Heart O’ North lobbying visit

 Community leaders and students from four northwestern Wisconsin counties were in Madison Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, to participate in the annual Heart of the North lobbying and legislative trip organized by area business and government leaders. Among the visitors were local residents Henry Pike, Cameron, first row, second from right, and Barron Area School District administrator Diane Tremblay, third row, second from left. Photo contributed

Students from high schools in Barron, Rusk, Washburn and Sawyer counties took a bus trip to Madison Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, to visit with state legislators as part of the annual Heart of the North lobbying and legislative mission/

The bus trip to Madison departed at 6 a.m. Feb.6, and legislative visits took place from 10:30a.m. to 4 p.m. The group returned at about 9:30 p.m.

Along with the students, local business and government leaders also made the journey to request legislation and/or funding for programs such as start-ups for small business, entrepreneurial awareness and training, increasing business growth, increasing employee training programs, increased housing opportunities for workers, and additional recommendations for local school districts, transportation, health care and social issues such as homelessness and substance abuse.

The visit was organized by the Heart of the North Legislative Committee and was led by Dave Armstrong, executive director of the Barron County Economic Development Corporation.

The group met “with legislators, department heads and state cabinet level officials to advocate for issues unique and specific “ to this region of the state, Armstrong said.

A complete list of Heart of the North legislative issues can be found at www.hondays.com

Rice Lake High School junior Sean Hodkiewicz prepared a summary of the trip.

“We were broken into committees of economic development, education, transportation, and tourism (and) I was on the education committee,” he said. “After we presented, we all engaged in constructive conversation about the issues and sometimes about less serious topics like, the best place for a fish fry up north.”

Heart of the North area school districts advocated for “the creation of a guide book for educators for students with dyslexia; increased funding for mental health support; increased special education funding; increased school funding; and a study about … giving school districts more autonomy on their start date,” Hodkiewicz added.

“During the day we actually found out that the night before, Gov. Tony Evers signed Act 86 which calls for the creation of a dyslexia guidebook. We also learned that with the state’s $620 million budget surplus, we could expect a portion of that to be spent on public school funding.”