Student Association hosts Wisconsin State Assembly member Jill Billings and Wisconsin State Assembly candidate Chris Woodard


Student Association logo. Image obtained from the UWL Student Association Facebook Page.

Isabel Piarulli, Student Government Reporter

On Wednesday, Nov. 2, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association (SA) welcomed Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Jill Billings, and Republican candidate for the Wisconsin State Assembly, Chris Woodard. Other topics of the night included the swearing-in of new senators, the passing of resolutions, and discussions on resolutions.

Jill Billings is a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, running for re-election against Chris Woodard in the Nov. 8 election. Billings has held the seat in the Assembly since 2011 and was previously a member of the La Crosse County Board for eight years. Billings represents the 95th district, which includes the City of La Crosse and portions of the towns of Shelby and Campbell.

Billings districts have always included a student population. She said, “I have always valued students’ voices in this community.” She emphasized the importance of the different perspectives students bring to her legislative efforts.

Her most recent work has been done through her membership on the substance abuse and convention committee. “Most recently I authored a bill to increase the penalty for manufacturing and distributing fentanyl.” She continued, “We got it through both houses and Governor Evers signed it last May.” In regards to campus, Billings has been a supporter of the installation of Narcan boxes throughout UWL.

Reducing tuition costs, addressing the student debt crisis, protecting the environment, and women’s reproductive health, and legalizing marijuana were listed as topics important to both Billings and college students in a handout provided by Billings.

The floor was then opened up for questions. College of Business Administration (CBA) Senator Sperling said, “I know that Wisconsin does not provide any non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ parents looking to adopt, is that something you have considered implementing or are interested in working on?” Billings said, “This is an important issue to me, we have done a lot of work holding back more of the extreme legislation coming from the other side of the aisle.”

The next guest speaker attending the SA meeting was Chris Woodard, a Republican candidate for the Wisconsin State Assembly representing the 95th district. In 2021 he was elected to the La Crosse City Council to represent District 9 where he now serves on two committees there: the judiciary and administrative committee and the international committee.

Woodard will be advocating for the legalization of marijuana if he is elected. “I am running as a Republican, so I am probably the minority in my party.” He continued, “I think it is time Wisconsin focuses its energy on getting that tax revenue that we are sending to other states where marijuana is legal.”

“I am willing to work in a bipartisan manner that no one has seen before, I am willing to reach across the aisle and make Wisconsin move forward by helping both sides,” said Woodard. A handout provided by Woodard included his priorities in the Assembly. Woodard will work to strengthen laws holding criminals accountable, supporting law enforcement, investing in safe and reliable roads, and supporting high-quality healthcare.

The floor was then opened up for questions. CBA Senator Sperling said, “What are you doing at the City Council to protect and support the LGBTQ community and if elected to State Assembly what would you do?” Woodard said, “I voted against it [conversion therapy], in State Assembly, I would do more homework and see if there is something we can do at a state level to protect the youth that identifies as LGBTQ.”

College of Arts, Social Science, and Humanities (CASSH) Senator Lochner said, “What do you plan to do to address sustainability on college campuses?” Woodard said, “Any new building I think needs to be required to have a certain amount of renewable energy connected to it, whether that be geothermal, wind energy, or solar energy, going forward buildings on campus need to have that.”

CASSH Senator Hameister said, “If you were elected what would you do if something came up with access to abortion or women’s health in general, considering what happened with Roe v. Wade?” Woodard said, “It is not something I take likely, it is not my body to make the decision about. In my opinion, when it comes to abortion there are exceptions to abortion, some of them being rape, incest, and the life of the mother. But again, that is something I would have to sit down and have a conversation about with myself and with doctors.”

Later in the meeting, SA passed a resolution to approve two 2022 – 2023 student senators to fill vacant senate seats. College of Business Administration (CBA) Senator Helena Alisch and College of Science and Health (CSH) Senator Alexa Fleegal were both in attendance and sworn in.

Another resolution was passed by SA, the resolution reaffirms support for inclusivity on campus and for victims. The authors of the resolution want to acknowledge SA’s beliefs and priorities following the recent chalking event at UWL. Through the resolution, SA recommits itself to promoting and protecting inclusivity on campus, in student organizations, and everywhere within the student body.

CASSH Senator Lochner introduced a resolution that would change the way office hours are held among senators. This resolution would take away the requirement outlined in SA bylaws that senators are required to hold one hour of available office hours and replace it with one hour of tabling. The goal is to create a more effective solution to reaching constituents. There was a discussion following this resolution based on the logistics of tabling around campus.