We held a press conference at Badger Middle School in West Bend this morning so that Superintendent Ted Neitzke of the West Bend School District and Dr. Mary Pfeiffer of the Neenah Joint School District could present an idea to allow schools more flexibility regarding mandatory time limits in-classroom during the school year.
Neitzke, Pfeiffer and I were joined by other area superintendents who are interested in allowing our classrooms to get out of the “cookie-cutter” model of 8:30-3:30 classroom educating.
State Representative Mike Rohrkaste from the Fox Valley and Senator Duey Stroebel have been instrumental in the working draft of this potential piece of legislation, likely to be introduced after the next election cycle.
“One of my primary goals as a lawmaker is to ensure every child in Wisconsin has the opportunity to succeed,” Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) said.
Kremer says public schools are at a disadvantage compared to “Choice” schools.
“The days of traditional cookie cutter style education are over,” Kremer said.
Kremer says even as both public schools and Choice schools receive taxpayer money, Choice schools are free to account for classroom time differently.
“That might be what gives us the competitive edge,” Kremer said.
Flanked by Ted Neitzke, superintendent of the West Bend School District, Kremer on Monday, February 1st said districts should have more discretion when it comes to what counts as “class time.”
“We’re very highly regulated and there are so many rules that are good rules, but there are so many that are antiquated,” Neitzke said.
Ted Neitzke, superintendent of the West Bend School District
Students must spend 180 school days in the classroom, totaling nearly 1,200 hours. But in order for the hours to count, they must be tallied “bell to bell.”
Not so for Choice schools.
“Frankly, we are jealous. We want to have the flexibility of our students to do more innovative things and not have so many constraints that drive when that is,” Neitzke said.
Neitzke insists there are more accurate ways to account for classroom time, which equates to good test scores. He says if districts can prove certain mandates are arbitrary by making the grade without them, then why not.
“How we do that with the rules that are in place is very difficult,” Neitzke said.
“Allow the higher performing schools to take advantage of it and for the lower performing schools, it’s more of a carrot to get them to perform better and then have the option take advantage of these tools,” Kremer said.
Kremer plans to introduce the bill during the next legislative session, because the current one is winding down.
There have been other efforts to change school start times and school day requirements in the past without much success.
A bill to protect the privacy of consumer data was circulated for support Wednesday by Representatives Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum), Romaine Quinn (R-Rice Lake) and Senator Duey Stroebel (R- Saukville). The bill would protect data recorded by motor vehicle event data recorders, onboard diagnostics and infotainment centers from unauthorized access and transmission.
Often referred to as “black boxes,” event data recorders (EDRs) are information gathering systems that record a required set of data in relation to an event, such as a crash. EDRs have been a component in vehicles since the 1970’s and continue to be used in today’s new vehicles. In 2006, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) created an EDR rule standardizing the data that EDRs in vehicle model years 2013 and newer must collect. Speed, braking, acceleration, seat belt status and airbag data are among the 15 required data points.
Event data recorders are not the only systems recording information about your vehicle and driving habits. Onboard diagnostics and vehicle “infotainment” systems are also recording and storing data. This bill would limit access to and transmission of data to an owner’s written consent. Cases in which written consent would not be necessary include court orders, subscription services for which the owner has contracted, usage-based insurance policies, law enforcement investigations and diagnostic assessments for vehicle repair purposes. Additionally, insurance companies are prohibited from making policy issuance or renewal contingent on the release of EDR data.
In response to the bill’s release, Rep. Kremer issued the following statement:
“Privacy concerns often follow in the wake of rapid technological advances, and are frequently brought to the forefront of the public debate with common-place technologies such as smart phones, Google Earth cameras and drones. Legislators must step up to address the constantly changing world in which we live. If this bill becomes law, it will clarify who owns the data collected by a motor vehicle and who has the right to view, store and transmit that information. As EDRs develop in complexity and interactivity, this legislation would ensure Wisconsin’s motorists are sufficiently protected from unauthorized data access, tracking and transmission.”
By Molly Beck, Wisconsin State Journal
January 25, 2016, Madison, Wisconsin
Kewaskum’s Jesse Kremer has sparsely decorated his Capitol office with two American flags, photos of his 2003 tour in Iraq and books like Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ” and President George W. Bush’s autobiography.
Save for a few fish swimming around a small tank near his desk, the Republican freshman Assembly member’s office is as straightforward as his style in the Legislature: an unapologetic social conservative with a deep Christian faith.
Kremer has already earned a reputation for being, in his words, “too honest” as he pursues legislation that can be “frankly, red meat for conservatives.”
