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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.

Plan94 is now on Facebook and Twitter

News you can use


I received the following road construction information from the state Department of Transportation:

“As the summer construction season heats up, you can now get the latest project updates, closures and more from the I-94 N-S Freeway Project Team on both Facebook and Twitter.  Stay informed about the project through these new social media tools, as well as our project web site 

To view the Plan94 Facebook Page go here. 

To view the Plan94 Twitter Page go here. 

Visit this web site for additional information about the I-94 N-S Freeway Project.”

The Obama Tax Hike Exemption Card

Taxes, Economy


During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama said this at a stop in Dover, New Hampshire:

“I can make a firm pledge.  Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase.  Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.” 

To inform taxpayers of the president’s broken promise, Americans for Tax Reform has produced a clever reminder:

Americans for Tax Reform presents the ‘Obama Tax Hike Exemption Card’. The card fits neatly in your wallet and contains a list of the tax hikes signed into law by President Obama that violate his tax pledge, as well as a few other taxes that have been threatened: a European-style Value-Added Tax, Cap and Trade taxes, and even a federal soda tax.”

Read more here.

"...Boulder, ... the number of dispensaries [marijuana shops]... is larger than the number of Starbucks and liquor stores combined"

Legislation


Since Colorado legalized medical marijuana, the New York Times reports, “Hundreds of dispensaries popped up and a startling number of residents turned out to be in ‘severe pain,’ the most popular of eight conditions that can be treated legally with the once-demonized weed. More than 80,000 people here now have medical marijuana certificates, which are essentially
prescriptions, and for months new enrollees have signed up at a rate of roughly 1,000 a day.”

At dispensaries, so-called budtenders sell marijuana out of glass cases with names like Jack the Ripper and Blue Skunk, so powerful that one seller states matter of factly, “it goes right to your brain.”

You can buy all sorts of pot. There are pot cookies, pot fudge, pot butter, pot candy bars, pot muffins, pot coffee and pot ice cream.

One dispensary is operated by a self-proclaimed ““three-time convicted felon for possession of marijuana with intent to sell.”

Getting medical marijuana is easy. Just claim you’re suffering from insomnia or menstrual cramps. An exam takes about 3-5 minutes.

The New York Times interviewed Dr. James Boland.  Dr. Boland has an office just outside Boulder:

“In one year alone, working just three days a week at Relaxed Clarity, he’s seen 7,000 patients, each paying an average of $150 for a visit. He takes out a calculator and does some quick arithmetic. That’s more than $1 million, grossed in 12 months.

‘There’s no waiting for an insurance company to pay you a fraction of what you billed,’ Dr. Boland says. ‘It’s just boom, you know, cash on the spot. So you can make a significant amount of money doing this’.”

With business so easy and lucrative, let’s be realistic. How many patients is Dr. Boland going to turn away?

Medical marijuana has turned into a bureaucratic nightmare. Because Colorado is the first state to attempt to fully regulate its for-profit marijuana trade, the state’s Department of Revenue has been working for several months on new rules and regulations.

Read more in the New York Times. 

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Wisconsin? I don’t think so. 

Read more

DOJ issues details about smoking ban

Legislation, News you can use


Wisconsin
’s statewide smoking ban takes effect this Monday, July 5, 2010. The Wisconsin Department of Justice has released a memo summarizing the ban requirements. The memo also explains enforcement.

You can see the memo here.

A reminder if you're camping this weekend

News you can use


Leave the fireworks at home. Fireworks are illegal in state parks and forests.

Read more from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Boaters need to be aware of new invasive species law


The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has produced special videos instructing boaters how to avoid spreading invasive species and diseases.

You can see them here.

Whether it's a hotdog, brat, or a steak, be careful

News you can use


You may not believe it, however more than 18,000 Americans, mostly men were injured during 2009 while grilling.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection offers some safe outdoor barbecuing guidelines.

When Emerald Ash Borer pops up, so do the scammers

News you can use


It’s been confirmed by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Emerald Ash Borer has turned up in Cudahy. DATCP  reports:

“A single emerald ash borer (EAB) adult beetle was discovered in the City of Cudahy on June 30, 2010. The beetle was discovered during a routine check of an EAB survey trap near the intersection of E. Grange Ave. and Disch Ave. Positive identification was made by an entomologist with the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in Madison. The trap is approximately five miles northeast of EAB infested trees identified in Oak Creek in January, 2010.”

During the summer of 2009, EAB was discovered in Franklin.
.

Property owners need to beware businesses that may try to con them into expensive treatments or unnecessary tree removal. Read more here.

Parades etc.


I look forward to participate in the following 4th of July activities in Senate District 28:

July 3: 6:00 PM
Pie judging in New Berlin.

July 3: Following pie judging, volunteering in the Lioness food booth at New Berlin's Malone Park festivities

July 4: 10:15  Reading the Declaration of Independence at the Greendale Village Hall

11:00: Franklin parade

1:00: New Berlin parade

4:00: Hales Corners parade

See you at the festivities!

