

May 28, 2009

By Jon Richards, 19th District State Representative

Over the past three years I have been fighting to make workplaces smoke-free for all employees in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin. The residents of Bay View and the readers of the Compass have been very supportive of this proposal and our fight to pass it. I am happy to report that the legislature acted May 13 in a refreshingly bipartisan manner to pass the statewide workplace smoking ban. The Smoke Free Wisconsin Act passed the Assembly 61-38 and the Senate 25-8. The ban takes effect July 5, 2010.

This was a fight about the health of all workers, both smokers and nonsmokers, as well as a fight to save the taxpayers of Wisconsin money on medical costs caused by secondhand smoke. We now know that secondhand smoke can lead to lung cancer and heart disease.  »Read more

Plale and Richards letter supports UWM Freshwater facility at former Pieces of Eight property

May 26, 2009

May 22, 2009

Harbor Commission
Port of Milwaukee
2323 S Lincoln Memorial Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53207

Dear Harbor Commission Members,

We are writing in support of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s proposal to build the School of Freshwater Sciences on the lakefront to replace the abandoned Pieces of Eight restaurant. We are dedicated to making Milwaukee a global hub of freshwater science research and industry, and the School of Freshwater Science is an integral part of this plan. This building can capitalize on the existing resources along the waterfront and be the crowning jewel of this hub to draw more industry to our doorstep.

The Freshwater Sciences program at UWM has three projects in the works – the School building on the lakefront, expanded research facilities by the WATER Institute on Milwaukee’s south side and the Neeskay research vessel. The research capacities will be state of the art, and will be used as a draw for freshwater industry to join and supplement the school’s work in the field. The new building will help our efforts to make Milwaukee a premier destination in freshwater studies.

The School of Freshwater Sciences will not be a mundane office building, but instead a draw for all those in Milwaukee and across the globe who are interested in freshwater sciences. In addition to its role as an academic building the School of Freshwater Sciences can host visitors from nonprofit organizations, schools and industry. The School will have meeting rooms, an auditorium and touring exhibition spaces, which will serve as the focal point of Milwaukee’s freshwater science industry.

The proposed site will capitalize on the existing structures and resources already available on the lakefront. Discovery World is already an excellent resource to learn more about Lake Michigan. Thousands of visitors enjoy the scenic space to walk along the lakeshore and enjoy the Milwaukee Art museum, Lakeshore State Park, and the Summerfest grounds. This new facility will improve the aesthetics of the lakefront, making a more appealing destination by replacing the abandoned structure and creating an accessible walkway along the waterfront.

We applaud UWM for working with the Department of Natural Resources to ensure that the new building will meet all the requirements of the Public Trust Doctrine. The new structure will be no taller than two stories and make a better use of the green space. The public will be welcome, along the lakefront and in the building itself. The school will be an enjoyable destination and learning center for anyone wanting to enjoy the beauty of Lake Michigan.

The School of Freshwater Sciences will use its design and the resources it will provide to complement Lake Michigan’s shoreline and draw more industry to Milwaukee, while promoting the city as an international water hub. This is an important field of study that must be nurtured. This building project will bring more investment to the region and put Milwaukee on the global stage of important freshwater sciences research.


Representative Jon Richards & Senator Jeff Plale
District 19 District 7

Governor Doyle
Members of Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee
Mayor Tom Barrett

Read text of bill that enacts Wisconsin’s statewide smoking ban

May 15, 2009

Smoking ban awaits Doyle’s signature

May 15, 2009

Source: Smoke Free Wisconsin


Last night, May 13,  was a historic moment for advocates of smoke-free air. With
bipartisan support, the Wisconsin Legislature voted to protect Wisconsin workers
from secondhand smoke. This vote ensures many Wisconsin citizens’ right to
breathe clean indoor air. And while we would have preferred no exemptions and
no delays, this law is substantial progress towards making Wisconsin workplaces
We applaud the co-sponsors of the bill, Senators Fred Risser and Mike Ellis and
Representatives Jon Richards and Al Ott for their hard work and dedication. We
also appreciate the work of thousands of volunteers who have worked tirelessly
for years for smoke-free workplaces.
Wisconsin becomes the 27th state to pass a strong smoke-free law that includes
restaurants and bars. The legislation adds to the growing momentum across the
country and around the world to protect all workers and the public from the
serious health hazards of secondhand smoke. No one should have to put their
health at risk in order to earn a paycheck or enjoy a night out.
We urge Governor Doyle to sign this important legislation without delay.

