Comments from the 113 Change.org Petition Signers

In just three days, we’ve gotten 113 signatures! Please continue to share the petition. Each time someone signs, the following email is sent to all the members of the Joint Finance Committee, along with the individual comment below:

Dear _____,

I know you have a number of difficult decisions to make with this budget bill. This one, however, is easy. Please strike the UW open records exemption. It’s a policy item that has no place in a budget bill, and similar items were introduced and thrown out in both 2013 and 2014. Thank you for working so hard to make Wisconsin great.

Comments:

1. Even the Arizona Governor veto’d this.
2. Please take a moment to sign and share this petition to keep UW Madison research open to the public. 24 states currently have closed university research records to the public in some form, pressured by the lobbying group National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), a front group for the animal testing, animal breeding, pharmaceutical, and processed food industries. Tell the lobbyists they don’t own the government or university, we do.
3. The taxpayer funded programs need to be 100 percent recorded for public viewing. How dare you suggest these program details be closed to public viewing
4. UW Madison should not be exempt from open records requests. Throw the amendment to the 2015 budget bill in the trash with the 2013 and 2014 amendments.
5. We as tax payers have a right to know what our money is being spent on!   There should be no exemptions when it is state dollars being used! If they are to be trusted at the UW research, why would this even be considered or needed!! Please remove this item from the 2015 Budget! Thank you!
6. Exemption from open records is in general a bad idea, but to grant a publicly funded state research University this privilege opens the door to all manner of abuse and questionable research protocols. As a former member of the campus-wide UW-Madison Human Subjects Committee I strongly oppose this exemption.
7. We, as a free nation, have the right to open records. The UW must not receive an exemption. Please make sure it does not get one.
8. More transparency is needed not less. The public has every right to know how their money is being spent and every citizen has a right to know what research is being conducted in our institutions. All government records need to be kept public.
9. These records need to remain public and accessible
10. We need to know what is being done to research animals.
11. Both taxpayers and animals should have rights in regard to experimentation at UW.
12. I’m signing this petition because we need to know what is happening when the university is doing research on animals.
13. UW researchers must be held to a high standard of accountability and transparency to limit or erase the cruelty they inflict on animals.
14. UW needs be transparent and accountable to the public for how it spends the public’s money.
15. No entity or person deserves an exemption. There are no checks and balances when an exemption is given.
16. it is only ethical that UW have open records for any and all reasons.
17. The state’s open record law is a citizen’s right to know what our government is doing, and we the people have a right to know what that is – no e entity, including the University of Wisconsin, has any right for an exemption to that law. Nor does this bill belong in the 2015 budget bill!
18. It is the right of the tax payers to know about the studies that are happening with our tax dollars and the UW should not be exempt from that.
19. Why such secrecy? If the research is on the up and up, they shouldn’t have to require their records be unavailable. They have been caught with their pants down too many times while in the process or doing this research,. This amendment is another “ends justifying the means” so the methods , however unscrupulous, can be ignored. We need transparency in all areas, including politics, and here is one amendment that the political motivations for agreeing to this bill is quite clear.
20. Animal abuse even in an educational facility must not be allowed to be hidden. Citizens deserve to know what their money is supporting.
21. I am in full support of the intent of this petition to keep transparency in business and other practices a priority.
22. The grants are the money makers, it is useless to keep this type of practice going at the risk of any ones life. Waste of money and waste of human ethics to do this type of harm. Horrible
23. As a UW alum, I firmly believe no single government agency as the right to conceal any information. If everything is on the “up and up,” why can’t that be shared?
24. As a Wisconsin taxpayer, I strongly oppose that the UW Madison be exempt from the state’s open records law. We need to know what is happening in experiments involving animals, psychedelic drugs and much more.
25. This is a state educational system and as such, should have open records.
The citizens keep the UW open.
I want to know just what goes on in the labs. I saw the “Harlow hell experimental monkeys”. Secrets are dangerous.
26. Because secrets in the public institutions are an open road for misuse, as is readily seen with the current crimes against animals being done by Kalin in his “research”. Why keep secrets when We are funding the institution?
27. I believe in accountability and transparency.
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5 Things You Can Do RIGHT NOW To Fight the UW Open Records Exemption