The great USA is resilient!


The United States of America remains, by far, the single greatest country on earth. I say that with faith and a strong confidence that we will emerge tall and proud from the problems plaguing our nation.

As America prepares to commemorate another Independence Day, the country undeniably has witnessed better days. Our economy is in a shambles. High unemployment has brought on desperation. Politically, the populace is polarized. Less than thirty percent of Americans surveyed by Rasmussen believe the country is headed in the right direction. In a column headlined, Greatness Slips Away, the New York Times’ Bob Herbert wrote, “We no longer rise to the great challenges before us. We can’t seem to do much of anything.” Renowned columnist Thomas Sowell is even harsher, asserting, “American democracy is being dismantled, piece by piece, before our very eyes.”

I repeat: The United States of America remains, by far, the single greatest country on earth, especially now because one of our national strengths is an uncanny, unmatched ability to adjust and recover. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, despite the permeating gloom and doom.

A 2008 Rand Corporation study concluded that the United States accounts for 40 percent of the world’s spending on scientific research and development, employs 70 percent of the world’s Nobel Prize winners and is home to three-quarters of the world’s top 40 universities. The average American worker is nearly 10 times more productive than the average Chinese worker. So much for the assumption that we have lost our global competitive edge. Rand emphasizes clearly that the United States continues its reign as the science and technology leader in the world.

During a languishing economy, it is a testament to a nation that collectively empathizes with its unemployed, yet can take some comfort that all is not lost. Economist Stephen Rose writes in his new book, Rebound: Why America Will Emerge Stronger From the Financial Crisis, “the number of Americans earning between $35,000 and $70,000 declined by 12 percent between 1980 and 2008. But that’s largely because the number earning over $105,000 increased by 14 percent. Over the past 10 years, 60 percent of American adults made more than $100,000 in at least one or two of those years, and 40 percent had incomes that high for at least three.”

According to Rose’s research, over half of American households do not have credit card debt after paying their monthly bill, between 62 and 68 percent of Americans say they live better than their parents, shrinking manufacturing jobs are being replaced by managerial and skilled professional jobs, and the rise in the proportion of high-wage high-skilled jobs is directly due to dramatic improvement in average education levels with today, only 10 percent of workers lack a high school diploma, 60 percent have some postsecondary education, and 30 percent have at least a four year college degree.

Scholarly author Dinesh D'Souza writes, “We live in a country where construction workers regularly pay $4 for a nonfat latte, where maids drive rather nice cars, where plumbers and postal workers take their families on vacation in Europe or the Caribbean. “ D’Souza adds, “The United States is a country where the poor live comparatively well.”

D’Souza’s claim is verified by a Heritage Foundation study that utilized Census Bureau data authored by Robert Rector that reads, in part:

“Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family's essential needs. While this individual's life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty.”

Economic conditions, while still troubling, are such for most Americans that they will be poised and in fairly decent shape while economic recovery hits full swing.

Let’s not forget other key factors working decidedly in America’s favor.

The US economy is the most vibrant. Our workforce is ready, willing, and able to fill and succeed in future job opportunities. We are the envy of the world for our innovation and ingenuity. The value of our goods and services remains high. Educational institutions are second to none.

The road to recovery will be slow and arduous. However, it’s a path we have been down before. We are veterans at rebuilding after a calamity. Remember 9-11, Katrina, the dotcom debacle, the Mexican peso crisis, the Asian financial crisis, previous recessions, the Great Depression?

We are well aware of the numerous national problems that abound. Come Independence Day, we set them aside to reflect, not on our shortcomings. We celebrate a rich and glorious history, marked by a national tenacity and perseverance that will carry us through to even brighter American chapters.

God bless the United States of America!

Another victory for photo ID

Photo ID


Great news from the Hoosier State. One of the country’s strictest photo ID laws was upheld by the Indiana Supreme Court. The state’s photo ID law was also upheld tow years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Indianapolis Star reports:

“In a 4-1 decision Wednesday, the Indiana Supreme Court found the requirement of a government-issued photo ID for in-person voters valid under the state constitution. Under the decision, any new cases brought against the law would have to be based on the experiences of rejected voters, instead of a broad challenge of the kind that has failed at both the state and U.S. supreme courts.”

Indiana has always been at the forefront of the photo ID issue.
The Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University released a study during January 2008 providing more evidence that photo IDs are not obstacles to voting.

A random sample of registered voters in Indiana, Mississippi and Maryland found that only 1.2 percent of registered voters lack a government-issued photo ID.

More than two-thirds of all registered voters in the three states believe the electoral system would be trusted more if people had to show an ID to vote.

The study also demonstrates that a very small percentage of registered voters will be adversely affected by a photo ID requirement.

Nearly a quarter of the registered voters in the three states lack confidence that their votes will be counted accurately, and an even greater number perceive that fraud is more widespread than experts believe.