“He’s really been behind some of the most extreme and controversial bills of the session,” said fellow freshman Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, who sits on the Assembly’s committee on public benefit reform with Kremer. “Just in terms of sheer number of bills, and doing it as a freshman, he has jumped right in and tackled a range of controversial issues.”
Longtime lobbyist and Republican strategist Brandon Scholz, who works for The Capitol Group, said Kremer represents a state Legislature that is trending younger in recent years and leadership’s relatively new approach of allowing freshmen lawmakers a more prominent role.
“It is a much younger and less institutional Legislature than it has been,” said Scholz. “I also think it is reflective of an attitude — not held by everybody — but certainly held by some of those like Jesse Kremer, who don’t care if they buck the system and don’t care if they get re-elected because they are there on principle.”
Since taking office, Kremer has authored legislation that banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, would place gender restrictions on school bathrooms and locker rooms, allow concealed carry permit-holders to carry weapons on public school grounds and college campuses, put photo IDs on food stamp recipients’ debit cards and prohibit city officials from blocking police officers from asking people about their immigration status.
Spreitzer calls that an “extreme agenda” that is “certainly headline-grabbing, but unfortunately, doing it by attacking marginalized groups.”
But Kremer describes his work as representing his constituents — who live in a mostly conservative district north of Milwaukee.
“There are no surprises with me,” he said. “There’s nothing that people could not see coming, because I said exactly who I am and I’ve done exactly what I said.”
Kremer was born to two Lutheran school teachers and has enrolled his three daughters — Keturah, 12, Miriam, 10, and Michaiah, 6 — in a Lutheran school in West Bend.
“I don’t bring it up real often that they go there because I support parochials, privates, choice, public — I don’t care as long as kids get a good education,” he said. “I tell people who send their kids to public schools that I send my kids there because I know they are getting the beliefs that I want them to have.”
Keturah was born two months after Kremer returned from his U.S. Army deployment during the 2003 invasion of Iraq — and about two years after Kremer married his wife, Janet, whom he met at church.
“I just called her out of the blue one day and asked if she wanted to go on a date, and go flying to Madison,” said Kremer, who also has worked as a commercial pilot. “I think she liked it.”
Kremer owns a Web design business, manufactures high school diplomas, owns a couple of rental properties and is a volunteer firefighter and EMT for the Kewaskum Fire Department.
He points to his variety of work experience and his religious convictions as part of the formula for the kind of legislation he pushes.
“I’ve got a lot of real-world, grounded situations to draw from. I’ve been on unemployment, I’ve been in unions, I’ve been in private unions, I’ve been in government unions,” he said. “If I ever lose that sense of reality then it’s time for me to go home. … I think there are a lot of people in this building who try to protect a career, on both sides of the aisle.”
Kremer said he doesn’t plan to be a lawmaker forever, accounting for why he’s considered “outspoken” about bills that he considers the right thing to do — regardless of how it plays politically. Kremer pointed to a bill he recently introduced that would allow churches to have real Christmas trees — now advised against by some fire departments, including his own.
“That might hurt me,” he said. “I feel uncomfortable going to calls now because I did that bill. I feel uncomfortable approaching the chief and talking to the chief. And these are friends of mine.”
Kremer acknowledged that some of his bills may not be successful.
Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, who sits next to Kremer on the Assembly floor, said his colleague could be compared in some ways to U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, a former Washington County Assembly Republican also known for being outspoken and a “strong conservative.”
“His passion is really what you see in Jesse,” said Born. “There’s no secret to what’s important to him and it fits well for him because it’s the same type of stuff his district cares about. He fits his district and the district fits him.”
Still, a number of Kremer’s most-controversial bills have failed to gain traction, even among his own caucus. Most recently, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, quickly dismissed a bill that would allow concealed carry on public school grounds. And Kremer’s bill setting gender restrictions on school bathrooms received a hearing but no vote has been scheduled.
But Vos said in a statement that Kremer “is a strong conservative voice in our caucus. He’s a problem solver and works tirelessly on behalf of his district.”
Kremer acknowledged the hurdles his choice of bills — and his candor with media — create. But Kremer also said he doesn’t have a problem calling out “unprofessionalism” — most recently on Twitter apologizing for fellow Washington County Rep. Bob Gannon, R-Slinger, when Gannon raised his middle finger to a Democratic colleague during a floor debate.
“I think it’s hard as a freshman for you to earn people’s trust and like some of these bills. I’ve had a hard time getting people to come to me and tell me what they’re concerned about because they’re afraid I’m going to go call them out and have people knocking on their doors, and that’s not me,” he said.
