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Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Why I opposed the mascot legislation

Legislation, Mary in the media


A mascot bill that I voted against was approved by the legislature and is awaiting action by Governor Doyle who is expected to sign the legislation.

I was interviewed by MyCommunity NOW newspapers. You can read my thoughts about the legislation on MuskegoNOW and WauwatosaNOW. 

The 2009-10 legislative session review: Global Warming

Legislation


During the 2009-10 general legislative session, I served on the
state Senate Select Committee on Clean Energy that examined proposed global warming legislation. There were four public hearings and well over 22 hours of testimony on the bill.  Committee members heard various pros and cons from state agencies, businesspeople, and environmentalists.

Riveting and very damaging testimony during our final public hearing was presented by
Paula Quinn of Hartland.  Quinn is not an elected official, government bureaucrat, or member of any special interest group. Paula Quinn is a taxpaying, PTA attending mother of three.

Paula Quinn cited a study compiled by the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid and told the committee that the controversial policies being considered in Wisconsin were instituted in Spain during 1997. Spain is the model for climate control being pushed in America. More than any other country, Spain has supported renewable energy concepts.

 

Read more

I appeared on WVCY

Legislation, Mary in the media


During the final weeks of the 2009-10 general legislative session, I appeared as a guest on a live call-in program on WVCY to discuss legislative issues.

You can see the program here.

State Senate rejects vote about suing the federal government

Government health care, Legislation


The state Senate failed to bring Senate Resolution 11 to the state Senate floor for consideration that calls for Wisconsin’s Attorney General to file or join a lawsuit against the federal government over the new health care law. Senate Resolution 11
authorizes the Attorney General to challenge the law’s constitutionality. The Senate's rejection of a vote on this issue is deeply disappointing. 

Wisconsin has some of the best quality health care in the country. The federal government should not mandate that citizens purchase a product, in this case, health insurance. Violators would be subject to penalties.

Over a dozen attorneys general around the country are suing the federal government on constitutional grounds. Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van H
ollen would need authorization from the governor or one house of the Legislature in order to file or join a lawsuit.

The vote to bring Senate Resolution 11 to the state Senate floor failed along party lines.

Did the stimulus help?

Taxes


On May 1, 2009, I blogged the list of provisions included in Governor Doyle’s proposal to fully implement Wisconsin’s share of federal stimulus funding.
 I wrote:

“That is an interesting list. The question I have is this:

How does any of this create sustaining jobs?”

Almost one year later, the National Association of Business Economics (NABE) offers reason for optimism. The NABE reports, “The NABE’s April 2010 Industry Survey confirms that the U.S. recovery from the Great Recession continues, with business conditions improving.”

Some of the highlights of their survey of 68 members about business conditions:

  • Industry demand increased for a third consecutive quarter.
  • Expectations for economic growth in 2010 have improved significantly.
  • Profit margins expanded for the third quarter in a row.
  • Job creation increased for the first time in the past two years of this NABE survey.
  • The percentage of firms increasing payrolls rose to 22% from 13% in the January survey.
  • The percentage of firms cutting jobs moved lower—from 28% in January to 13% in April.
  • The share of respondents expecting their firms to add employees over the coming six months rose to 37%, up from 29% in the previous survey.

Here is another important finding from the NABE survey:

“The vast majority (73%) of respondents reported the fiscal stimulus enacted in February 2009 has had no impact on employment to date. While 68% also believe a jobs bill, such as the one recently enacted into law, will have no impact on payrolls, 30% do believe it will boost payrolls moderately.”

You can read a summary of the NABE survey here. 

Thank You For Rising Up To Protect Families And Children

Legislation


A giant sigh of relief at the conclusion of the 2009-10 general legislative session emanated from the area I represent, Senate District 28, and from more than 100 municipalities statewide.


Concerned citizens were worried local ordinances that restrict residences and whereabouts of released sex offenders were going to be repealed by bills proposed in both the state Assembly and state Senate. Thankfully, the bills never came up for a final vote in either house of the legislature and local ordinances designed to protect families and children survive.

For Senate District 28, that means laws in Franklin, Greendale, Greenfield, Muskego, East Troy, Big Bend and Vernon remain in effect, providing law enforcement a critical tool in keeping neighborhoods safe. At a recent meeting of the Franklin Public Safety Task Force, Franklin Police Chief Rick Oliva informed me that Franklin’s dual ordinances, ruled constitutional by Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John Franke, have been instrumental in preventing over a dozen released sex offenders from moving into restricted areas.

I am very proud that leaders in the city of Franklin crafted ordinances that have proved to be models for many similar ordinances enacted across Wisconsin. Concerned officials and citizens in communities, threatened with the potential elimination of laws they deemed appropriate and necessary to protect innocent children, galvanized strong support to fight and defeat the proposed bills.

Thank you to everyone that devoted time and energy to killing the bills. A special thank you to the people mentioned in the State Assembly Committee Report for traveling to Madison and testifying against the Assembly bill.

Appearances Against
· Jeff Stone, Madison — State Representative
· Bob Ryan, Sheboygan — Mayor City of Sheboygan
· Jim Gischia, Sheboygan—Common Council President, City of Sheboygan
· Steve Olson, Franklin Alderman
· Jill Didier, Wauwatosa — Mayor of Wauwatosa
· Mary Lazich, Madison — Senator
· Rick Oliva, Franklin — City of Franklin Police Department
· Tom Taylor, Franklin — Mayor of Franklin
· Frances Springer, Greenfield
· Michael Neitzke, Greenfield — Mayor, City of Greenfield
· Joe Mikolajczak, Cudahy
· Tami Mayzek, South Milwaukee
· Kristen Wilhelm, Franklin Alderperson
· William Morris, Town of Sommers
· Basil Ryan, Franklin

Registrations Against
· Tim Carpenter, Madison — Senator
· Alberta Darling, Madison — Senator
· Peggy Krusick, Madison — State Representative
· Tim Blake, Oshkosh
· Curt Witynski, Madison — League of Wisconsin Municipalities
· Linda Lubotsky, Greenfield — Alderperson City of Greenfield
· Gaylord Hahn, Franklin
· Ken Skowronski, Franklin — Alderman city of Franklin
· Ann Wellens, South Milwaukee — South Milwaukee Police Department
· Clark Groen, Waterford

A special thank you to the people that traveled to Madison to testify at the Senate Committee hearing. Unfortunately, the Senate Committee report is not available.

A special thank you to Mayor Tom Taylor and City of Franklin staff for informing Franklin residents and aggressively networking throughout Milwaukee County.

If you telephoned or e-mailed state legislators about this issue, I extend my heartfelt appreciation. Your passionate work greatly contributed to a successful outcome. Again, thank you very much.

Lions Clubs license plates bill signed into law

Legislation


I am very pleased legislation I authored to create special license plates supporting Lions Clubs of Wisconsin was signed into law Wednesday by the Governor.  Senate Bill 307 (SB 307) allows special plates to be designed featuring a logo or image of the Lion associated with Lions Clubs International. A $15 fee for issuance or reissuance of the special plates will be charged along with a $25 annual fee that provides funds to the Wisconsin Lions Foundation, Inc.

The Wisconsin Lions Foundation, located at Rosholt Wisconsin on Wisconsin Lions Camp property, is operated by Lions Clubs. The Foundation runs statewide projects, including a camp for blind, deaf, cognitively disabled and diabetic children. 

There are 559 individual Lions Clubs in Wisconsin with a total of 19,633 Lions. Wisconsin has more than 2,800 Wisconsin Lioness members in 104 communities statewide.  Lioness members are affiliate members of Lions Clubs.