Other key findings:

The issue of showing a photo ID as a requirement of voting does not appear to be a serious concern in the three surveyed states.

Almost all registered voters have an acceptable form of photo ID available (e.g., driver’s license, passport, military ID or some combination of these documents).

About 1.2 percent of registered voters do not have a photo ID, but half of those have documents proving citizenship, and most of the states have provisional or absentee ballots or other exceptions that could permit people to vote.

Registered voters without photo IDs tended to be female, African-American, and Democrat. However, that number of registered voters in the survey was too small (24 of 2,000) to draw definitive conclusions about this group.

A much larger problem among poor and minorities is not registered voters without IDs, but those who are not registered.

More than 97 percent of all registered voters in the three states surveyed could produce proof of citizenship, either a birth certificate, a passport, or naturalization papers.

Nearly one-fifth of registered voters saw or heard of fraud at their own polling place, and an even larger number, 64 percent of all respondents - reported hearing of fraud elsewhere.

Nearly all, 96 percent of voters in this study said showing a photo ID would not make them less likely to vote.

Opposition to voter IDs has come largely from those who fear that this requirement will disenfranchise voters who do not have IDs or would find it difficult to acquire them. But they were unable to locate a single individual in Indiana who was prevented from casting a ballot because they lacked an ID.

Here is the full report
, Voter IDs Are Not the Problem: A Survey of Three States.


Also during 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s strict photo ID law. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his opinion that the state of Indiana had legitimate interests in its photo ID law, including, “protecting the integrity and reliabil­ity of the electoral process, deterring and detecting voter fraud,” and safeguarding voter confidence.

A photo ID requirement returns confidence to our system that has been rocked by voter fraud. It ensures that every voter casting a legal ballot is not disenfranchised by a fraudulently cast ballot. Voters across Wisconsin from both parties are clamoring for this common sense public policy.

Should the political landscape in Madison change following the November 2010 elections, photo ID will be a top legislative priority during the 2011-12 legislative session. I have always sponsored photo ID legislation and will do so again to help prevent voter fraud in Wisconsin.

Read more

UPDATE: Tanning salons victims of ObamaCare

Government health care, Taxes




Last month I blogged about the new tanning salon tax that is part of ObamaCare.


Several news outlets are now reporting on the inconsistent, arbitrary tax, including the prestigious Wall Street Journal:

When Jeanne Chamberlain turns up at work,  she's going to have to grapple with America's first federal tax on tanning services, a 10% levy designed to help pay for Congress's health-care overhaul.

Ms. Chamberlain runs a video-rental store.

These would normally be unrelated facts, but 20 years ago, Ms. Chamberlain followed a number of her peers in adding tanning services to smooth out the bumps in her Rice Lake, Wis., business. Today, she wants to offer one free tan for every three rentals. Should that freebie be taxed? Ms. Chamberlain doesn't know, and even if she did, she doesn't yet have the software in place to help with the calculations.

It's a universal truth in Washington: There's no such thing as a simple tax. Free tans at video-rental stores might be taxable, but tanning services offered by health clubs mostly aren't, thanks to a late exemption. Ultraviolet tans are taxed. Spray tans aren't. Tanning salons are fretting over how to calculate unlimited memberships that combine taxed and non-taxed tans.”

The newspaper reports Senate Democrats originally wanted to tax cosmetic surgery to help pay for government health care, however, under pressure AMA, dumped that plan. Indoor tanning salons got burned, instead, to the tune of $2.7 billion over the next decade.

Read more in the Wall Street Journal.

New name for America's Junior Miss


America
’s Junior Miss has changed its name to Distinguished Young Women. I invite you to check out the Distinguished Young Women of Wisconsin Facebook page here.

Some want to strip your opportunity to vote

They are quite predictable come election time. Editorial writers around Wisconsin preach the importance of a high voter turnout and urge voters to head to the polls to exercise their civic duty. Ironically, some of these same editorial writers are now advocating stripping away one of your voting rights.

The state Supreme Court deadlocked in a decision to seek a Wisconsin Judicial Commission review of Justice Michael Gableman about an ad broadcast during his campaign. Both the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Beloit Daily News have overreacted, calling for the appointment of state Supreme Court justices that would replace the current system of a public vote. The Beloit Daily News writes that because so few voters cast ballots during state Supreme Court elections, the argument to preserve the public vote is, using the newspaper’s word, “lame.”

I vehemently disagree. Here is an excerpt from a column I wrote during December 2009:

“Government should run plentiful honest elections, and do whatever is necessary to assure the public that their elections are clean and fair. Clean and fair elections mean the old adage of one man, one vote. Clean and fair elections do not mean stifling free speech. Clean and fair elections do not mean this game of government creating rules it believes control the fairness.

The more people are involved in their government, the better decision making the people will get from the government. That can not happen with people's voting privileges stripped away.

Assuredly the controversy surrounding the Wisconsin Supreme Court is causing people to sit up and pay attention. Would it be better that the high court be one big happy family we hear nothing about? Would it be better that the justices are all of one stripe and are mired in groupthink?

