WED AM News: State lawmakers say federal infrastructure bills could boost modernization efforts in Wisconsin; 85 percent of undergrad classes at UW System in-person for fall semester

— Two state lawmakers say pending federal legislation would accelerate efforts in Wisconsin to develop modern infrastructure such as electric vehicle charging stations and broadband internet, while creating thousands of new jobs in the state.

But a lack of Democratic unity among federal lawmakers and GOP opposition to the high cost of the bills could put the efforts in jeopardy. That’s according to Lou Jacobson, a veteran D.C. journalist who joined a Biden administration official and state lawmakers for a virtual luncheon yesterday hosted by and

“It’s basically a real cluster right now,” Jacobson said. “You have these two bills: the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the reconciliation bill, which has some of the softer sorts of infrastructure in it, but at the same time you also have spending set to run out in a couple days, and you also have the debt ceiling, which is going to lapse very soon.”

The bipartisan infrastructure bill was passed by the U.S. Senate and is awaiting a vote in the House, while President Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda is being advanced through the reconciliation process. David Kieve, director of public engagement for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the approximately $1 trillion infrastructure bill would include $312 billion for infrastructure and estimated Wisconsin would get about $20 billion from those funds.

Meanwhile, the bill moving through reconciliation could contain as much as $3.5 trillion, Kieve said, though the total for that legislation hasn’t been finalized yet.

“What’s really clear is that the policy proposals put forward in the bipartisan infrastructure plan and the reconciliation bill are very popular in Wisconsin,” said Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine. “I hear about the need for good jobs in this community, I hear about the need for infrastructure investment.”

Neubauer, a member of the state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, says Wisconsinites “both want and need” the full reconciliation bill to pass. She said the larger bill would create an estimated 266,000 jobs in the state through infrastructure investments.

Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, highlighted efforts by lawmakers in Wisconsin to invest state funds into a charging network for electric vehicles. He touched on a proposed bill that would put $10 million from the state’s allocation of the Volkswagen settlement fund into this effort, but said that process would proceed more slowly without additional federal funding.

“I do believe electric cars are the thing. It’s happening, the question is how fast does it happen and does our state keep up with other states that are moving forward?” said Cowles, who chairs the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee and is vice-chair of the Senate Transportation and Local Government Committee.

Cowles also said efforts to eliminate lead from drinking water in the state would benefit from more federal funding in the infrastructure bills. Still, he said he’s concerned about how the funding is rolled out and whether it’s spent in an effective way.

“Absolutely I’m worried about it,” he said. “Would I like to see some more money to help put this lead issue behind us? I would. And I’m sure that in a bipartisan way most legislators would feel that way.”

See the full story here: 

— UW System President Tommy Thompson has announced that 85 percent of undergraduate classes are in-person for the fall semester even though vaccination rates vary among universities.

That exceeds the 75 percent goal Thompson set earlier this year and amounts to pre-pandemic levels of in-person undergraduate instruction, said Media Relations Director Mark Pitsch.

UW-Superior, at 65 percent in-person, is the only System school that did not meet the goal because a large portion of its courses were online prior to the pandemic.

Still, 10 out of 13 UW System schools remain well below the 70 percent vaccination threshold required to participate in the $500,000 vaccine incentive program. Vaccinated UW System students can win one of 70 scholarships valued at $7,000 each if their university reaches a 70 percent COVID-19 vaccination threshold by Oct. 15 — a deadline that is just over 3 weeks away.

Thompson said on a call with reporters today that he thinks there were issues with reporting immunizations to schools and that vaccination rates will soon spike on UW System campuses. He expects “up to nine or 10” campuses to reach the 70 percent goal by the middle of October.

“We’re going to see more competition, more pressure put on by their respective chancellors to get more people vaccinated,” Thompson said. “So it’s all going in the right direction.”

See more at 

— More than 142,400 people in the state have gotten their first COVID-19 vaccine shot since the state launched its $100 incentive program, the Department of Health Services recently announced. 