The New Berlin Lions Club web site reports, “In 1957, the club began plans to establish the first park in the community.  The club purchased 7.1 acres of land just west of Brookland at VFW Post 5716 Road between Cleveland and Lincoln Avenues.  The club built shelters, tennis courts and finally a library was built on this land which was donated to the City of New Berlin.  The club was also instrumental in establishing the first volunteer fire department in New Berlin.  In 1981 the club planted a Christmas tree on the corner of Civic Drive and National Avenue, which was the beginning of the annual lighting ceremony.  This is still held each year as part of the Christmas parade in November.  The club furnishes free ice cream at the annual Fourth of July picnic and is active in many community projects.  The club has donated in excess of $1,000,000.00 to date to its many projects.  It's amazing what the sale of one ear of corn does.”

Imagine the labors of only one Lions Club, the New Berlin Club, multiplied by the other 558 Lions Clubs in Wisconsin.  Add to that, the many Lions Clubs world-wide, and imagine Lions members immense service impact to communities, states, countries, and the entire world.    

I sincerely thank the many Lions that worked to get the legislation approved, and I thank my diligent staff for their efforts.  I am honored to have been able to shepherd the bill through the Wisconsin State Legislature.  As any Lion will tell you, it is all about the motto, "We Serve".

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Medical marijuana update

Legislation


Victories in the completed 2009-10 general legislative session came when bad legislation died. Here is another example: legalizing medical marijuana.

I served on the state Senate Health Committee that considered the proposed legislation and last December, I blogged about a joint hearing of the state Senate and Assembly Health Committees:

“Assistant Attorney General (AAG) Kevin St. John told the committees, ‘Compassion centers (medical marijuana dispensaries) become targets for criminal activity.’ AAG St. John noted crimes including homicides have been associated with dispensaries. Drug dealers are known to congregate outside the facilities, offering marijuana for lower prices.

Under the legislation, an individual would be allowed access to 12 marijuana plants.  AAG St. John testified a plant can yield one pound of marijuana. The street value of marijuana is about $4,000/pound meaning patients would have access to about $50,000 worth of pot.”

This week, prosecutors in Los Angeles sent out notices to 439 medical marijuana dispensaries informing they must shut down by June 7, 2010 to comply with a city ordinance.  In the process, Los Angeles is bucking a national trend.  

When California, of all places, starts clamping down on pot sales, that is surprisingly good news. 

A bit of good economic news

Economy


According to the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, nine states are reporting year-over-year increases in revenue between September and December 2009 and September and December 2008. One of them is Wisconsin that had a 3.4 percent change in tax revenues during the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to the same period one year ago.


Time to crack open the champagne? Unfortunately, no.

Despite a glimmer of good economic news, Stateline.org reports the stark reality:

“States face two or more years of gradual recovery because tax collections plunged more than 18 percent during the recession. States are nowhere near back to normal economic activity. Even when states recover from the recession, they may never return to the boom times of the late 1990s.”

Stateline 
quotes Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com “Things are turning around. But while revenues are starting to rise, the budget holes are deep.”

Sound familiar? The Legislative Fiscal Bureau reports that in the next biennium, Wisconsin’s structural deficit is $2 billion, 329 million.

During March 2010, two noted experts shared their economic forecasts at a symposium presented at the state Capitol sponsored by the Wisconsin Legislative Council: Mike Knetter, the Dean of the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Rick Mattoon, Senior Economist and Economic Advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago addressed the U.S. economy and its implications for Wisconsin. I wrote:

“Michael Knetter’s outlook and advice for Wisconsin: Unemployment will be nine percent at the end of 2010 meaning there will still be a number of discouraged workers. Wisconsin must defend its strengths and at the same time venture into areas like knowledge and service economies that will garner higher profits and wages. He concludes, ‘We just need to ride out the recession like everyone else.’

Richard Mattoon’s outlook and advice for Wisconsin: The state Department of Revenue predicts pre-recession job levels will not return here until 2012. Wisconsin needs to boost its production and retention of coveted human capital and stabilize its fiscal condition by creating an environment that makes the state a great place to do business.”

Patience. It’s not only a virtue. It’s a necessity.

Remember and thank our police


May 9-15, 2010 is National Police Week.  Every year, we honor the men and women of law enforcement who selflessly sacrifice to protect their communities.

Radio stations around Wisconsin will be broadcasting a special ad to commemorate Police Week.  Here is a link that has the audio of the ad.

State says no to voters voluntarily showing IDs

Photo ID


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting, “Voters cannot sign up with municipal clerks to voluntarily show their IDs when they go to the polls, the state elections board ruled Monday. The move came in response to a group of Waukesha County women who have been asking clerks to check their IDs when they cast ballots to ensure no one steals their votes. But the Government Accountability Board, which runs state elections, ruled 6-0 that only the Legislature could set up such a system.”

I am deeply disappointed in this decision by the Government Accountability Board. Many constituents of mine have expressed support for the concept of voluntarily presenting a photo ID at the polls out of a strong desire to ensure their vote is protected. In the absence of a photo ID requirement (Governor Doyle has vetoed photo ID bills three times), this is the next best option for voters that fear their vote might be stolen.

If the GAB will not allow a simple common sense system allowing the electorate to, in essence, take out their own voter insurance policy, then it’s up to the legislature and next governor to take action. For that to happen, the political landscape in Madison needs to change. A Republican governor and a Republican-controlled legislature will make a photo ID requirement a top priority early in the next legislative session beginning January 2011.

Heath care hoaxes

Government health care; News you can use


An ugly sign of the times: unscrupulous companies take advantage of the unemployed, scamming them about health care. The Fiscal Times conveys this horror story:

“Glenda Hey, 60, got a blast fax in early January 2009 at the Oklahoma City police department where she works part time. Her husband’s company insured her for a premium of more than $500 per month, but the fax from ATA (American Trade Association) said a policy would cost only $314. ‘I picked it up, took a look, and thought to myself ‘Hey, this looks pretty good’,’ Hey said in an interview.

Hey was relieved she had the new policy when, in March 2009, shortness of breath and bad chest pains put her in the hospital for several days, where she underwent a battery of tests. She later recovered, and never saw the $32,000 in bills that went to ATA, until a few months later, when the hospital told her they were unpaid. She called ATA’s headquarters in Springfield, Tenn., to make sure the company had received the bills. Hey faxed the bills, and called to check 15 minutes later to see if they had arrived. No response. She sent them by registered mail. No response again.

Read more

Wisconsin's smoking ban: The facts

Legislation


Time to clear the air.  Confusion abounds regarding Wisconsin’s looming statewide smoking ban. Here are important facts about the new law based on information from the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau and the Legislative Council.

Beginning July 5, 2010, smoking will be prohibited in enclosed public places and workplaces, publicly or privately owned, including taverns and restaurants.  Smoking is defined as the burning or holding, or inhaling or exhaling smoke from a lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe, or any other lighted smoking equipment.  A public place is a place open to the public, regardless of whether a fee is charged, or a place the pub­lic has lawful access or may be invited.  A place of employment is any indoor place that employees normally frequent during the course of employment. That includes an office, work area, employee lounge, a restroom, a conference or meet­ing room, a classroom, or a hallway. 


Under the smoking ban law signed by Governor Doyle May 18, 2009, the word enclosed was defined as a structure that has a roof and more than two substantial walls. A substantial wall was defined as a wall with an opening, door or window, that may be used to allow air in from the outside that is less than 25 percent of the wall’s surface area. 

Near the end of the 2009-10 general legislative session, the Legislature amended the definition of substantial wall to now mean, a wall with no opening or with an opening that either does not allow air in from the outside or that is less than 25 percent of the wall’s surface area. That means the smoking ban law will allow structures that have a roof and not more than two substantial walls. Bar and restaurant owners could, thus, build L-shaped outdoor patios or beer gardens with two substantial walls and allow smoking in such areas.