The controversy forces the justices to toil with difficult thought and present the public with their judicial philosophy, and the media then has something to stir up into controversy.

I say let the people vote. Do not eliminate that right. Let the noisy elections and public vetting be thorough and plentiful!”

You can read the entire column here. 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, “The Legislature should explore appointed justices.”  The idea smacks of arrogance, that somehow a board or commission knows better than the 830,450 voters that cast ballots during the April 2008 state Supreme Court election. I  do not support taking away your right to vote for state Supreme Court justices.

 

You'd be surprised what requires a photo ID

Photo ID


Recently
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial writer and columnist James E. Causey went homeless for 72 hours, and then wrote about his experiences in the newspaper’s Sunday Crossroads section:

“I slept on a park bench. I slept on church steps. I slept in my car and at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. I ate at free meal sites. I panhandled for nearly three hours, collecting just enough change to buy a flatbread sandwich from Dunkin' Donuts.”

In a letter to the Journal Sentinel, Amy Geiger-Hemmer of Hartland pointed out a revealing excerpt from Causey’s column:

VOTER ID

No defense for Democrats' belief

Read more

Congratulations, girls!

Good news from Senate District 28


Here are All-Conference members of girls high school soccer teams from schools located in Senate District 28. Congratulations, one and all!



SOUTHERN LAKES

First team

Read more

Disabling Driver Distractions

Legislation


If you’re driving while reading this, please stop and pay close attention to the road.

The 2009 Traffic Safety Culture Survey sponsored by the AAA Foundation found that 40 percent of drivers younger than 35 and about one out of five drivers of all ages said they were texting while driving during the previous month.

Beginning December 1, 2010, texting while driving will be prohibited in Wisconsin. Violators could be fined not less than $20 or more than $400. Exempt will be operators of authorized emergency vehicles, emergency transmissions, and licensed amateur radio operators. The use of cell phones while driving will still be allowed.

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report, “Curbing Distracted Driving: 2010 Survey of State Safety Programs” says, “There have been concerns about distracted driving since windshield wipers were introduced in cars in the early 1900s. Opponents believed that the rhythmic movement might hypnotize the driver.” Contemporary causes of distracted driving mentioned by police on crash reports cited by the GHSA include: Cell phone use, children, eating, drinking, smoking, animals, reading, personal hygiene, visual obscurement, operation of electronic equipment, object or person outside the vehicle, sun in eyes, insect, livestock, animals outside the vehicle, navigation device, and Palm Pilot.

Wisconsin’s texting ban is part of a nationwide trend with states enacting new laws to address distracted driving. The state of Louisiana could be upping the ante.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) has volunteered to participate in a one-month pilot study examining the effectiveness of Cell Control. The web site of the Baton Rouge-based company, Cell Control claims its product is able to “automatically stop distracted driving caused by cell phones, Laptops, hand helds and other mobile devices when car is accurately determined to be moving.”

Seven Cell Control devices donated by the manufacturer have been installed in the state automobiles of leadership of the Louisiana DOTD, connected to the on-board diagnostic ports under the dashboards. Incoming calls, emails and/or text messages are received and stored. However, the messages are inaccessible while the vehicle is in motion. Regular functions continue while the vehicle is stopped. Emergency 911 calls can always be made.

Today, the Louisiana DOTD. Tomorrow, your car?

Future models will be, to use the vernacular of car salesmen, loaded. A myriad of flashy new gadgetry in cars is on the horizon. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, Intel and Google exhibited the latest computers for cars featuring 10-inch screens capable of showing high-definition videos, road maps in 3-D and Internet pages. Other features include GPS and Wi Fi. Federal officials are not pleased with these built-in distractions.

On the heels of President Obama signing an Executive Order prohibiting federal employees from using government-issued Blackberries or phones while driving, US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood told the political web site, POLITICO in an interview he believes new technology stands in the way of the fight against distracted driving.

“I've been talking to the CEOs of auto manufacturers, and I'm going to continue to meet with them,” Secretary Lahood said. “I'm going to continue to talk to 'em. I believe all these are distractions--I really do--and I just think they need to realize when they promote these kind of activities, they're promoting activities for people to be distracted while they're driving.”

Would the federal government mandate automobile equipment that could and could not be allowed? Is a device like Cell Control going to become standard?

Washington D.C. would never exert its authority over a private enterprise like the automobile industry, would it?

Wisconsin budget problems keep getting worse

State budget

More stunning news from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) about the state of our economy.  I received an LFB memo today about the condition of the state’s general fund for the 2009-11 and 2011-13 biennia. The general fund is the amount of income tax, sales tax, and corporate tax revenue the state receives.