1. Go to a hearing.

I’ve written about my experience attending a hearing at Sequoya library a couple of weeks ago. One of our members attended the hearing at East High School last night and told us the following:

I went to one of the Budget Hearings Tonight and one of my reps (who knows me because I’ve talked with her a couple of times) said I was the first person who has brought up the UW exception from the Open Records law at the hearings so please please if you live in Wisconsin write the Joint Finance Folks and tell them you oppose that inclusion in the budget.

There are only a few hearings left. If you can make them, please do! (Cities listed below, for locations see the AFSCME list.)

  • March 31: Dodgeville
  • April 1: Menasha
  • April 2: Oconto (Rep. Nygren, co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee is presiding, so this is SUPER important)
  • April 3: Howard (Rep. Nygren, co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee is presiding, so this is SUPER important)
  • April 6: Wausau
  • April 6: UW-Marinette Campus (Rep. Nygren, co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee is presiding, so this is SUPER important)
  • April 11: Eau Claire

If you choose to speak, here are two scripts and list of talking points you can use.

Script 1:

“I’m speaking out against the UW open records exemption. This is a policy item, and it has no place in a budget document, and I believe the university should be transparent to tax payers.  Similar items were introduced in 2013 and 2014 and intelligently thrown out. We should do the same with this.”

Script 2:

I encourage you to speak to the Joint Finance Committee about removing the UW open records exemption that reads:

“The bill creates an exception to the open records law for information produced or collected by or for UWSA faculty or staff with respect to commercial, scientific, or technical research until that information is publicly disseminated or patented.”

Such an exception has nothing to do with finance, and such an action limits the transparency of the university to the tax paying public. As an animal lover and as someone who believes in the Wisconsin idea, this concerns me. Wisconsin deserves more from our public university and from our local government.

Talking points:

  • Similar items were introduced in 2013 and 2014 and intelligently thrown out by legislators
  • The exemption is a policy item that has nothing to do with finances and should not be included in this bill
  • Anyone who supports freedom of information would oppose this exemption
  • The university should be accountable and transparent to the taxpayers

If you choose to register, register against the bill, and if there is space to write a specific item you oppose, write “UW open records exemption.”

If you cannot attend, see the next action item!

2. Contact your legislators.

Melissa Harris Perry calls voting the “brushing your teeth” of democracy, and when I told a friend that the other day, they said contacting your legislators is “flossing your teeth.” He said it’s something we know we should do more regularly, because it actually does make a difference.

How you contact your legislators is up to you. You can email, write a letter, call, write letters to the editor, or all of the above!

Don’t know who your legislators are? Click here to find out!

N.B. If your legislators are on the Joint Finance Committee, it is CRUCIAL that you contact them. Click on the names below to see their contact information.

Senate Members​ ​Assembly Members
Senator Alberta Darling, Co-Chair​ Representative John Nygren, Co-Chair​
Senator Luther Olsen​ Representative Dale Kooyenga
Senator Sheila Harsdorf Representative Amy Loudenbeck
Senator Leah Vukmir Representative Dean Knudson
Senator Tom Tiffany Representative Michael Schraa
Senator Howard Marklein Representative Mary Czaja
Senator Lena Taylor ​Representative Chris Taylor
Senator Jon Erpenbach Representative Gordon Hintz

3. Sign up to attend Humane Lobby Day.

Registration for Humane Lobby Day closes THIS THURSDAY, April 2nd. If you haven’t already, please sign up!

Humane Lobby Day is a chance to talk with your representatives about animal issues that matter to you, and I have it on good authority that the UW open records exemption is going to be one of those issues.