Indoor smoking will be allowed in private residences, retail tobacco stores or tobacco bars that were in exis­tence June 3, 2009, rooms used as a residence by only one per­son in an assisted living facility or a room that all occupants requested in writing to be allowed to smoke, and Tribal casinos or facilities. The ban applies everywhere else. A person in charge of a building cannot designate rooms or parts of rooms as smoking areas.

Penalties will be issued to violators. Anyone smoking in a prohibited area is subject to a forfeiture of not less than $100 nor more than $250 for each violation. A person in charge of a facility is subject to a forfeiture of $100 for each violation, but not more than one penalty per day if the person fails to take any required action to stop illegal smok­ing.

Persons in charge of facilities are required to make reasonable efforts to prevent illegal smoking. The Legislative Reference Bureau writes:

“For example, a bartender may not provide matches, ash­trays, or other smoking-related equipment, and must take all of the following steps:

Read more

Audit: Medical Education, Research, and Public Health Grants

Audits


The Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) has completed its review of public health programs and medical education and research initiatives created by the Medical College of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin (UW) School of Medicine and Public Health.

The results, for the most part, show good news. The two schools have followed requirements for awarding and monitoring their funding. Most of the grant recipients met goals outlined in their proposals. However, the LAB did find some exceptions.

Here is the background. The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance issued an order during March 2000 that converted Blue Cross Blue Shield United of Wisconsin from a not-for-profit hospital service insurance corporation to a for-profit, publicly held stock insurance corporation. The order provided $630.4 million to endowments held by the Medical College of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin (UW) School of Medicine and Public Health. Terms of the order designated that 65.0 percent of funds be used for medical education and research and 35.0 percent be spent for public health
initiatives.

The LAB conducted an analysis of the schools at the request of the Insurance Commissioner’s Office. The Bureau’s findings follow.

The Medical College spent $32.1 million and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health spent $44.1 million from the inception of the program through December 31, 2008. During the period of 2004 through 2008, 396 projects received grant funding. The LAB analyzed what it calls a “diverse sample” of 20 medical education and research projects and 20 public health projects funded by each School and discovered that most grant applicants supplied the appropriate materials. Of the 80 grants studied, 14 of the grant proposals had goals that were either unclear or overly ambitious. The LAB provided these examples:

One Medical College project that was awarded $242,600 had two broad goals—providing mental health educational services to providers and to consumers—
but the grant application did not cite more specific objectives for the services to be provided.

A UW project was awarded $450,000 to fund implementation of a home visitation program for low-income families, but the grant application did not detail the types of activities and services to be provided.”


The two schools require grant recipients to provide progress reports for the purpose of monitoring. In six cases, the reports failed to have adequate information to determine progress and in 18 cases, grant recipients altered project objectives of functions without the necessary approval of the schools.

Did the grant recipients achieve their stated goals? The LAB found 46 of the 80 grants met all or most of their goals or are likely to meet their goals by the end of the grant period. Five of the 80 projects studied met few of their goals or appear unlikely to meet goals. They include:

“A $450,000 Medical College public health project to address the prevention and reduction of obesity that did not develop a community action plan, conduct any of its proposed evaluations, or report on most of its objectives.

A $25,000 UW public health planning project that did not complete its primary goal of developing a strategic plan for an organization of family caregivers, nor did it apply for grants to continue support of the organization.”

While both schools according to the LAB have carefully monitored their endowment balances, the LAB expressed concern at the lack of requirements for the schools’ oversight and advisory committee members to abstain from voting on projects proposed by entities that either employed or had financial relationships with committee members.

The LAB, as is their practice, offers insightful and helpful recommendations. This audit’s offers counsel to the two schools:
  

Read more

Sign Language Interpreter bill signed into law

Legislation


Governor Doyle has signed legislation into law that I co-authored t
hat relates to licensing of sign language interpreters.

Senate Bill 389 (SB 389) stipulates that  a  person may not provide, for compensation, sign language interpretation services for a deaf or hard of hearing client unless the person holds a license granted by the Department of Regulation and Licensing (DRL). Exemptions are made for the following: 1) a person interpreting in a court proceeding, if the person is certified by the Wisconsin Supreme Court; 2) a person interpreting at a school or school−sponsored event, if the person is certified by the Department of Public Instruction; 3) a person interpreting at a religious service or religious function; 4) a support service provider facilitating communication between an interpreter and an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing; and 5) a person interpreting in the course of employment during an emergency, for up to 24 hours.

A nine member Sign Language Interpreter Council is created that will advise DRL about the practice of sign language interpreters. The council may grant a temporary exemption from the licensure requirement, and must make recommendations to DRL regarding a code of ethics for interpreters. The bill requires DRL to promulgate rules establishing a code of ethics for interpreters and authorizes DRL to conduct disciplinary proceedings against interpreters.

Under SB 389, a licensed interpreter may not disclose any aspect of confidential communication facilitated by the interpreter, unless all parties to the communication consent and a court determines that disclosure is necessary for the proper administration of justice.

An amendment to SB 389 was offered that would have allowed interpreters trained by DPI to provide service in educational settings to also practice outside the classroom. On the floor of the state Senate, I spoke against the amendment, expressing concern that while DPI-trained educational interpreters do an outstanding job in our schools, there are serious ramifications in areas like courtrooms or medical communities if education-trained interpreters make miscommunications.

The amendment was defeated, 27-5 and SB 389, greatly supported by deaf and hard of hearing groups was approved by the state Legislature and signed into law.

Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) legislation signed into law

Legislation


Legislation that I co-sponsored allowing
the operation of a neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) on any roadway within a municipality that has passed an ordinance allowing NEVs has been signed into law by Governor Doyle.

Under Senate Bill 321 (SB 321), a municipality that has approved an ordinance can authorize the use of NEVs on any roadway within the municipality that has a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less. The operation of a Low Speed Vehicle (LSV) on certain highways at 25 miles per hour or less is allowed under SB 321 that includes NEVs in the definition of LSV.

The Wisconsin Legislative Council reports that in general, LSVs can operate on any highway that has a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less that is under the jurisdiction, for maintenance purposes, of a municipality or county. Under SB 321, municipalities or counties may approve ordinances to prohibit the use of LSVs on highways under their jurisdiction .SB 321 is necessary to allow the use of NEVs on roads that cross state trunk highways through local ordinance. Under previous law, a municipality needed state Department of Transportation permission to allow NEV’s on roads that cross state trunk highways . 

Here is the history of SB 321 that contains a Legislative Council memo.

Speak out: DNR wants to change bow hunting rules

Legislation, News you can use


Many Wisconsin hunters will tell you they are not happy about the way the department of Natural Resources (DNR) has managed the annual deer hunting season. Now it might be the bow hunters’ turn to get upset.

The DNR has announced that under a proposed rule, “Archery deer hunters would be restricted to using the antlerless deer carcass tag that is issued with each archery hunting license to only those deer management units with an established antlerless deer harvest quota.”

Current rules allow the use of an antlerless tag in any deer management unit in the state.

The state has 134 deer management units (DMUs) and all have a set deer population quota. The DNR reports that during 2010, “18 DMUs will have no antlerless permits available to gun hunters in an effort to increase deer populations in the fastest possible way. Under this proposed rule, archery deer hunters also would not be able to kill an antlerless deer in these units.”

The elimination of areas for bow hunting could cause frustration. I am starting to hear from concerned constituents worried about the changes. They consider the plan to be more meddling by the DNR that will only serve to create problems.

A DNR official says the earliest the rule could be in effect would be the 2011 season; however, if there is enough support, the DNR could ask the Natural Resources Board to adopt an emergency rule to take effect during the 2010 hunt.