The LFB grimly notes that the structural deficit for the 2011-13 biennium will be $2.511 billion. The structural deficit is the gap between the state’s ongoing spending commitments and its projected income. The LFB memo includes, “For 2011-12, the general fund would need to generate $1,232 million in order to meet current commitments, maintain the required statutory balance, and balance the budget for that year. In 2012-13, $1,279 million would need to be realized. “

The total structural deficit for the next biennium would be $2.511 billion.

The memo also indicates the state has a gross balance for 2010-11 of $45 million. However, the required statutory balance of $65 million makes the net balance as of June 30, 2010 to be a negative $20 million.

The LFB uses the word, “commitments.” I have written that through irresponsible budgeting the state has made too many promises in the form of too many social programs that it cannot afford.

Read more

REMINDER: Have a special veteran in mind?


The Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs wants nominations for its Veteran Lifetime Achievement Award. The award will be presented at a meeting August 20, 2010 in Port Washington.

Nominations are open for “living Wisconsin veterans who are state residents and who have compiled a record of exemplary service as a military service member, a veteran, and as a citizen during the veteran’s lifetime.” Nominations to the Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs must be postmarked no later than July 15, 2010.

Here are details from the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.

Highest Property Taxes since 1996 - Property Taxes Grow Nearly Five Percent

Taxes

According to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, property taxes are taking more from Wisconsin paychecks this year than they have since 1996:

 "Property taxes claimed 4.5% of personal income, the highest statewide share since 1996 (4.7%)." 

That follows a property tax increase of nearly 5% over 2009:

"Net property taxes totalled [sic] $9.4 billion in 2010, up 4.9% from the prior year, according to newly available state figures… These are key findings from two new reports from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX), one examining municipal-only taxes and one recapping total all-purpose levies." 

The real scandal isn’t that property taxes increased a lot. It is that increases of this size are normal.   According to WISTAX, “the 2010 increase matched or exceeded six of the previous 10 years.” Property taxes increased even faster during 2002 and 2008 than they did during 2010.

The real problem is that a 4.9% increase in property taxes is a norm, and is in line with the past ten years.

Taxes are increasing faster than inflation, far faster than personal income, while unemployment is over nine percent and wages are stagnant. And in Wisconsin, that is normal. 

It is no wonder Wisconsin is known as a tax hell. 

Audit Committee Fiddles

Audits

The Legislative Audit Committee today approved three new audits, putting off indefinitely the day taxpayers will get a real look inside the $6 billion MA/BadgerCare program.

“The committee chose busywork today over substance,” Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) said. “These audits might be worthwhile viewed on an island, but compared to the need for a full audit of MA and BadgerCare, they are simply busywork.”

Read more

Transportation Fund Raids: Yes or No?

State budget


Waukesha
County
voters will answer an advisory referendum November 2, 2010, about raids from the state transportation fund. Approved unanimously by the Waukesha Board, the advisory referendum will read, “Should the Wisconsin Constitution be amended to prohibit any further transfers or lapses from the segregated transportation fund?"

Ultimately, a better referendum would be in the form of a statewide constitutional amendment. To get there, the proposed amendment must pass two consecutive sessions of the legislature and then be approved by voters statewide. Meanwhile, I support the Waukesha County ballot measure and encourage other counties to place similar questions before voters this November. Eight other counties, including Adams, Grant, St. Croix, Lincoln, Pepin, Marathon, Jackson, and Vilas, have also scheduled votes on the question this November.  As a Waukesha County resident, I will be voting yes on the advisory referendum.

Amending the state constitution to halt transportation fund raids has the support of the Transportation Development Association, the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association and the Wisconsin County Highways Association. Not surprisingly, WHBL Radio in Sheboygan reports Governor Jim Doyle opposes this strategy. The governor has become the king of raiding the transportation fund.

During three consecutive biennial state budgets, Governor Doyle raided the state’s transportation fund. Here is the history, provided by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) in an informational paper published during January 2009:

“The 2003-05 budget act used a combination of direct appropriations from the transportation fund for general fund programs (shared revenue and K-12 education aids) and a transfer of revenues from the transportation fund to the general fund, for a total of $675.0 million.”

First raid = $675 million.

Back to the LFB:

“The 2005-07 biennial budget act made a transfer of $427.0 million from the transportation fund to the general fund, but did not make any direct appropriations from the transportation fund to general fund programs.”

Second raid = $427 million.

Again, from the LFB:

“The 2007-09 budget act (Act 20) and the 2008-09 budget adjustment act (Act 226) together resulted in a transfer of $155 million from the transportation fund to the general fund. “

Third raid = $155 million.

The six-year total of transfers and appropriations from the transportation fund = $1.257 billion.

The LFB reports the use of replacement bonds offset the transfers ($865.5 million), however the debt service paid from the transportation fund during the 2003-05 biennium ($43.9 million) adds to the loss.

The LFB concludes, “Therefore, the total loss to the transportation fund over the six years equals $435.4 million.”

That’s $435.4 million unavailable for the use it was intended: road projects statewide.