4. Sign and share this change.org petition.

5. Use your creative side to create an image, gif, or video.

Let’s make this message go viral! Email your image to hannah@allanimals.org and we’ll share it on facebook (anonymously or with credit, your choice.) Here are some examples!

sunshine lawsbaseball metaphor bowling metaphor

The text is taken from the first paragraph of the change.org petition and the information is from our page on open records. Click the images to make them larger.

Optional #6: Mark your calendar for April 18 – 25!

We are planning some great events for World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week, including a writers’ group event on April 18th and a public action on April 25th. If you have more ideas, please send them to hannah@allanimals.org.

I Went to the Budget Hearing, and It Was Awesome.

Last night was the first time I’ve ever attended or spoke at a local representative listening session, so I’m including this breakdown for people who want to know more about the experience.

Basically the set up, but with only Senator Risser and Representative Berceau, and with a wall as the backdrop. We all sat in chairs in front of them. Image via Fred Risser’s facebook page.

The session I attended was the one I’ve been advertising the past couple of days. (Imagine that!)

Monday, March 16, 2015
5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Madison Public Library – Sequoya Branch
Meeting rooms A and B
4340 Tokay Boulevard

People from all districts can attend.

I live in Fitchburg, as did at least one other person there. Someone came from Whitewater. We were all heard equally.

If you aren’t comfortable speaking, you can silently register in support of your cause.

Just as at county board hearings, you fill out a sheet indicating whether you are in support or against, and whether you want to speak. For this hearing, there was an additional line to write what part of the bill you’re for/against. I sat next to a board member who chose not to speak, but wrote down the UW open records exemption as what she was against. At least one other Alliance member was there and did the same. It’s a great way to get your voice heard without speaking, and to bring attention to specific items.

You can come any time during the session and still register to speak.

I got to the library around 4:15, and the doors opened just slightly before 5. When we first started the session, there were 8 people signed up to speak. By my count, 21 people spoke before the night was through.

The people who speak are not polished speakers.

This surprised me, actually. There was one speaker who really knew how to deliver a speech – the Reverend Jerry Hancock. A majority of the 21 (13 people, by my count) went up there without any notes at all. People were encouraged to sign up to speak if they were motivated to do so later in the session, and at least one person took them up on it. (His impromptu speech was the best. “It’s really terrible they’re cutting all this money from Elder Care. Everybody grows old. In fact, there are a lot of old people in this room!”)

If you’re a woman (cis or trans), under 45, or a person of color, your voice is woefully underrepresented.

All the attendees and speakers were white (that is, they passed for white). Less than a third of the speakers were women (as identified by gender presentation and name). There were maybe three people my age, and three people in their 30 and 40s. Everyone else was significantly older. On average, it was the older white man show. When this board member and I first sat down, she turned to me and said “We are definitely the youngest people in the room.”

As a side note, the Alliance can learn something from this demographic inequality.

My mother is a member of MOSES, an interfaith coalition that works to lower the prison population in Wisconsin. Their work directly affects people of color, but their board and membership is largely white. They were discussing this as the last meeting, and what one person said has really stuck with me since. (Paraphrased below)

“We wonder why we mostly have financially stable white people at our meetings, and yet we don’t offer transportation, childcare, or a free meal.

The hearing offered none of those things. One of the speakers was a woman with developmental disabilities whose paid transportation had been taken away, so she had to pay a cab to even come to the meeting. I didn’t see any young children in the room. There weren’t any snacks. In addition, it started at 5, a time when many people are at work.

I found it really inspiring to see democracy in action.

There were somewhere between 60 – 80 people in that room, and we were a family. Senator Risser and Representative Berceau spoke kindly and candidly, we cheered each other on, and each issue that speakers brought up was thoughtfully considered. 65 people registered, all (according to Berceau) against the budget. I was amazed at the turnout – as was Berceau, who told us at the beginning, “I didn’t even expect a third of these people!” – and I was really moved by the positive energy, even in the midst of sharing grievances. It really felt like we were all in this together.