Public hearings about the proposed rule are scheduled. After a brief informational presentation, public comments and statements will be accepted. The public hearings at 7 p.m. at the following locations:

  • May 17, Rhinelander - James Williams Middle School, 915 Acacia Lane
  • May 18, Fitchburg - DNR South Central Region Headquarters, 3911 Fish Hatchery Rd.
  • May 24, Green Bay - DNR Northeast Region Headquarters, 2984 Shawano Ave.

Written or email comments may be sent to Scott Loomans, DNR wildlife rules coordinator, 101 S. Webster St. Madison, WI 53707, (608) 267-2452, scottloomans@wisconsin.gov.

More details can be found here.

The 2009-10 legislative session review: Sex education

Legislation


Victories came at the end of the 2009-10 general legislative session in the failure of major, controversial bills to gain approval. However, one significant piece of legislation unable to be blocked was a new
law that guts abstinence education and paves the way for a radical expansion of the kinds of issues that can be discussed in human growth and development classes.

Governor Doyle signed legislation into law that requires public schools that teach sex education to include instruction about the use of condoms and discussion about sexually transmitted diseases. The new law is a dramatic departure from current procedures that has already angered and upset many parents.


Under previous Wisconsin law, local school boards were allowed to determine if and how sex education is taught to students in their school districts. The new law that I voted against eliminates the autonomy local school districts did have to provide the instruction they considered to be the best for their students. School districts will no longer be allowed to teach an abstinence-only curriculum. A wide-ranging sex education curriculum will be established, including non-judgmental instruction on alternative lifestyles and behaviors.

During the 2005 legislative session, I authored legislation that became law (signed by the same Governor Doyle) that required school boards that chose to provide sex education to present abstinence as the preferred choice of behavior. I authored the abstinence legislation because there is only one method that is 100 percent effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. It is abstinence. That is indisputable. Health professionals agree that abstinence is the healthiest choice for teens. The abstinence law is a common sense approach to an adolescent health issue.  In order to make the choice to be abstinent, teens must have access to abstinence instruction and be equipped with accurate information about the consequences resulting from sexual activity. The legislation Governor Doyle signed February 24, 2010 will make opportunities for teens to hear this critically important message far less likely.

On behalf of the West Allis-West Milwaukee school district that requested a positive change in the legislation, I proposed an amendment on the floor of the state Senate that would have allowed a school district that offered a comprehensive sex education curriculum and an abstinence-only curriculum to have the option of choosing an abstinence-only program. The West Allis-West Milwaukee school district used to offer the two options to parents. I found their request to be a reasonable compromise. My amendment was rejected by the state Senate along party lines.

Another troubling provision prohibits school districts from being judgmental or biased against sexually active students. My colleagues and I that opposed the legislation emphasized this is a logical scenario to be judgmental. The emphatic instruction to children is that they should not be having sex, period.

A significant change was made to the legislation under an amendment that requires school boards that provide sex education to instruct students about: a)  the criminal penalties for engaging in sexual activities involving a child and  b) sex offender registration requirements. The amendment passed unanimously and is the only bright spot in a highly risky, and yes, dangerous new law that guts abstinence instruction, mandates the instruction of elements of sex education that will make many parents uncomfortable and angry, and removes local control from local school districts. State government should not be telling local school districts and parents it knows best, especially about an issue as sensitive as sex education.

Hopefully, this law can be repealed during the next session.

Where's my refund?

News you can use, Taxes

 
Wondering where your state income tax refund is?

You can check the status via telephone or the Internet. Here are details from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

The DNR fights marijuana, and needs your help


While the state Senate Health Committee that I served on during the 2009-10 general legislative session was considering a bill to legalize medical marijuana, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was stepping up its efforts to find marijuana plants growing on public lands.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, “Last year, large marijuana ‘farms’ were discovered on public land in the Navarino Wildlife Area in Shawano County and in the Tiffany Wildlife Area in Buffalo County, each with thousands of plants valued at millions of dollars.”

Specially-trained DNR officials fly over sections of the state, keeping an eagle eye out for illegal operations that are easier to spot this time of year.

The DNR is not only concerned about damage to the natural habitat, but about public safety. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, “Officials are worried that a hiker or bird watcher could stumble upon a marijuana growing operation in a remote area of Wisconsin. Violence has erupted in other states where armed guards often safeguard the crop.”

An awareness campaign called CEASE
(Cannabis Eradication and Suppression Effort) has been established by the DNR to alert the public about the potential danger associated with marijuana operations. Informational posters about what the public should look for and how to report suspicious activity will be placed in parks and forests.

Wisconsin Chief Conservation Warden Randy Stark says, “Hikers, anglers and hunters should be alert, and if they see something that doesn't look right, they should report the find to local law enforcement authorities.”

Here is more information from the DNR and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  

"Illegals driving illegally"

Legislation


A very troubling report in the Racine Journal Times opens with a rather blunt headline:

Illegals driving illegally”

The Times reports, “Illegal immigrants continue to drive here without licenses, going through traffic court and before local judges. In Racine County, there are hundreds of cases a year involving illegal immigrants driving without valid licenses or after revocation, District Attorney Michael Nieskes estimated. Under the law, drivers without licenses could get jail time, but both Racine County Circuit Court traffic court judges, Allan Torhorst and John Jude, said they don't sentence unlicensed drivers to jail if they have not been charged with other offenses.”

State Representative Pedro Colon (D-Milwaukee) is considering reintroducing legislation to give special driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Colon’s bill failed during the previous session.

The Times reports, “Judges Torhorst and Jude said they would not oppose a law that would allow illegal immigrants to drive.”

The main argument as reported by the newspaper in support of driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants is safety. The illegal immigrants are going to drive anyway, so let them attend classes to learn the rules of the road, etc. This defense is a smokescreen for the main issue that the immigrants are in Wisconsin illegally and should not be entitled to the same privilege as law-abiding citizens.

Follow this disturbing pattern. There are a number of illegal immigrants in Wisconsin. They are driving illegally. Officers of the court are fully aware. The illegal immigrants could be sent to jail; however, they are not. Some lawmakers want to provide special driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Some judges would support the idea.

This is outrageous. I opposed giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants in the past and will continue to do so. The state should not be rewarding illegal activity.

Read more in the Racine Journal Times. 

More fraud at WI Shares demonstrates need for audit

Audits


Investigative reporters at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel continue to unearth additional scandal and fraud in Wisconsin social service programs. In their latest expose, the newspaper reports:

A Menomonee Falls couple whose child-care center has been under criminal investigation for suspected fraud since at least January continued to collect money from the state's taxpayer-supported Wisconsin Shares program - even getting an $18,000 check that was issued the day after the FBI raided the center.

The state cut off funding last Wednesday, the same day the Journal Sentinel reported the raid. But by then the state had already paid Executive Kids Early Childhood & Learning Center $130,000 this year alone.

Read more

Clean Sweep

News you can use


Thanks to grants provided by the by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), many Wisconsin communities are participating in Clean Sweep collections of unwanted chemicals, pesticides, and hazardous waste.

Program Manager Dennis Presser says residents will be able to drop off products like chlordane, rootworm insecticides, DDT, acids, lead paint, mercury and solvents at various sites on various dates and times.

Full details can be found in this DATCP news release that also contains a link to an interactive map displaying Clean Sweep locations and dates.

Protecting your vote

Photo ID

Problematic legislation that would have allowed on-line voter registration and automatic voter registration at the time of driver license registration failed to be approved by the legislagure prior to the end of the 2009-10 general legislative session, and is considered dead.

The general public was wise to the legislation’s negative ramifications that legislative Democrats tried to ram through at the end of the session. They referred to the legislation as the Voter Fraud Bill.

Wisconsinites are deeply concerned about protecting their votes, so much so that a majority supports a photo ID requirement. Since Governor Doyle has vetoed photo ID three times and legislative Democrats have failed to show any interest in true election reform, citizens have taken the next step.