Governor Doyle makes it quite clear he continues to support raiding the transportation fund for non-transportation purposes. WHBL radio reports, “Doyle says the result of a ban could mean deep cuts for education in the state. He says ending budget transfers from the Transportation Department will tie future governors and legislatures and they’ll find themselves asking why they’re cutting schools ‘when transportation is going up 10-12-percent’?”

There are flaws in Governor Doyle’s position. Using the transportation fund to bail out the state’s dubious budget process amounts to accounting mischief that needs to stop. Cutting schools? The state has historically increased school funding.  Why must Governor Doyle play the either-or game, rationalizing raids from the transportation fund as a necessary trade-off to support education?

Taxpayers need to be confident that tax dollars targeted to transportation are, indeed, spent on transportation. Transportation funding should not be shuffled to prop up a special interest, thus putting planned transportation projects in jeopardy. The ongoing I-94 work from Milwaukee to the WI-Illinois state line and the rebuilding of the Zoo Interchange set to begin during 2016 are critical projects that must have a reliable funding source, secure from future budget tricks.

"Should the Wisconsin Constitution be amended to prohibit any further transfers or lapses from the segregated transportation fund?"  Yes, Yes, Yes.

Raids from all other funds, and there have been a lot the last few years, should all be prohibited!

Congratulations, Jacob Smith!

Eagle Scouts

Jacob Smith's Eagle Scout ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, July 17, 2010. 

Here is the citation for Jacob Smith:

Read more

Congratulations, Marie Moody!

Good news from Senate District 28



Marie Moody, the founder of Stella & Chewy’s, a raw pet food company based at Muskego is named by the Milwaukee Business Journal as one of the Women of Influence 2010.

Congratulations!

Audit: Use Value Assessment of Agricultural Land

Audits


The Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) has finished a limited review of the use value assessment of agricultural land. Wisconsin’s use value law was adopted as part of the 1995-97 state budget. In its letter report about Use Value Assessment of Agricultural Land, the LAB writes:

“Under Wisconsin’s use value law property taxes on agricultural land are assessed based on the land’s ability to produce farm income. Before the use value law was enacted, agricultural land was assessed according to its full market value, which is the estimated sales price. Taxes on most other real and personal property continue to be assessed at full market value. By reducing assessments on agricultural land, the use value law was intended both to improve Wisconsin’s farm economy by providing property tax relief for farmers and to reduce urban sprawl.

To qualify for use value assessment, land must be devoted primarily to agricultural use. All property that meets this definition qualifies, regardless of the owner’s occupation or the purpose for which the land is zoned.”

The LAB review was spurred by recent news accounts that claimed loopholes in the law were allowing non-farmers to benefit inappropriately from owning land that continues to qualify for use value assessment because of temporary cropping, despite being zoned for residential, commercial, or industrial purposes. Concerns have been raised that the perceived loopholes defeat the law’s purpose of preserving farmland. Another concern is that the use value assessment of this land diverts the property tax burden from real estate developers to other taxpayers.

As part of its probe, the LAB analyzed agricultural land classification and assessments in 14 municipalities statewide.  The LAB’s findings:

 

  • All agricultural land reviewed met the criteria for agricultural use established in Wisconsin Administrative Code.
  • However, more than 6,300 agricultural acres in the 14 municipalities were zoned for non-agricultural purposes.
  • More than 3,800 agricultural acres were owned by real estate or property development businesses that might demonstrate a greater likelihood for the land to eventually be sold or developed.
  • Following collaboration with assessors in each of the 14 municipalities to estimate the effect of use value assessment on property taxes within their municipalities, the LAB uncovered that “If those communities had assessed agricultural land that is zoned for another purpose at market value in 2009, the owners of the land would have owed a total of $4.7 million in additional property taxes, and the tax liability of other property owners in those municipalities would have been reduced by the same amount. On an individual basis, taxes on agricultural land that is zoned for another purpose would have increased by an average of $3,516, while taxes on all other parcels would have decreased, on average, by $38.”
  • Recently, the Legislature enacted the Working Lands Initiative to promote local farmland planning.

Read more

Congratulations, Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy!


Wisconsin
’s top military officer, Adjutant General Don Dunbar of New Berlin is praising The Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy. The program, designed to assist and motivate at-risk teenagers was judged the best program of its kind in the nation during a National Challenge workshop in San Diego last month.

I join Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar in extending my heartfelt congratulations to The Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy for this prestigious national honor.

Read more details here.

State Supreme Court rules raid on Patients Compensation Fund unconstitutional

State budget


The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that the transfer of $200 million from the Patients Compensation Fund (PCF) to the state’s general fund during the 2007-09 state budget process is unconstitutional. The court’s decision came on a 5-2 ruling.

According to the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, “The Fund was created by statute in 1975 to provide excess medical malpractice coverage for Wisconsin health care providers. Health care providers obtain primary medical malpractice insurance from private insurance companies in an amount required by statute.  As of July 1, 1997, that amount is $1,000,000 per occurrence, and $3,000,000 annual aggregate. Coverage in excess of the primary insurance is provided by the Fund. The Fund operates on a fiscal year basis--July 1 through June 30. Administrative costs, operating costs, and claim payments are funded through assessments on participating health care providers.”