Smoking ban a Wisconsin reality in 2010?

May 8, 2009

The Assembly Health and Healthcare Reform Committee passed the Smoke Free Wisconsin bill, Assembly Bill 253, today with a vote of 11 to 2. The bill, co-authored by Representative Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) and Representative Al Ott (R-Forest Junction), is a comprehensive statewide ban on smoking in all workplaces. This smoking ban, which will go into effect on July 5, 2010, covers bars, restaurants, private clubs and all other workplaces. Existing cigar bars and tobacco retailers will be exempt in this ban.

In a show of broad bi-partisan support, three Republicans on the Assembly Health and Healthcare Reform Committee, chaired by Richards, joined the eight Democrats to pass the Smoke Free Wisconsin Act. The Assembly will meet on Wednesday, May 13, 2009 to vote on the passage of the bill. It is anticipated that the Smoke Free Wisconsin Act will be approved by both the Assembly and Senate and be presented to the Governor by the end of next week.

“We made a huge leap forward in making workplaces safer across Wisconsin,” said Richards. “Smoking and breathing second-hand smoke are major causes of heart disease, lung disease and cancer. We came together today from all sides of the political spectrum to say that we will protect our workers, and the patrons of these establishments, from harmful workplace environments. The days of Wisconsin being the ash-tray of the Midwest are over.”

Representative Ott commented, “I am extremely pleased that the smoking ban legislation received bi-partisan Committee approval today.” Rep. Ott added, “The people of Wisconsin have made it clear that the time has come to pass a statewide smoking ban. Our neighboring states of Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa all have enacted successful smoking ban laws, and it is time for Wisconsin to do the same. This legislation is about protecting public health. After all, there are few things more valuable than the air we breathe.” Ott concluded, “I give my full support for the advancement of a smoking ban for the State of Wisconsin.” 

Source: Wisconsin State Assembly


Smoking ban set for Assembly Health Committee hearing and vote

May 1, 2009

Rep. Jon Richards (announced today that the bill to create a state-wide smoking ban has been introduced in the Assembly and will have a public hearing before the Assembly Committee on Health and Health Care Reform at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 6th in the State Capitol. Assembly Bill 253, The Smoke-Free Wisconsin Act, has been scheduled for a committee vote on Friday, May 8th as well. The bill could be up for a vote before the full Assembly on Wednesday, May 13th. Richards, Rep. Al Ott (R-Forest Junction) and Rep. Donna Seidel (D-Wausau) are the lead Assembly authors.

“Smoking and breathing second-hand smoke are major causes of heart disease, lung disease and cancer. Passing a smoking ban in Wisconsin will be a major step forward in making bars, restaurants and other work places healthier. No one should be forced to choose between their job and their health,” Richards said. “A smoking ban is long overdue in Wisconsin and we must pass this as quickly as possible.”

More than 22 states have enacted state-wide bans, including Wisconsin’s neighboring states of Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. In Wisconsin, 37 communities have enacted smoke-free ordinances.




Clearing the air

April 28, 2009

By Jon Richards, 19th District State Representative

We have all heard for years about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. Heart disease, lung cancer, and serious respiratory illness can all be caused as a result of smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke. That is why I have been working for the last several years to make Milwaukee and Wisconsin healthier by passing a statewide workplace smoking ban.

This year we have the chance to enact this important measure in the state budget. The governor and the Joint Committee on Finance recognize that enacting a smoking ban will save the taxpayers significant amounts of money in treating disease. The most conservative estimate from the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau indicates that enacting a smoking ban will save taxpayers up to or over $1 million this biennium in health care costs to treat these diseases in people exposed to secondhand smoke.  »Read more

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