Led by Pewaukee’s Ardis Cerny, a group of voters has been requesting that clerks ask for their identification at the polls.  Ardis Cerny took her case for voters voluntarily showing photo ID to the Government Accountability Board (GAB); however, the GAB ruled against Ardis Cerny’s seemingly harmless request. 

The Racine Journal Times Editorial Board takes issue with GAB staff attorney Shane Falk who said, "This could result in a greater disruption of the polls on Election Day.” The newspaper writes, “By that standard, such horrific showings of identification would create chaos in every grocery and convenience store when someone purchases alcohol. There would be pandemonium at the corner drug store whenever a shopper whips out an ID to purchase some cold remedies, and we can only imagine the disruption that would occur at shopping malls when a clerk asks for ID before allowing a credit-card purchase.”

The editorial writers urge voters to continue to voluntarily show their IDs at the polls. You can read the editorial here.

Allowing voters to voluntarily show ID at the polls is a good idea.  Better yet, a photo ID should be required. Should Madison’s political landscape change after November, I am confident photo ID legislation will be a top priority during the next legislative session.

Federal global warming bill would cost Wisconsin dearly

Legislation


Global warming legislation may have died in Madison
however federal legislation is still being considered in Washington D.C.

The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) writes, “The proposed federal renewable energy standard (RES) will raise prices for consumers, the equivalent of a damaging tax hike on Americans who continue to struggle to make ends meet. The United States is primarily powered by traditional energy sources like coal, natural gas, and nuclear fuel. These energy sources are far more abundant domestically and cheaper than ‘renewable’ sources like wind and solar power, which also happen to be recipients of lavish taxpayer subsidies. But, the federal RES will force states to purchase these renewable sources or renewable energy credits, whether or not they can afford them or have access to them. Consequently, the increased cost of electricity will be passed on to the taxpayer.”

To demonstrate the impact of the economic damage to each state as a result of the proposed federal RES, the NTU has developed a map that puts the severity of the RES to Wisconsin in the moderate category.  Are we expected to believe that it is just peachy keen that we will only have moderate damage? Let's examine the numbers:

The RES would cause an increase in residential electricity bills of 59.7 percent in Wisconsin by 2030.

The RES would cause a loss of 56,700 jobs in Wisconsin by 2030.

Only 2.6 percent of Wisconsin’s current electricity generation would meet Congress’ definition of “carbon-free renewable” energy.

The NTU concludes from a national perspective, “A federal renewable energy standard will cost nearly all Americans and threatens to derail economic recovery.”

Read more here. 
 

The 2009-10 legislative session review: Releasing felons early


You might call it Operation Jailbreak.

During the 2009-11
state budget deliberations, a provision was inserted and approved to allow early release privileges for convicted felons. At the time I wrote:

“Suggestions to save the state over $2 billion and ease prison overcrowding involve locking up fewer criminals and releasing many from custody early. The Council of State Governments Justice Center has made a series of recommendations to the state Legislature. They include alternatives that result in reduced incarceration. That is a recipe for even greater costs and harm to society. Wisconsin cannot afford this open door policy for criminals.”

I added the following:

“Why is the prison population growing? The Capital Times also examined the Council of State Governments Justice Center report, writing that, ‘A majority of inmates are incarcerated because they re-offend or violate the terms of their release. In 2007, 55 percent of prison inmates had violated terms of their parole, probation or extended supervision or were re-offenders who had committed a new crime.’ And we want to release more of them earlier? Certainly, inmates inside prison cost the state. Do not forget all the costs of criminals to society.” 


Legislation that I co-sponsored was introduced to immediately repeal the early release program. I was also one of 45 state legislators to sign a letter to Governor Doyle requesting that he immediately stop his early release of felons. Our letter to Governor Doyle reads in part:

“In the interest of public safety and in light of the suspension of a similar program in Illinois, we are respectfully asking you to consider an immediate repeal of the early release program.

Chief among our concerns is the threat this program poses for compromising public safety. Out of the 21 offenders who were released this week, many of them have a history of serious felony convictions. Most could be classified as career criminals who have been in and out of the corrections system their entire life.

Furthermore, the fact that this program does not rely on judges, prosecutors, or law enforcement to determine whether these inmates are safe for release makes it even more likely that new crimes will be committed.

Also, communities are not being notified when these felons are being released.”

Our letter was ignored by Governor Doyle.

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute did an independent analysis of the criminal backgrounds of the first 22 offenders released early and reports, “The 22 inmates together have been convicted of at least 150 crimes and that, in nearly 70% of the cases, judges earlier denied their requests for early release.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, “A review of court records for (Derrick) Parnell and other offenders from Milwaukee who have been released shows that several of the men - convicted of a range of felonies including drug dealing and identity theft - have extensive criminal records and a history of returning to crime during previous stints on the streets.”

When Governor Doyle announced the early release program during early 2009, he said that up to 3,000 of the more than 22,000 inmates in the state prison system would be eligible for early release. As of late April 2010, 138 offenders had been released from state prisons under this program, according to the Department of Corrections.

Here is the latest. My colleague, state Representative Scott Suder says he plans to request an audit of the state's early release program. As a member of the Legislative Joint Audit Committee, I wholeheartedly welcome such an audit. Representative Suder calls the early release program, “a dangerous social experiment,” and I concur.

Releasing felons early is also an insult to the outstanding law enforcement, prosecutors and judges in this state that do the heavy lifting and lock criminals up in the interest of public safety, only to see their efforts wasted when Governor Doyle releases them early.

Representative Suder is also considering legislation to eliminate the early releases. I would strongly support the legislation.

The incredibly risky procedure of releasing dangerous prisoners must end before an innocent citizen is victimized by a freed inmate that should have been behind bars.  During the previous to last legislative session when I served on the state Senate Committee on Judiciary and Corrections, I witnessed first-hand the sentiment that Wisconsin should cut back on Corrections, open the cell doors and let more prisoners go. I do not subscribe to the theory that we cannot afford corrections, especially with various categories of violent crime increasing. Given our economic status, the situation could get worse. The truth is the state cannot afford not to put prisoners away.

Honoring Missing Children and their Families

Yesterday, I attended Wisconsin’s Missing Children and Adults Awareness Day Ceremony hosted by Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen in the Rotunda of the state Capitol. The ceremony honored missing children and their families and our outstanding law enforcement working tirelessly to find missing children and return them home.

Sweet and innocent children are most precious. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) reports that every year in America, there are approximately 800,000 missing children reports, more than 2,000 every day.  Yesterday, the state of Wisconsin recognized missing children, their parents, exceptional law enforcement dedicated to rescuing children, and prosecutors that bring those exploiting children to justice.

National Missing Children’s Day is scheduled May 25, 2010, the day the NCMEC asks America to Take 25. A preventive child safety campaign, Take 25, urges parents, guardians, educators, and others to take 25 minutes to discuss safety issues with children. The NCMEC provides a number of teaching tips and resources to help parents make their children safer. You can see them here. 


Protecting children is a never-ending battle requiring constant vigilance. Parents armed with the knowledge of common sense rules provide the best protection against abductors and predators.

 

Read more

Bill allowing one-day fish licenses approved

Legislation, Tourism


Senate Bill 401 (SB 401), approved by the Legislature allows the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)  to issue one−day fishing licenses to residents and nonresidents. Holders of one-day licenses would pay a reduced fee for an annual license that is issued during the same year the one−day license is valid.

The pro-tourism bill was signed into law by Governor Doyle this week.

Like Wisconsin, like Washington

Legislation


Like Wisconsin, like Washington

During the final days and
weeks of the 2009-10 Wisconsin general legislative session, Democrats in power tried desperately to jam through major pieces of legislation before the clock struck midnight, regardless of the legislation's unpopularity with the general public.

