CONTACT: Alyssa Mauk, ACLU of Wisconsin communications director, firstname.lastname@example.org
MILWAUKEE – The ACLU of Wisconsin and 104 other organizations sent a letter today to the Joint Finance Committee urging them to allow people to participate in next month’s state budget hearings virtually, ensuring that everyone can safely join in the process.
The letter highlighted the importance of the Joint Finance Committee’s hearings in giving Wisconsinites a voice in the creation of the biennial budget, and asserted that the absence of virtual options would deter people from taking part in a process in which public engagement is vital.
“Because of the known risks with large public gatherings due to Covid-19 and the uncertainty about when it will be safe for all members of the public to attend, we as member-based organizations cannot in good conscience encourage our members to risk their health to attend large public hearings,” the letter stated.” While we represent far ranging and diverse populations, we are united in wanting to make sure that every person who wants to participate in the JFC hearings, and other legislative hearings this session, can do so safely.”
In addition to requesting that virtual attendance and engagement alternatives be made available, the advocacy groups also proposed a number of recommendations:
Establish an email address for the Joint Finance Committee expressly for collecting testimony for inclusion into the public record.
Establish an online version of the hearing slip that can be used anywhere in the state by constituents to register their position on the budget similar to what they could fill out if they attended in person.
Develop clear, consistent language and instructions for the public on how they may register and submit testimony remotely. We suggest these instructions are included as part of every public hearing notice.
Allow use of virtual platforms for remote testimony. Many platforms allow registration in advance and uploading of files which may be useful features for legislative committees. State agencies have used these platforms for gathering public input and comment during the pandemic.
Consider providing a limited (by registration) call-in option for individuals to provide remote testimony if they do not have access to the internet, do not have a computer or have poor broadband.
Ensure there are clear guidelines and notices posted online and in other places to help people understand all testimony options.
Coordinate with state expertise (such as the Department of Health Services media team) to maximize accessibility for constituents with sensory disabilities on virtual platforms.
Partner with Wisconsin Eye to provide captioning and ASL interpreters for hearing impaired individuals for all public hearings using this service.
“The onset of the pandemic has forced people and organizations across the world to change how they operate in the service of protecting public health and combating infection, and there is simply no reason why the Joint Finance Committee can’t simarlily work to adapt its public hearing process to accommodate the serious safety concerns posed by Covid-19. The people of Wisconsin should not have to risk their lives to exercise their right to weigh in on matters of great public concern, such as the writing of our state budget.”
The list of organizations is:
1000 Friends of Wisconsin
A Better Wisconsin Together
ACLU of Wisconsin
African American Roundtable, Inc
AFSCME Council 32
All Voting Is Local
Alliance for the Great Lakes
Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin
Autism Society of South Central Wisconsin
Autism Society Of Southeastern Wisconsin
Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC)
Black Lives Matter to Wisconsin Unitarian Universalists
Blue Sky Waukesha
Central Wisconsin ADAPT
Chippewa Valley Transit Alliance, Inc.
Citizen Action of Wisconsin
Citizen Advocates for Public Education
Coalition For Justice
Common Cause Wisconsin
Consumer Direct Care Network
Crawford Stewardship Project
Disability Rights Wisconsin
Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa
End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin
Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing (EXPO)
First Baptist Church of Madison
For Our Future Wisconsin
Harambee Village Doulas
Interfaith Earth Network
League of Women Voters of Wisconsin
LOV Inc, Living Our Visions Inclusively
Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin
Madtown Mommas and Disability Advocates
Main Street Alliance
Metcalfe Park Community Bridges, Inc
Midwest Environmental Advocates
Milwaukee Branch NAACP
Milwaukee County Human Rights Commission
Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH)
Milwaukee Mental Health Task Force
Milwaukee Zen Center
NAACP Milwaukee Branch
Northern Wisconsin NORML
People First Wisconsin
People of Progression
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin
Protect Our Care Wisconsin
Rid Racism Milwaukee
River Alliance of Wisconsin
Schools and Communities United
Sierra Club Wisconsin
Souled Out Ministries INC
Souls To The Polls
Southeastern Wisconsin ADAPT
Survival Survival Coalition of WI Disability Advocacy Organizations
The Arc Greater Columbia County
The Arc Wisconsin
The Arc-Dane County
UFCW Local 1473
Waupaca County ARC Inc.
WI Association of Family & Children’s Agencies
WI Board for People with Developmental Disabilities
WI Conference NAACP
WI Early Childhood Association
Wisconsin Aging Advocacy Network
Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools
Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health
Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Wisconsin Coalition of Independent Living Centers, Inc.
Wisconsin Conservation Voters
Wisconsin Council of Churches
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Wisconsin Education Association Council
Wisconsin Environmental Health Network
Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice
Wisconsin Family Assistance Center for Education, Training & Support (WI FACETS)
Wisconsin Farmers Union
Wisconsin Green Muslims
Wisconsin Health Professionals for Climate Action
Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light
Wisconsin Justice Initiative
Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association
Wisconsin Long Term Care Workforce Alliance
Wisconsin Muslim Civic Alliance
Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association
Wisconsin Public Education Network
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation
Wisconsin’s Green Fire
Youth Justice Milwaukee
This press release is available online: https://www.aclu-wi.org/en/
This letter is available online: https://www.aclu-wi.org/sites/