'Here & Now' Highlights: Robert Yablon, Sen. Jeff Smith, Chairman Tehassi Hill, Brandi Grayson

Here's what guests on the March 22, 2024 episode said about two proposed state constitutional amendments, the last day for two Chippewa Valley hospitals, a legal dispute over the Oneida Nation making land purchases, and a transitional living home for former foster children in Madison.

By Frederica Freyberg | Here & Now

March 25, 2024

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Frederica Freyberg sits at a desk on the Here & Now set and faces a video monitor showing an image of Tehassi Hill.

Frederica Freyberg and Chairman Tehassi Hill (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

With two questions on the April 2 ballot asking whether to amend the Wisconsin Constitution, University of Wisconsin Law School professor Robert Yablon explains what they’re asking. State Sen. Jeff Smith represents people in the Eau Claire area where two hospitals just closed down, and calls for state money to be released to help support health care access. The Oneida Nation is embroiled in a lawsuit y over its real estate purchases — Chairman Tehassi Hill describes how reclaiming lost reservation land is essential to the tribe. Brandi Grayson, CEO of the non-profit organization Urban Triage, describes how a new transitional living home will be opened in Madison for young adults who’ve aged out of the foster care system.

Robert Yablon
Professor, University of Wisconsin Law School

  • The statewide ballot in the April 2 election has two questions asking voters if they want to amend the state constitution. The first would prohibit private grant funding to be used in conducting elections. The second, would provide that only election officials designated by law could perform tasks in the conduct of elections. Yablon said the second question is less clear than the first.
  • Yablon: “There is some ambiguity about the scope of this provision in exactly what it would prohibit. There’s some question about whether it would even prohibit what some of the proponents seem to want to stop, which is the use of the sort of election consultants that generated controversy in Green Bay in 2020. But there are often people that are not election officials that do work that is in some way connected to helping facilitate an election. There are folks who are not election officials who will help the poll workers set up the polling place in the morning, and questions may arise about whether they can do that. Sometimes a machine might break down and questions might now arise if this passes, about whether the election official can call that outside vendor and ask for troubleshooting assistance. Could they call upon an expert in ballot design to make sure that they’re fitting everything on the page in a sensible way? So, those are the worries that opponents of this will bring up, that it creates some uncertainty, possibly unintended consequences, and if it is interpreted broadly, could make the job of election officials more difficult.”


State Sen. Jeff Smith

  • Two hospitals in the Hospital Sisters Health System in western Wisconsin — one in Eau Claire and another in Chippewa Falls — have officially shut their doors a month ahead of the announced schedule. An additional 19 Prevea health clinics are also closing around the region. Gov. Tony Evers is seeking $15 million in state funds to be released by the Legislature to help support health care access in the region. Smith said the money could be used to expand such services as urgent care and obstetrics.
  • Smith: “We have from the very beginning gotten pleas from people: ‘Why can’t you stop this?’ There’s simply a misunderstanding that hospitals are under some sort of responsibility of the state or some sort of regulations that can prevent this from happening. And, that’s the thing that I think really, really hurt people. But this couldn’t be stopped. It is a corporate decision. And, they have to make their decisions based on the losses that they’ve been taking.”


Chairman Tehassi Hill
Oneida Nation

  • A lawsuit against the federal government over 500 acres of land pits the village of Hobart near Green Bay against the Oneida Nation. Hobart is within the Oneida reservation and the tribe purchased the acreage, moving it to sovereign land – not subject to local taxes. Hobart filed the lawsuit over the loss of property tax revenue. The Oneida’s purchases are part of its push to recover lands lost from its reservation. The tribe has now reacquired nearly two-thirds of its 65,000 acres, and Hill said the tribal government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying back their land.
  • Hill: “This is all that we have left. Indian tribes across this country have ceded millions of acres of land to the United States, and in doing so, reserved what we have left. And so many of the tribes across the country, like us, have a relatively small land base left from our original holdings. It’s all that much more important to us because this is our homeland.”


Brandi Grayson
CEO, Urban Triage

  • Foster children age out of the care system when they become adults and find barriers finding supportive services. A new transitional living home for 18-to-21 year olds formerly in foster care is being planned for Madison. Grayson said it will be the first of its kind in Wisconsin.
  • Grayson: “They’re usually without parents, families or supports, so the needs are a lot. A lot of them still need support with developing the readiness skills to be on their own, whether it’s financial planning, learning how to negotiate a lease, what it means to be a tenant, tenant rights, how to budget, how to enroll in school, how to navigate systems, and really how to deal with the trauma of being in a system, feeling abandoned and not having supports and services. I would say that’s the biggest one, is actually the trauma in supporting youth with the tools and the skills to navigate the emotional impact of being alone in the world.”


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