Thank goodness global warming, radical election reform, regional transit authority, and local sex offender ordinance repeal legislation all failed to be approved and is considered dead at this time.

The state Legislature has adjourned until January. Still in session is Congress. Like Wisconsin, Democrats control the entire shooting match. Like Wisconsin, Congressional Democrats aim to ram and jam as much as possible before voters decide their fate in November.

Here are some of the big ticket items on their agenda:


Cap and trade

Immigration reform

Value-added tax

Financial reform


Fred Barnes writes in the Wall Street Journal:

“The model for such a strategy is the health-care legislation—ObamaCare—enacted in March. For months nearly every opinion poll found either a solid majority or a plurality of Americans opposed to the bill. And it was assumed to be dead after Republican Scott Brown campaigned against it and won a special election in January for the Massachusetts Senate seat of the late Edward M. Kennedy.

Mr. Obama and Democrats in Congress refused to give up. Instead, they relied on their one irreducible source of power in Washington: overwhelming Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. Democrats control the Senate 59 to 41, the House by 254 to 177 (with four vacancies). They passed the health-care bill in March with zero Republican support.

Read more

Help a Vet- Buy a Poppy

Veterans issues


The malls. Grocery stores.  You’ll find them there this time of year, proud military veterans that have served America. Now they fight for their fellow comrades, armed not with rifles, but with poppies.






Poppy days have arrived.  Veteran soldiers lovingly assemble each nine-piece poppy to then offer for donations that are used exclusively to assist hospitalized and disabled veterans. The poppy’s bright red color symbolizes the bloodshed and sacrifices made by those who defended our country.

Poppies originated in the Belgium battlefields of World War I. Surrounded by soil damaged by death and destruction, red poppies somehow grew wild. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae of the Canadian military wrote about the flower in his 1915 poem, In Flanders Fields: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row that mark our place…”

McCrae’s poem inspired Athens, Georgia native Moina Michael to write her own poem pledging to keep the memory of fallen World War soldiers alive by wearing a poppy daily while working at a canteen at the YMCA in New York City. During November 1918, Moina Michael purchased a bouquet of poppies and gave them to a group of businessmen holding a meeting at the YMCA. All she asked was that they wear the poppies in honor of fallen American Soldiers.

On a visit to New York, a French woman, Madame Guerin met Moina Michael and was taken by her daily tribute.   During 1920, Madame Guerin used the poppy as a fundraiser for orphans and convinced veterans’ organizations in several countries to sell the poppy to help underprivileged children in France. By the early 1920’s, Madame Guerin had brought her campaign to the United States. In no time, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion were distributing poppies made of crepe paper.

Even before Madame Guerin began working her poppy magic, the American Legion reports, “In Milwaukee, Wisconsin in June 1919, a refreshment booth was decorated with poppies.  It was stripped twice of the flowers.  Patriotic Americans had taken them and left contributions on the counter.  Volunteers collected the money and used it for the benefit of disabled veterans. Mrs. Mary Hanecy was a volunteer in Milwaukee that day and saw the potential for a fundraiser.  She took her idea to the Milwaukee American Legion Post 1.  In 1920 on the Saturday before Memorial Day the Post distributed 50,000 poppies with the assistance of the ladies.  They received donations totaling $5,000 that was used for veteran rehabilitation.”

Millions of poppies are made and distributed by veterans every year. The small flower’s trademark is the Buddy Poppy, named for the diligent poppy makers and the memories of their friends never returning home from war. Silk flowers today are made by veterans in 11 different locations around the country, including Milwaukee and sold for the aid, assistance, relief, and comfort of needy or disabled veterans or members of the Armed Forces and their dependents, and the widows and orphans of deceased veterans.

Offering the poppies is a self-fulfillment of the longtime motto of the Veterans of Foreign Wars: “To honor the dead by helping the living.” When you see these patriotic veterans out in your community, please consider a donation and wear your poppy as a demonstration of thanks and gratitude for soldiers service and giving their time and life for America.

Legislative Council Study Committees need citizen members


Wisconsin
’s Joint Legislative Council creates special study committees to review and analyze major issues and problems identified by the Legislature. The study committees are comprised of Legislators and citizens interested in or knowledgeable about the study topic.

The co-chairs of the Joint Legislative Council have identified and recommended 16 special study committees.

If you are interested in serving as a citizen member on any of these committees, please contact me at Sen.Lazich@legis.wisconsin.gov, www.senatorlazich.com, Senator Mary Lazich, State Capitol, P.O. Box 7882 Madison, WI 53707 or 1-800-334-1442.

The 2009-10 general legislative session review: RTAs

Legislation


One of the major issues of contention during the 2009-10 general legislative session was the creation of regional transit authorities (RTAs).

The concept of RTAs is seriously flawed. RTAs are managed by members that are unelected and unaccountable to the taxpaying public. They enjoy wide powers. An RTA may operate a transportation system or provide for its operation by contracting with a public or private organization and impose a half percent sales tax. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported that a half-cent sales tax increase to fund RTAs would cost about $172 per household a year.

As legislators deliberated during the 2009-11 state budget process, the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee early on the morning of May 1, 2009 while most of Wisconsin slept voted to increase taxes.
The committee voted 11-5 to create a board that would have the power to impose a one percent sales tax in Milwaukee County. Under the JFC provision, sales tax revenue would fund transit, parks, and emergency medical services. Milwaukee County’s sales tax rate would, if the plan was approved by the full Legislature and Governor Doyle, increase to 6.6 percent.

The five members of the board that would set a one percent sales tax increase would not be elected by the voting public, and thus, would not have accountability for their actions. They would be appointed by the Milwaukee County Board chairman, the Milwaukee mayor and the governor.

The JFC also voted 12-4 to establish a regional transit authority in Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties. A $16 car rental fee, an increase of $14
, would fund the authority. The authority would operate a Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter link (KRM) that more than likely would be very costly. The nine-member authority, again, would be un-elected. Members would be appointed by the chairmen of the Milwaukee County and Racine County boards, the Kenosha County executive, the mayors of Milwaukee, Kenosha and Racine; and the governor.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, “The structure would ensure that local officials with Democratic ties would get to make appointments to the board while those with Republican links would not. For instance, Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser, a former legislator, would get to make an appointment while Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker – a Republican running for governor next year – would not.”

The Joint Finance Committee also rejected the idea of a requirement that light rail could be built in Milwaukee County only if voters approved.

Read more

UPDATE: The I-94 North-South Freeway Project

News you can use


The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) continues work on the I-94 North-South Freeway Project that includes I-94 from the Illinois state line through the Mitchell Interchange in Milwaukee County. Reconstruction of the corridor began in stages during 2009. All work will be completed by 2016.

Here is the latest information about the project from the DOT.


Project Overview

The project includes about 35 miles of mainline freeway and 18 service interchanges. It extends from the Mitchell Interchange area to just south of the Illinois state line and includes the spur to General Mitchell International Airport and the Plainfield Curve, and the frontage road system in Kenosha and Racine Counties

The Selected Alternative

The system is being modernized with capacity expansion to 8 lanes. The project addresses major safety and design aspects and congestion concerns throughout the system.

Read more

Another audit request being stonewalled

Audits


As a member of the Legislative Joint Committee on Audit, I have been frustrated at the continuing refusal of the committee co-chairs to schedule an audit of the massive Medical Assistance (MA) program.

Here is another deserving audit that is being stonewalled. The Marshfield News-Herald reports, “
A Gannett Wisconsin Media analysis in March found that only 14 of 98 state agencies, schools and boards listed on the Contract Sunshine site had posted any contract information, as required by a 2006 law. The site is supposed to disclose to the public all spending on contracts worth $10,000 or more. The state Government Accountability Board, which oversees the site, has cited technical issues, a lack of resources and limited enforcement power as reasons the site was missing information. On April 30, Reid Magney, a spokesman for the board, told Gannett the agency actively is working to improve the site.”