The Wheeler Report writes:

“In the majority opinion by Justice Prosser, the court concluded:

  • Health care providers have a constitutionally protected property interest in the fund.
  • From their equitable title in the Fund, the health care providers have at least three corresponding rights:
    • The right to the security and integrity of the entire Fund.
    • The right to realize the Fund’s investment earnings to moderate, perhaps even lower, their assessments.
    • Health care providers and the proper claimants have the right to have excess judgments paid to the proper claimants. Any transfer of money from the fund for an improper purpose infringes upon these rights."

 Justice Prosser also writes in the majority opinion:

“We conclude that § 9225 of 2007 Wis. Act 20 is unconstitutional because it authorizes an unconstitutional taking of private property without just compensation. Accordingly, we reverse the circuit court's order granting summary judgment and dismissing the Medical Society's suit. We remand with directions that the circuit court issue (1) an order requiring Secretary Morgan to replace the money removed from the Fund, together with lost earnings and interest that has been charged to the Fund; and (2) a permanent injunction prohibiting Secretary Morgan from transferring money out of the Fund.”

Read more

Americans unimpressed with the stimulus

Economy


As President Obama and some members of Congress consider another federal stimulus package,  only a quarter of Americans think the stimulus created jobs, according to a Rasmussen Reports survey. Only 29 percent think the federal stimulus gave the economy a lift; 43 percent think the stimulus had a negative impact.

Here is a survey result that stands out. By a huge 69 -15 percent margin, Americans support tax cuts as a preferred method to create jobs instead of more government spending. Two-thirds believe decisions made by the private sector will do more to create jobs than decisions made by government.

Here are more survey details.

Supporting the National Day of Prayer


I commend
Wisconsin Family Action (WFA) for filing an appellate court brief supporting the National Day of Prayer, an annual event established by Congress and signed into law by President Harry Truman during 1952. The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has sued in an attempt to end the National Day of Prayer. During April 2010, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb decided in favor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ruling that a National Day of Prayer violates the establishment clause of the Constitution's First Amendment.

In a news release, Julaine Appling, President of Wisconsin Family Action says, “Every citizen should be concerned about this outrageous attempt to silence religious expression, rewrite our Christian heritage and undermine a centuries-old tradition of presidential proclamations of prayer. Freedom From Religion Foundation has used their bully techniques to try to end the use of invocations at Wisconsin city councils and the State Assembly for years and now they’re going after one of the most treasured traditions we have – a national call to prayer.”

I concur with WFA and support the brief it has filed. You can read the WFA news release here.

Crimes in Wisconsin 2009


Using data from approximately 400 law enforcement agencies, the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance (OJA) has published reports that show the number of crimes reported and arrests made during 2009 declined in Wisconsin. Here are some of the key findings:

 

  • Between 2008 and 2009, the violent crime rate declined by six percent.
  • The property crime rate declined by five percent.
  • Among violent crimes, Aggravated Assault accounted for 58 percent, Robbery, 33 percent, Forcible Rape, 8 percent, and Murder, one percent.
  • Aggravated Assault had the biggest change, a seven percent decline.
  • The crime rates for Forcible Rape and Robbery also declined.
  • Among property crimes, Theft accounted for 75 percent, Burglary, 18 percent, Motor Vehicle Theft, six percent and Arson, one percent.
  • Motor Vehicle Theft had the biggest change, a 23 percent decline.
  • During 2009, the number of persons murdered in Wisconsin declined by one percent.
  • The murder rate in 2009 was 2.6 per 100,000 Wisconsin residents.
  • Firearms were used in 65 percent of murders.
  • Eightyeight percent of murders were cleared by arrest during 2009, up four percent from 2008.
  • During 2009, the number of forcible rapes crimes reported to law enforcement agencies declined by one percent.
  • Personal weapons, such as hands, fists, and feet, were used in 72 percent of forcible rape offenses.
  • During 2009, the number of robberies reported in Wisconsin declined by five percent.
  • Collectively, robberies cost Wisconsin victims nearly $4 million (average loss per robbery was $883).
  • The total value of stolen motor vehicles during 2009 was over $82 million.

Read more

Thank you, Sportsman Channel!

Good news from Senate District 28


Sportsman Channel, headquartered in New Berlin, fed over 400 people this week at St. Benedict’s in Milwaukee. The organization takes a different approach to feeding the homeless through its Hunt, Fish, Feed campaign. Tuesday night, Sportsman Channel served up venison, corn on the cob, and watermelon, a welcome alternative to the typical canned food options.

Sportsman Channel launched a multi-city Hunt, Fish, Feed tour during January 2010 that is traveling to 10 U.S. cities to feed the hungry and homeless.

Thank you, Sportsman Channel for your humanitarian effort!