“I want to thank the Wisconsinites who have stepped up to protect themselves, their community, and our state in the battle against COVID-19 and the delta variant,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement. “Whether you got vaccinated in March or just this month, every shot in an arm is bringing us one step closer to putting this pandemic behind us and ensuring our state’s continued economic recovery.”

State residents that got their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine from a provider in Wisconsin, Michigan or Minnesota between Aug. 20 and Sept. 19 can still submit their information by Sept. 30 to claim the $100 incentive, DHS says. The reward cards will be shipped by mail and can take between six and eight weeks to arrive. 

The DHS site shows 56.3 percent of the state’s population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 53 percent have completed the vaccine series. On the national level, 63.9 percent of the U.S. population have gotten at least one dose and 54.7 percent are fully vaccinated against the virus. 

Vaccination rates in Wisconsin continue to vary widely between counties. The highest rate of vaccination is in Dane County, with 73.4 percent having gotten at least one dose and 70.5 percent fully vaccinated. The lowest rate is in Taylor County, with 31.6 percent having received one dose and 29.7 percent who have completed the vaccine series. 

See the latest numbers on vaccinations here: 

— Gov. Tony Evers has announced the nine appointees to the new Physician Assistant Affiliated Credentialing Board, which replaces the existing Council on Physician Assistants on April 1, 2022. 

The new board was created through 2021 Wisconsin Act 23, which includes eight licensed physician assistants and one public member. The board members are appointed for staggered four-year terms, though the Department of Safety and Professional Services notes on its site that members whose terms have expired may remain on the board until their successor is confirmed by the Senate. 

According to the Wisconsin Academy of Physician Assistants, the law is the first “comprehensive overhaul” of the state’s physician assistant practice regulations since the 1970s, and is meant to redefine the relationship between physicians and PAs “from ‘supervision’ to ‘collaboration.’”

In a release, Evers says the board will “make decisions that remove adverse barriers for physician assistants and improve their ability to provide critical services for Wisconsinites.”

See more on the board here: 

— A recent study designed and co-authored by the UW-Madison School of Education’s associate dean for research identified the “optimal period” for rehabilitation of the hand and arm following a stroke. 

“Understanding that there could be an important window for best rehabilitating after a stroke is exciting because it gives us an optimal period for using a range of techniques and therapies to enhance recovery,” said Dorothy Farrar-Edwards, who is also a member of the Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery at the Georgetown University Medical Center. 

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was conducted by researchers at Georgetown University and MedStar National Rehabilitation Network. In a randomized clinical trial, 72 participants were enrolled within three weeks of experiencing a stroke. Study authors found that the ideal timeframe for rehabilitation is between 60 and 90 days after the event. 

In addition to these results, researchers found that participants who had a stroke and underwent “intensive rehabilitation” in the first 30 days after the stroke had some benefit. But rehabilitation conducted more than six months later “demonstrated no major benefits compared to participants who received standard care.” 

Farrar-Edwards holds positions with the School of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Departments of Medicine and Neurology in the School of Medicine and Public Health. In a release from the university, she explained that she helped design the study so that participants could choose the activities they wanted to do for their rehabilitation. 

“In order to keep people engaged in this very intensive rehabilitation training, you have to find things that they really want to do in order to keep at it,” she said. “That’s where the hand experts and hand therapists on the study team were able to take what I wanted to do theoretically — and turn it into intensive treatment that kept the participants motivated and moving forward.”

See the study here:

— Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce is set to unveil the top 16 products advancing in the Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin contest. 

A livestream of the reveal will be hosted by WMC President of Communications and Marketing Nick Novak at 12:30 p.m. today. Several rounds of subsequent voting will narrow down the field to the top four products and the final round will select this year’s winner, to be announced Oct. 14. 

Watch the reveal here: 

Listen to a recent podcast with Novak on the contest: 


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