“I’ve been accused of being too honest,” Kremer said. Fellow Republicans will say, “ ‘Shut up. You’re too honest.’ That’s just who I am, I’m sorry.”
Proud of abortion bill
Kremer said the legislation he’s most proud of is a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The toughest vote he’s taken yet was voting to finance the building of a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team.
“I am still not sure I did the right thing,” he said. “My philosophy is, yes of course those guys can pay for the arena … but if they leave, we lose everything.”
Spreitzer said he agrees with Born that much of the legislation Kremer puts forward are laws he genuinely hopes become law “but I do think some of them are headline-grabbing.”
He pointed to a bill Kremer wrote that would block the state from providing money for a Milwaukee streetcar project, which has been a target of conservatives.
“Obviously that’s a hot topic, certainly there’s a lot of pressure in conservative circles to attack the Milwaukee streetcar, so there’s a bill to do that,” he said.
While Kremer has authored a number of other bills that have not grabbed media attention, some Republicans have said he should be “working on other things,” because of the bills he has put forward that have created controversy.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Kremer said. “At least people know what I’m doing and that I am working.”
Molly Beck covers politics and state government for the Wisconsin State Journal.
By Representative Jesse Kremer
January 19, 2016, Kewaskum, Wisconsin
Throughout my first term in office, I have had the opportunity to participate as a member of the Assembly Health Committee. Over the past few weeks, the Committee has held hearings on administrative rules. After a law is passed, the state agency that oversees the program creates rules to comply with the new law. During one of these hearings, we had the opportunity to listen to disabled adults and parents of disabled children tell their stories concerning prior authorization for physical, occupational and speech therapy in the Medicaid program. When a person with a disability requires therapy, they must petition the Department of Health Services (DHS) as often as every three months, even if they are permanently disabled, have already gone through prior authorization and have been approved by their for-profit insurance carrier.
Issues with prior authorization were targeted during a DHS audit in 2001; however, the audit findings were never addressed. This is big government at its worst for a number of reasons. First of all, if the primary, for-profit carrier has already approved the therapy, then why waste tax dollars to go through the prior authorization process a second time at the state level? Second, when the state denies a claim, they are not required to specify exactly why the claim was denied. This wastes weeks and even months before an individual receives the therapy that they require. If an appeal is made, legal teams are usually required to prove the need for therapy, with hundreds of pages of accompanying paperwork. Finally, there often times are no qualified specialists at DHS to evaluate certain conditions, especially in children. In these cases, I will be requiring DHS to partner with outside therapists who are experts in their field. There are organizations that will provide these services at potentially little to no charge.
After listening to heartbreaking stories and realizing that this is a real problem, I began to work closely with the Wisconsin Physical Therapy Association, Wisconsin Occupational Therapy Association, Wisconsin Speech Therapy Association and Disability Rights Wisconsin immediately following the hearing. I would encourage anyone with a loved one who has experienced difficulty with Medicaid prior authorization to please contact my office and share your input and suggestions. This is an issue that I am actively researching and one that I would like to introduce immediately after the next election cycle.
Today, Representative Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum), Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) released a bill to prohibit bans of Christmas trees in churches. The proposal follows warnings from several municipal fire departments indicating that the future display of natural cut Christmas trees in churches would be prohibited.
“As both a firefighter and fire inspector, I do my best to maintain a safe, hazard-free environment in the Village of Kewaskum,” said Rep. Kremer. “However, there are fire officials in some of our communities who are doing their taxpayers a disservice. They are blatantly relieving themselves of any authorized discretion when it comes to allowing the safe display of natural cut Christmas trees in church sanctuaries during the Christmas season. This bill would ensure that this long-standing tradition can safely continue.”
In 2008, Wisconsin adopted the National Fire Protection Association’s fire code, NFPA 1, which prohibits combustible vegetation such as a Christmas tree in places of assembly, except as allowed by the AHJ, or “authority having jurisdiction.” Under the current code, a fire chief may allow a tree if adequate safeguards, such as suitable water supply, safe lighting and proper distance from heat sources, are observed. Despite this authority, however, local fire chiefs have begun to impose de facto bans on natural cut Christmas trees in places of worship.
“The last thing we need is for bureaucrats to play the Grinch in every church in Wisconsin at Christmas,” said Rep. Vos. “This common sense legislation keeps the Christmas spirit alive and well without affecting safety.”
The bill does not prohibit an AHJ from directing that a tree be removed due to a violation of safety practices outlined in NFPA 1 upon receipt of a complaint or completion of an inspection.