I truly believe my testimony made a difference.

I spoke solely about the open records issue. My speech was short and straightforward:

I encourage you to speak to the Joint Finance Committee about removing the UW open records exemption that reads:

“The bill creates an exception to the open records law for information produced or collected by or for UWSA faculty or staff with respect to commercial, scientific, or technical research until that information is publicly disseminated or patented.”

Such an exception has nothing to do with finance, and such an action limits the transparency of the university to the tax paying public. As an animal lover and as someone who believes in the Wisconsin idea, this concerns me. Wisconsin deserves more from our public university and from our local government.

Representative Berceau responded immediately afterwards. She turned to Sen. Risser and said that every year, they make a movement for all the policy (non fiscal) items to be taken out of the bill and addressed separately. She and Fred agreed that they would make a note to do so when they convened again. She also said “Unless I’m just dreaming policy items, we’ve seen this one before.”

I really felt heard.

You can make a difference a number of ways, and just one of those ways is by attending these hearings.

Senator Risser told us that he believes the pendulum will swing the other way for politics in Wisconsin, but that we have to do our part. There are three things he suggested doing, all of which, he mentioned, cost no money.

1. Thank the officials in government who are doing a good job. I’m putting this into practice by writing out thank you cards today to both officials that say the following:

Dear Sen/Rep,

Thank you for leading such a positive, open, and thoughtful listening session at Sequoya Library on Monday, March 16th. It was my first time attending such a session, and I was inspired to see democracy in action. Sen. Risser mentioned that one thing we can do to improve the political landscape in Wisconsin is to thank our officials who are doing a great job. I really want to thank you both for being so passionate about what is right, being a voice for the people, and continuing to stick it out in a currently very toxic government body. When I spoke about the UW open records request, I really felt heard, and I know a lot of other speakers felt the same way. I feel so grateful to have you fighting for us. I will continue to share my voice with my representatives, and I will encourage my peers to do the same.

2. If you know someone living in the Joint Finance Committee members’ districts, ask them to contact their representative. I’m uploading a couple of files, and one is a document with a list of the JFC members and a map of their districts.

3. Encourage people to get involved. Less than 50% of Wisconsinites vote. There are definitely structural inequalities in place, such as having voting on a Tuesday rather than a weekend, but there are also people in all of our lives who could vote and who could get a little more involved in politics.

Resources

From the hearing:

Budget Timeline (pdf)

Joint Finance Districts (pdf)

Joint Finance Members and Contact (pdf)

From the Alliance:

How to Find Your County Board Supervisor and District in Six Easy Steps (pdf)

Tips for writing your legislator (webpage)

Information on the open records exemption (blog)

Budget Bill 2015 Listening Sessions (blog) including a link to the wonderful AFSCME list (google doc)

Budget Bill 2015 Listening Sessions

AFSCME has collected a fantastic list of the upcoming listening sessions taking place around the state. I’ve added some additional dates below the picture. Please attend the ones you can and express your disapproval of the UW open records exemption. If your representative’s session has already passed, see our legislators page to find their contact information and email them.

Upcoming

Monday, March 16

5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Madison Public Library – Sequoya Branch

Meeting rooms A and B

4340 Tokay Boulevard, Madison Wi

Senator Fred Risser and Representative Terese Berceau

Wednesday, March 25

Reps. Joan Ballweg, Republican, who represents Wisconsin Dells, Lake Delton, Dell Prairie, New Haven and Springville;

Dave Considine, Democrat, who represents Newport, Delton, Baraboo and Portage; Edward Brooks, Republican, who represents Dellona, Lyndon and Reedsburg. (source)

6:30 pm

Kilborn Public Library – Community Room

620 Elm St, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965

Please email alliance@allanimals.org with further updates. To learn more about the proposed UW exemption, read our suggested articles.