On August 8, representatives of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Rolling Thunder Inc. and American Legion Wisconsin showed up to the Wisconsin State Capitol expressing their support for Senate Bill 8, which was introduced for public comment. The bill has a track record for hyper politicization.
As one of the registered speakers, I brought before senators the concerning issues raised from the capstone video feature. The following letter was prepared sharing the concerns witnessed during the development of the rejection of Senate Bill 602, which is a similar bill seeking the same appropriation of $180,000 per year per session included in Senate Bill 8.
Attn: State of Wisconsin Senators
Topic: Tabling Senate Bill 8 for investigative inquiry
On May 13, 2023, another veteran crossed the stage at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. That veteran is me. Upon graduating summa cum laude as a journalism major, I realized now is the time to get active publicizing the POW MIA issue.
My ongoing class project, Outpost 422, which is a trademarked reporting style, will cross the threshold into graduate school at UW Milwaukee next seeking help with launching of an eNewsletter raising awareness about what is going on at our State Capitol regarding the hyper politicizing of our Wisconsin POW MIA, which seeks help with launching the next phase of my community engagement campaign called “I Will NOT Forget.”
The campaign shares my story about what I endured advocating for the POW MIA in the college classroom, the benefits of the UW POW MIA Recovery and Identification Project, along with receiving backlash from professors who will not let veterans utilize the freedom of academic expression that stifled my brand’s opportunities to raise awareness.
For my journalism capstone, I was an investigative reporter developing an interactive media online investigative outreach informing classmates and viewers about what I had uncovered during the development of Senate Bill 602, which I believe is the bill preceding the introduction of Senate Bill 8, which is now being brought before the public for comment.
I support the funding of the UW MIA Recovery and Identification Project, however I do not support Rep. Robin Vos and Rep. Jim Steinke’s role with hyper politicizing the POW MIA issue, like what happened with Senate Bill 602. Upon interviewing Dept. of Finance Secretary Peter Barca during the last session, he mentioned “someone is playing politics here. We have over a $2 billion surplus. The bill has bipartisan support.”
Our Joint Committee on Finance should be admonished for withholding Senate Bill 602 from being brought before the senate.
As a POW MIA advocate, supporter of the UW MIA Recovery and Identification Project’s research and “Boot on the Ground” pilot, along with the collective efforts of the UW Madison Biotechnology Center, I ask our senators to assemble an ad hoc committee to address the development of Senate Bill 602, why the bill was not passed, and how we can hold the ranking members of the Joint Committee on Finance accountable this time ensuring that those of us who advocate for the families of the POW MIA can guarantee this won’t happen again. I will be following up with all of you in the future regarding this matter.
Bradley J. Burt
The past bills, S.B. 446 and S.B. 602, had unanimous bipartisan support, yet were rejected. The hyper politicization stemmed from the bill potentially making Gov. Tony Evers look good during the governor election, which was rumored by POW MIA advocates and discussed with members of Evers’ cabinet upon discovery.
The public comment was listed as “information only” due to mixed feelings and trust the next bill will end up in Rep. Vos’ hands and will not see the light of day in the senate for another session.
Senators in attendance all agree the behavior demonstrated by the Joint Committee on Finance during the development of Senate Bill 602 should not be happening. A recommendation for setting up an ad hoc inquiry committee, which would audit the bill’s development, was offered.
Seeing the look of disappointment on the University of Wisconsin Missing-in-action Recovery and Identification Project’s director’s face as the capstone closed was disheartening.
The illustration of the memory was brought before the senators as a reminder why publishing the POW MIA issue is sacred, which should never have been left in the hands of the Joint Committee on Finance’s oversight, according to the hearing’s ranking member.
Senators will proceed by addressing concerns raised in the capstone and have received a letter by Sen. Melissa Agard regarding the matter.
Due to time constraints, I was unable to stay for the rest of the hearing. The hearing was broadcasted by Wisconsin Eye.