By State Representative Jesse Kremer December 11, 2015, Kewaskum, Wisconsin:
There is an issue in the mid-section of the 59th Assembly District, through the Eden and Mt. Calvary area, that has been causing consternation for many constituents over the past few weeks. The topic relates to wind energy and my philosophy regarding government subsidies. This must be addressed.
Last fall, while I was running for office, I made it perfectly clear that I believe in the free market, devoid of government intervention. This included minimum wage and energy subsidies. My personal belief is that we all suffer when the government intrudes where it does not belong by falsely manipulating the marketplace. Do I appreciate windmills dotting the skyline? You can most assuredly ask my family when we roll into the Town of Marshfield or drive down Highway 33 in Dodge County that the answer is a resounding “no.” That being said, if the market supports them as a viable source of energy, then by all means, let’s consider using them. I have no problem with private energy companies working closely with energy consumers to erect windmills, bio-digesters or solar panels on their land, but that must not be at the expense of the taxpayers or cause any risk to the utility’s neighbors. Unfortunately, this is not what has been occurring. In 2013, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA), government subsidies per megawatt hour for coal and natural gas were well under $1.00; nuclear was $2.10, wind $35.33 and solar a whopping $231.22! It is no wonder that politicians have sold out their constituents when they have a personal and financial conflict of interest regarding renewable energy. This may be hard to believe, but because of the federal crackdown on coal, rather than improving and upgrading existing coal plants, Wisconsin power companies have been shuttering them so that we can purchase more renewables from other states and Canada. What is even more disconcerting is that the generators used in those power plants are being dismantled and shipped to China so that they can install them in their own, less ecologically friendly power plants. This will allow China to produce cheaper energy than Wisconsin and the rest of the U.S. so that they can slash costs and compete directly with Wisconsin manufacturers and hard-working Wisconsin laborers. If President Obama’s philosophy is to level the playing field worldwide, then he is doing one outstanding job of dismantling the nation piece by piece.
In summary, I believe wholeheartedly that if the energy source cannot stand on its own and if it is not an efficient and economical source of power, then we should not be using it. At the same time, we should not let Washington dictate the types of energy that we as a state are required to utilize in our homes and places of employment.
Today, Representatives Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum), Romaine Quinn (R-Rice Lake) and Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago) circulated a bill that would prevent state transportation funds from being used to operate the Milwaukee streetcar project.
A provision enacted in the 2015-17 state budget prevents a county containing a first class city (Milwaukee County) from incurring any costs associated with a commuter rail system. This bill expands upon that provision, and would prohibit the state from incurring any expenses associated with such a system. The bill also removes the enumeration for projects resulting from the Milwaukee Downtown Transit Connector Study and prevents mass transit funds from funding a Milwaukee commuter rail system. Rep. Kremer issued the following statement:
“I am proud to support economic development and growth in the City of Milwaukee, and many of us did just that through our challenging Bucks arena vote earlier this year. The state transportation fund and rural, mass-transit issues are major concerns for my constituents. Mayor Barrett has stated that ‘…the Milwaukee Streetcar will bring thousands of residents and visitors to major attractions and new developments on Milwaukee’s lakefront.’ While I certainly hope that this would be the case, I am not convinced that a $123.9 million, 2.5 mile streetcar will be sustainable. State taxpayers have already helped to contribute over $69 million in federal tax dollars ($54.9 million in stimulus and $14.2 million in additional federal grants this year) to move forward with the project. As such, I do not feel that taxpayers outside of the City of Milwaukee should be responsible for any future operational costs that may arise.”
By State Representative Jesse Kremer September 21, 2015, Kewaskum, Wisconsin:
I am often asked if my most recent occupation as a state legislator is everything that I expected. To be honest, I did not know what to expect. When I ran for office I had no idea what a legislator gets paid, no idea how to draft a law and no idea how to pass a massive state budget. However, since becoming an elected official I have learned many things and have also realized that some commonly held misconceptions about public office are not necessarily reality. Three of those misconceptions involve career politicians, lobbyists and partisan politics.
First, I have been surprised to find that there are more than a few legislators in our state who are not stereotypical politicians. Our government was never intended to be filled with career politicians, but rather with folks who have worked in the trenches like everybody else and are one day called upon on to serve and represent their neighbors in an elected position. These individuals, myself included, are willing to take on the tough issues, act in the best interest of their constituents regardless of what is popular and hold strong to traditional family and solid Christian principles.
Second, another commonly misunderstood area of government is lobbying. Many constituents believe that lobbyists hover around the capitol attempting to influence our votes and the legislation that we pass. That is not the case. Lobbyists are experts in their field and serve as spokespersons for a particular industry or group, communicating the wishes of those they represent to legislators and the public to raise awareness on an issue. Lobbyists are extremely knowledgeable in the specific areas that they represent and, as such, are excellent resources when drafting legislation. I will never sign on to any bill or be prodded into voting for something that the majority of my district and I would not agree with.
