Among the many remarkable things about the defeat of the proposed overhaul of the Wisconsin Public Records Law over the July 4 weekend last summer was the way the media, open government groups, advocacy organizations on the left and right, and the public coalesced to point out how ill-conceived the idea was.
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism on Thursday received the State Bar of Wisconsin’s highest journalistic award for its coverage of Wisconsin’s efforts to reduce the use of solitary confinement.
Together, we did it! Generous donors from across the nation helped the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism successfully attain a $50,000 matching grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation in Oklahoma. In fact, we exceeded the goal by $14,000, giving our $600,000 budget a strong start in 2016.
Two Democratic lawmakers want the state Department of Health Services to investigate drinking water as a possible source when children are lead poisoned. The proposal also greatly lowers the blood lead levels that would trigger an investigation.
The last six months have been a roller coaster for Wisconsin’s open records law. After the Legislature’s failed attack on the law over the Independence Day holiday, August brought a new threat. A little-known state board expanded the definition of “transitory records,” which can be immediately destroyed. Once this action was revealed, there was an impressive outcry from the public and that change was dialed back last month. But there is still cause for concern.
Experts, and even some regulators, say existing laws are failing to protect Wisconsin and the nation from harmful exposure to lead in drinking water that leaches from aging plumbing — a danger illustrated by the public health crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Nearly 4,000 children in Wisconsin were diagnosed with elevated levels of lead in their blood in 2014, though the number has fallen over the years thanks in part to bans on lead in paint and gasoline. Unlike in Flint, Michigan, however, no one knows how much lead in the drinking water contributes to elevated blood lead levels in Wisconsin. There are no requirements to test the drinking water when a child is lead poisoned.