Friday, March 7, 2014

My two days in Wisconsin's capitol

Tuesday and Wednesday this week, I drove to Madison (a total of 708 miles for two round trips) to testify before two legislative committees regarding exempting e-cigarettes from indoor smoking bans. These bills (SB 440 and AB 762) seek to clarify that e-cigarette use is not included in the smoking bans and to preempt smaller municipalities from including e-cigarettes in their bans. Believe it or not, after 4 1/2 years with CASAA, this is the first time I've actually had the opportunity to testify regarding e-cigarettes. Happily, this was a bill that I could support.

After finding my way through the maze of the capitol square, I finally found parking and received a text from former CASAA director Greg Conley that the hearing was delayed by an hour. The hearing didn't start until 2 PM and was the last bill discussed. The room was small and didn't allow for a lot of spectators, so most of us waited outside for AB 762 to be called. During that time, I had an interview with WPR reporter Shamane Mills, who was clearly opposed to e-cigarettes and didn't bother to use any of her interview with me in her article. I also spoke with the three vapers who showed up and representatives from Johnson Creek Smoke Juice and Njoy. Another speaker was Don Muehlbauer, owner of Wisconsin-based Dura Smoke.

I was second-to-last to speak (it was after 6 PM by then) and the five remaining Assembly members were clearly tired and worn out, so to get their attention, I ditched my prepared statement and spoke from the heart. They didn't ask any questions. Afterwards, Rep. Adam Neylon (R - Pewaukee) approached me in the hall and expressed general support but with some doubts. After we spoke a bit he said, "Ok, I'm sold!" The rest of the committee seemed split on their opinions of the bill. Then I got back in my car and arrived home around 10 PM. As far as I am aware, no vote was taken that evening, but you can follow the CASAA Call to Action page for future updates.

The next day, I arrived again at the capitol building and after wandering like a rat in a maze for about 15 minutes, found the correct room for the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor hearing on SB 440. This time I went second, after Madison conservative radio personality (and vaper) Vicki McKenna gave her testimony.
Speaking before the WI Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor

Watch video of Senate hearing: (Click TV icon. E-cigarette testimony starts around 1:15 mark)

After my Senate testimony, on the video (link above) you can see Rep. Dave Murphy (R - Appleton) sit down next to me. I had given him my CASAA folding card earlier and he thought it was great. He spent the remainder of the hearing sitting by me, politely listening to my ongoing commentary (ie. "ranting") on the other speakers and asking questions I was happy to answer.

From my understanding, the Senate committee was to vote on this on Thursday, but I haven't heard of the outcome yet. Again, the CASAA Call to Action page will be updated as we find out more.

The testimony for AB 762 was not recorded, but it was essentially the same as seen in the video for SB 440, with some changes in speakers. The thing that struck me most was the lack of concern for adult smokers. All of the ANTZ focused more on youth use and possible addiction. As typical of these things, lies about e-cigarettes and youth use were flying left and right. It was frustrating to hear the man tell the sad story of his mother's cancer, because he just could not understand that e-cigarettes are what are preventing my kids from having to tell a similar story in 20 years.

The nice thing about the Senate hearing is that the committee chair, Sen. Glen Grothman, is also the bill sponsor and another committee member, Sen. Leah Vukmir quite clearly supported the bill. I believe she may actually be a vaper and is apparently friends with Vicki McKenna. It was nice to speak to a group that was supportive. Sen.Vukmir clearly wasn't buying what the ANTZ were saying!

Thank you to all of those who showed up to support these bills!


  1. Kristin - you said: Afterwards, Rep. Adam Neylon (R - Pewaukee) approached me in the hall and expressed general support but with some doubts. After we spoke a bit he said, "Ok, I'm sold!"

    Could you elaborate on his concerns and how you so obviously effectively addressed them to turn him into a "I'm Sold"?

    1. If I remember correctly, he was concerned about people being bothered by it and the whole "we don't know" claim. I explained that we DO know, but I think what it came down to was that he agreed that we should be allowing businesses to make the decision for their property, rather than a bunch of local governments - or the state - make a law.

  2. Argh, its hard to agree with hate mongers, bigots, corporate shills and liars like Glen "The Malignant" Grothman and Viki McKenna but yeah, this would be a preemptive strike against the vapor haters.


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