More than six weeks ago, my colleague on the Legislative Joint Audit Committee, state Senator Rob Cowles (R-Allouez) requested an audit of the website. The Marshfield News-Herald reports, “As recently as April 28, lawmakers leading the state’s Legislative Joint Audit Committee declined to bring the request to the table for consideration.”

I found this item in the article revealing. The paper writes, “(Committee co-chair, Representative Peter) Barca said the state does not have the resources to conduct every requested audit.”
The state Legislative Audit Bureau has published a scope statement for an audit of MA. That means the Bureau has the wherewithal to conduct a thorough MA review. Yet the Legislative Audit Committee co-chairs refuse to take action.

There needs to be an MA audit and an audit of the Contract Sunshine website.

Read more in the Marshfield News Herald.

Great news from the US Supreme Court

Legislation


The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the
Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Actsigned into law during 2006 by President George W. Bush, is constitutional.

A lower court had ruled Congress went beyond its authority, approving legislation that could incarcerate dangerous sex offenders beyond their prison terms. The Supreme Court reversed that ruling, with Justice Stephen Breyer writing the majority opinion:

"The statute is a 'necessary and proper' means of exercising the federal authority that permits Congress to create federal criminal laws, to punish their violation, to imprison violators, to provide appropriately for those imprisoned and to maintain the security of those who are not imprisoned by who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others.”

You can read more about the law at John Walsh’s America’s Most Wanted web site.

Read more about the Supreme Court ruling here.

Do you need a permit for your pier?

News you can use


Are you a pier owner?

Does your pier comply with new state standards?

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) informs that a 2008 law established size standards for piers, and also set a registration process that grandfathered-in most existing piers larger than the size standards.

Pier owners can use online materials to learn if their piers are big enough to require a free, one-time registration.

You can find the materials here.

Audit: Wisconsin Lottery

Audits


State law requires an audit of the Wisconsin Lottery. The nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) has finished its financial review and found that the Wisconsin Lottery fully complied with statutory spending limits pertaining to prizes, advertising, compensating retailers, and operating expenses.

The LAB examined financial statements for fiscal year (FY) 2008-09 and FY 2007-08. Here are some of the LAB’s findings:

During FY 2008-09, there were $473.4 million in lottery ticket sales, constituting a 4.3 percent decline from the prior year, or $21.3 million in sales, primarily due to the economy.

Administrative expenses were $344.5 million during FY 2008-09, 2.5 percent less than during FY 2007-08.  Note the decline in administrative costs was lower than the decline in ticket sales. The LAB explains, “Some expenses do not fluctuate with sales. Since FY 2007-08, informational advertising expenses have been permitted to total no more than $7.5 million annually, which is an increase of $2.9 million from prior years.”

The lottery was designed, in part, to provide property tax relief. During FY 2008-09, property tax relief totaled $132.4 million.

Last October, the Department of Administration and the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee appropriated $130.2 million in lottery proceeds for property tax relief during FY 2009-10 with this breakdown:

 $115.5 million - the Lottery and Gaming Tax Credit

 $14.7 million -   the Farmland Tax Relief Credit

Management of the Wisconsin Lottery submitted its own report of its financial performance as part of the audit. Lottery Management writes:

“The conventional wisdom is that lotteries are recession-proof: sales will increase
during an economic downturn as people look to change their fortunes overnight. However, the current economic recession has made a myth of the conventional wisdom, as Wisconsin Lottery sales have been affected, although not as much as other sectors of the economy. While not recession-proof, the Wisconsin Lottery appears to be recession-resistant; its sales outlook and its ability to generate funds for property tax relief programs remain strong.”


Once again, I commend the LAB for another outstanding analysis that you can read here. 

The Senate Majority Leader serves up a Whopper

State budget


It must be that fuzzy math.

State Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker went after his opponent in a column in the Wausau Daily Herald. Senator Decker claims that Democrats made cuts in the current 2009-11 state budget:

“According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, we cut $796.8 million in the last budget. Those are real cuts not backfilled by any other funds. We cut outdated, inefficient programs like Forward Wisconsin for a savings of $320,000. We also cut $6.4 million from the Department of Revenue and $87.5 million from University of Wisconsin administration. We saved another $192 million by having state employees take unpaid furloughs and stopped a previously planned 2 percent wage increase.”

However, as one of the greatest broadcasters of all-time used to say, “You need to know the rest of the story.”

Senator Decker’s boast that Democrats acted like fiscal conservatives during the 2009-11 state budget debate is pure fiction.

The 2009-11 state budget increased spending 9.4 percent. That’s almost 10 percent.  Source: The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX).

The tax increases from the 2009 budget adjustment bill plus the tax increases in the 2009-11 state budget total $3.03 billion. Source: The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX).

The state budget eliminated the QEO. The result?  School property tax levies for 2009-10 are up 6.0 percent. Source: The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX).

Out of all the tax increases in the budget, the largest is in individual income taxes totaling $529.8 million. Source: The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX).

Democrats cut the state budget? Their noses are growing.


Pharmaceuticals under attack at informational hearing

Government health care


The Senate Health Committee that I serve on conducted a joint hearing Wednesday with the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long Term Care about Prescription Drug Reform.  Only invited speakers were allowed to make presentations. It became quite evident very early on that the stacked hearing was orchestrated to attack pharmaceutical companies.

Nino Amato of the Wisconsin Coalition of Aging Groups initiated the proceedings proclaiming that pharmaceutical companies are out of control, spending $30 billion on marketing.

Peter Wychoff of Community Catalysts contended pharmaceuticals don’t spend enough on research and development and too much on influencing physicians’ choice of products, in other words, “gifting,” ranging from trinkets (free pens)  to steak dinners. Even small gifts, Wychoff asserted, create an obligation on the part of physicians to choose certain drugs.

Wychoff and other speaks are calling on Wisconsin to approve a law like one in Minnesota that bans gifts from pharmaceuticals to physicians of $15 or more. Federal legislation was adopted during March of this year. However, proponents say state legislation is necessary to further limit the scope of influence.

Not surprisingly, the first speaker in defense of pharmaceuticals was allowed to testify 90 minutes into the hearing. Marjorie Powell is the Senior Assistant general Counsel for PhRMA (pronounced “far-muh”), The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. PhRMA represents leading pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies.

Powell chided Senate Health Committee Chair, state Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), testifying that presenters were offered coffee that could be considered “gifting,” a conflict of interest. Powell told committee members PhRMA has a code about gifts that 50-60 companies voluntarily follow. Prior to Powell’s testimony, Dr. Tim Bartholow, Vice-President of the Wisconsin Medical Society stated that some health care providers in Wisconsin don’t allow pharmaceutical company representatives inside or on their facilities.

PhRMA spent $53 billion on research and development during 2008 according to Powell. PhRMA’s website says, “Industry-wide research and investment reached a record $65.3 billion in 2009.” Powell maintained that major advertising constitutes a small percentage of PhRMA’s activities.

Wisconsin, Powell testified, already has two academic detailing procedures in place. Academic detailing is a term used for the philosophy of using an evidence-based approach to prescribing medication.  Powell said Wisconsin physicians are required to take continuing medical courses about this issue, and the state Medicaid program has a review committee to ensure drugs are prescribed appropriately.


Robert Hunkler of IMS Health, a health information firm based in Connecticut questioned the need for state legislation, testifying that cost savings are negligible and that more restrictions and regulations could actually jeopardize patient safety.

Many questions remain about possible legislation to require disclosure by pharmaceuticals and physicians:

How necessary is state legislation given there is federal legislation in place?

It seems many health care providers are already voluntarily policing themselves, raising the question of necessity.

Will there be increased bureaucracy?