Finally, the issue of partisan politics. The media often portrays a lot of head butting and stonewalling between Democrats and Republicans. That could not be further from the truth. Although I rarely agree with my Democrat colleagues, I do not disrespect them. When we pass each other in the capitol we not only say hello, but respectfully address each other as Representative or Senator. We joke in committee hearings and amongst each other and, believe it or not, we meet in each other’s offices on occasion. It is actually comical at times to witness Democrat committee members turn on the rhetoric when the camera is rolling, just to get that splash on the evening news.
As you can imagine, my first eight months has been extremely educational. I look forward to continuing to help move this state forward should you grant me the honor of continuing to serve this district in the years to come.
By State Representative Jesse Kremer November 18, 2015, Kewaskum, Wisconsin:
Teen boys MUST be allowed to change and shower next to high school girls. Does this statement sound absurd? Would this be an educational environment that fosters safety, dignity and privacy for our children? Absolutely not!
For the past several months, I have been working on a bill, Assembly Bill 469, that, until recently, many legislators scoffed at, social media dubbed me the pee-pee police and school districts proudly touted local control. The legislation addresses what has been a misunderstood and important issue about privacy, safety, acceptance and balance in our schools. Sadly, though, the federal Department of Education (DOE), through the Department of Justice, is trying to unilaterally decide what is best for our Wisconsin high schoolers. The DOE has been actively suing individual school districts throughout the United States over the past year regarding who, on the basis of sex, is allowed to use a locker room or bathroom.
There are two scenarios that clearly illustrates the overreach by DOE and the need for legislation in Wisconsin. Let me present scenario #1: A Virginia school recently enacted a policy that mandated sex specific bathrooms and locker rooms which were to be used exclusively by that sex. Any individual who was not comfortable with this arrangement would be provided an alternate facility, to include faculty facilities or individual unisex bathrooms. This transgender student felt that she should be allowed to use the male bathroom rather than a unisex lavatory and promptly sued. The DOE immediately stepped in and provided a court brief claiming that she was being discriminated against. Fortunately the school district had cash available to defend its policy in court. In late July, the federal court in Eastern District Court of Virginia dismissed the case because federal law actually allows school districts to designate bathrooms and locker rooms based on sex.
In scenario #2, a much more liberal policy is being challenged. Within the past few weeks, the DOE weighed in on a lawsuit regarding a school district policy just across the Illinois state line in Palatine. This policy allowed a transgender student to use the bathroom and locker room that he identified with. The school, though, provided a shower curtain for the student to change behind in the girl’s locker room. The result of appeasement? A discrimination suit – after all, what transgender male shouldn’t be allowed to change and shower next your daughters, biological females?
It is time that we as a state impose a policy that has stood up in federal courts and will prevent individual school districts from being hung out to dry when the federal government comes knocking. AB 469 states quite simply that biological males should use male facilities and vice versa. In addition, any student, for any reason, can be provided a reasonable alternative if the parent or legal guardian requests one. This could include a faculty or individual unisex facility. I would encourage anyone who may be concerned about the privacy and protection of all students to contact their legislators and voice their support for the simple, common sense, protections provided in this bill for students and school districts alike.
Contrary to popular belief, the United States was organized as a republic, not a democracy. In a republic, the people elect individuals to represent their interests at the local, state or federal levels of government. In order to truly represent the 59th Assembly District, it is imperative for me to have a pulse on your concerns and interests.
If you have ever sat in on any of my presentations, you are keenly aware of my passionate belief that the best ideas do not come from legislators or governors, but from the well-informed electorate.
During my campaign for office last summer, I made it very clear to residents of the district what my personal, religious and ideological views were. Sometimes, however, my personal views may not align perfectly with the majority.
When taking difficult votes, I remind myself that I represent the district as a whole. While I do not always have the best answers to reforming government, running our state more efficiently or curing our social ills; many of you do. So far this year, I have already introduced several pieces of legislation as a direct result of constituent input.
If you have not done so already, I encourage you to become involved in your government and engage in this process by providing your input.
One way you can do this is to attend listening sessions held by your state and congressional elected officials. This coming Saturday, Nov. 21, I will be hosting a day of listening sessions, with stops in Hartford, Kewaskum, Campbellsport, Mt. Calvary and New Holstein.
More details on times and locations can be found at my website, repkremer.com. I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to come share your thoughts, or just listen and learn. I look forward to hearing from you this weekend.