Will jobs be lost?


What will the impact be on the ability to research and develop new products?

What will the impact be on the ability of pharmaceuticals to market their products?

I concur with Dr. Tim Bartholow of the Wisconsin Medical Society who described himself as “hesitant to endorse legislation” until more extensive information is available.

Angry e-mailers to Governor say he was misleading


Clearly, the Green Bay Press Gazette has heard enough about Governor Doyle’s empty promise known as
the Wisconsin Covenant. 

The deal sounded really good to a lot of Wisconsin parents who thought the state was offering,
“a free ride.” 

Upon hearing that parents were upset, expecting more than the $250 - $2,500 grants the state was going to issue, the Associated Press used the open records law to find out the kind of feedback Governor Doyle received. The Associated Press reports:

“’Thank you for the letdown Governor Doyle. You have failed my child and all those like her who are working hard and doing the right things,’ one parent wrote.

Many of the critical e-mailers were angry about the income guidelines, saying children were being punished because of their parents’ success, and felt  they had been misled. They called the $250 — an amount supporters have defended as an important symbolic gesture for completing the Covenant requirements — not  enough to cover books for a semester.

One parent wrote that her daughter signed the Covenant years ago and is now a junior with good grades and a clean record who works part-time.

‘This $250 is a slap in the face to all hardworking, taxpaying Wisconsin citizens who are trying to help their children obtain a college degree. This is hardly what you promised,’ she wrote. ‘A man is only as good as his word and you have lost all credibility with my family’.”

One woman wrote her family’s income is slightly above $80,000 because they own a veterinary  practice, but her husband still has college loans and they have four children to support. She said her sons have been working hard during high school to get as much college aid as possible, but ‘they will not qualify for anything because we worked hard to make something of ourselves’.”

The Green Bay Press Gazette editorializes, “Some families who were counting on the Wisconsin Covenant for tuition will be forced to rethink their plans. For that, Gov. Jim Doyle deserves a failing grade.”

You can read the editorial here.

More reasons to audit MA

Audits


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
 
reports a crackdown on child-care fraud has saved the state $45 million.

The Racine Journal Times says fraud is rampant in the state’s Food Shares program.

Imagine the amount of fraud that could be uncovered at a savings to taxpayers if an audit was conducted of the state’s $6 billion Medical Assistance program.

The US debt keeps growing and growing and....


The debt clock is spinning like machines at Potawatomi and has now surpassed the $13 TRILLION mark.

According to USDebtClock.org, the U.S. National Debt as of this posting is now costing $42,053 per citizen, $118,046 per taxpayer.

63 percent

Government health care


That is the percentage of Americans that want
ObamaCare repealed.

Want to sell your famous apricot jam?

News you can use


The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has adopted an emergency rule allowing certain home-canned foods to be sold without a license.

Home-made items such as pickled fruits and vegetables, salsas, chutneys, sauerkraut, kimchi, jams and jellies can be sold at farmers' markets and community events.

There are some restrictions. Read more details from DATCP.  

Don't forget your life jacket

News you can use


As the recreational boating season gets underway, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is recommending boaters wear life jackets.

During 2009, none of the 16 fatal boating victims were wearing a life jacket.  There have already been three boating fatalities this year. The DNR reports in those incidents, life jackets were not worn.

Read more from the DNR,  and the United States Coast Guard.

Congratulations to these outstanding businesses

Business, Good news from Senate District 28


Congratulations to the following businesses located in Senate District 28 that I represent that were named in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s list of
Southeastern Wisconsin's Top 100 Workplaces:


HNI Risk Services Inc., New Berlin

Batzner Pest Management Inc., New Berlin

CSE (Caliendo-Savio Enterprises Inc.), New Berlin

Process Displays Inc., New Berlin

Badger Color Concentrates, Mukwonago

Wheel & Sprocket, Hales Corners

InPro Corporation, Muskego

BuySeasons Inc., New Berlin

GMR Marketing LLC, New Berlin


Here is the entire list.

Honor and Remember

Veterans issues


Prior to being stationed in Iraq near the end of 2005, Army Corporal George Anthony (“Tony’) Lutz II of Virginia Beach and his unit from Fort Bragg, North Carolina were sent to New Orleans to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It didn’t take long for Lutz to become a hero.

Two elderly women had been trapped, stranded for two weeks, in a home rescuers had marked as empty. Unsatisfied, Lutz went inside anyway and discovered the women. Without any means to contact family, Lutz gave the women his satellite phone. Lutz stood by as one of the women was able to reach her family members that were all gathered together to plan her unnecessary funeral.

December 29, 2005, Lutz was in Fallujah, standing in a Humvee while his dismounted patrol was attacked by enemy forces using small arms fire. A sniper’s bullet missed Lutz’s protective armor and penetrated his heart. Lutz was just six weeks into his deployment, killed less than a month after he turned 25.  

Accolades quickly followed. The Raleigh News and Observer wrote, “Slain soldier always thought of others, Tony Lutz was 'proud to be a soldier’.” The Washington Post  described Lutz as, “Unafraid of mission…. known not only for his easygoing manner but also for his dedication and commitment to what mattered most to him -- family, church and country.” CBN News called Lutz, “A brave, fallen hero.”

National Public Radio (NPR) reported, “At one point, he (Lutz) did tell his father he wasn't afraid to die in Iraq because, if he did, he knew he would be with God.” Lutz’s wife, Tiffany told the Raleigh News and Observer, “He told me if this ever happened, that he was very proud to be a soldier, and he was proud to go and fight for his country, and that he was glad to go to Iraq.” Tiffany Lutz also told NPR, “I'm more afraid to die than he was. I just couldn't understand how he could feel that way, how he could be so brave and fearless. But he was.”

Lutz’s father, George Lutz is the founder of Honor and Remember Inc., an organization dedicated to promoting a new national symbol to pay tribute, just like Memorial Day, to all that died serving our country. The organization’s stated mission: “To establish a tangible national symbol of gratitude, as a visible public reminder to all Americans, that perpetually recognizes all military lives lost in defense of our national freedoms.” The chosen symbol is a special Honor and Remember Flag to be flown under the American flag.





Distinctive features of the Honor and Remember flag include the following:


A Red Field represents the blood spilled by our courageous military.

A Blue Star represents service through all generations from the American Revolution to the present.

A White Border surrounding a gold star recognizes the purity of sacrifice.

A Gold Star represents the ultimate sacrifice of a soldier. Gold reflects the value of the life that was given.

The Folded Flag represents the final tribute to an individual life that a family sacrificed and gave to the nation.

The Flame is a permanent reminder of the sprit that has departed this life yet burns on in the memories of the loved ones left behind.


3' x 5' Screen Printed Flag - Click Image to Close


To build support for The Honor and Remember Flag, Lutz will soon kickoff a 23-week public awareness campaign visiting all 50 state capitals in all 50 states.  The tour begins June 5, 2010, concluding on Veterans Day, November 11, 2010 at Arlington National Cemetery. A stop in Madison is scheduled July 20, 2010. Throughout Lutz’s journey, he will seek support for U.S. House of Representatives bill HR 1034 that authorizes the Honor and Remember Flag to be made a national symbol.

"America needs a tangible symbol that specifically honors the sacrifice of men and women in the United States Armed Forces who have given their lives for their country," said George Lutz.  "The Honor and Remember Flag was created to fly at federal, state and municipal buildings, schools, businesses and homes as a continuous reminder of the price our nation has paid over two centuries for the freedoms we cherish as Americans."


The Honor and Remember Flag has been endorsed by the American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., The Gold Star Wives of America, The Blue Star Mothers, the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Fleet Reserve Association, the Military Officers Association of America, the Associations of the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force, and many other organizations.

UPDATE: You can purchase Honor and Remember flags and other items here.

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