WISN-TV has more on the campaign’s Milwaukee stop in this story and video.

Newflash: ObamaCare IS a tax

Government health care


"I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes."

Then-presidential candidate Barack Obama made those remarks campaigning at Dover, New Hampshire September 12, 2008.  

The left-leaning New York Times reports the president’s own Justice Department is qualifying federal government health care as a tax. The White House is even defending an “alternative taxing authority.”

The admission by the White House, in effect, is a self-repudiation of blatant claims made by President Obama that his health care proposal was not a tax. The Heritage Foundation has the entire background.  

Tax collections for June 2010

Taxes, Economy


The Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) has released general purpose revenue collections (state income, sales, excise, and corporate taxes) from June of fiscal year 2010. Compared to June of fiscal year 2009, collections during June fiscal year 2010 show the following:

Income tax collections are up 4.5 percent.

Sales tax collections are up 2.3 percent.

Corporate tax collections are down 8.2 percent.

Excise tax collections (cigarette, tobacco products) are up 18.7 percent.  Wisconsin now has one of the highest cigarette taxes in the nation.

General Purpose revenue collections are up 3.9 percent.

Collections to date show the following when fiscal year 2010 is compared to fiscal year 2009:

Income tax collections during fiscal year 2010 are down 2.2 percent compared to the year before.

Sales tax collections during fiscal year 2010 are down 3.9 percent compared to the year before.

Corporate tax collections during fiscal year 2010 are up 26.9 percent compared to the year before.

Excise tax collections during fiscal year 2010 are up 17. 2 percent compared to the year before.

The bottom line:  Total General Purpose Revenue collections are flat so far during fiscal year 2010, having increased 0.0 percent compared to the year before.

Here are the numbers. 

The economic recovery has yet to arrive. This is not a good time to go on a tax and spending spree.

Municipal spending continues to increase in Wisconsin


Municipal spending in Wisconsin has increased by an annual average of 3.7 percent during the five-year period ending during 2008, according to the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). WISTAX examined spending in the 237 largest municipalities in Wisconsin.

Police protection accounts for the largest municipal expenditure, more than a quarter of all expenses. Spending on street repairs is the fastest growing municipal expenditure.

Residents in municipalities with population over 2,000 paid an average of $849 per person on municipal expenses during 2008. Statewide, the average spent per person on police protection was $221 per person and the average spent per person on street maintenance was $122.

Increasing operating expenses have been funded primarily by local property taxes. WISTAX reports, “Between 2006 and 2010, property taxes in municipalities studied rose an average of 3.8 percent per year, from $1.27 billion to $1.48 billion. Property tax rates rose in nearly 83 percent of the communities studied (during 2009), up from about 62 percent the prior year (2008).”

Debt is also increasing throughout Wisconsin municipalities. WISTAX reports, “During 2004-2008, municipalities increased long-term general obligation debt 15.7 percent (an average of 3.7 percent per year), from $3.6 billion to $4.1 billion. The increase reflects a general trend toward greater debt accumulation among Wisconsin’s largest cities and villages.”

Read more from WISTAX.

Operation Deer Watch to launch soon


A new state online program beginning August 1, 2010 will track Wisconsin’s deer population. Operation Deer Watch will allow state residents to report all deer they witness between August 1, 2001 and September 30, 2010.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says all deer including bucks, does, and fawns will be part of the count that will be used to compute doe to fawn ratios.

To learn more about Operation Deer Watch, read this DNR news release.

Soaking the rich backfires

Economy


I quoted highly acclaimed economist Dr. Arthur B. Laffer in my May 23, 2009 blog, “Soaking the Rich.” 

Laffer put it succinctly:

“States cannot tax their way into prosperity.”

Laffer, president of Laffer Associates, and Stephen Moore, senior economics writer for the Wall Street Journal cited a number of states subscribing to the president’s budget philosophy of soaking the rich. They wrote in a Wall Street Journal column:

“Here's the problem for states that want to pry more money out of the wallets of rich people. It never works because people, investment capital and businesses are mobile: They can leave tax-unfriendly states and move to tax-friendly states. And the evidence that we discovered in our new study for the American Legislative Exchange Council, 'Rich States, Poor States,' published in March, shows that Americans are more sensitive to high taxes than ever before. Updating some research from Richard Vedder of Ohio University, we found that from 1998 to 2007, more than 1,100 people every day including Sundays and holidays moved from the nine highest income-tax states such as California, New Jersey, New York and Ohio and relocated mostly to the nine tax-haven states with no income tax, including Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and Texas. We also found that over these same years the no-income tax states created 89% more jobs and had 32% faster personal income growth than their high-tax counterparts. Dozens of academic studies -- old and new -- have found clear and irrefutable statistical evidence that high state and local taxes repel jobs and businesses.”

The wealthy move from higher-taxed states to lower-taxed states. There is another negative effect from the simplistic tactic of jacking up taxes for the wealthy. The New York Times reports those with higher incomes are spending less, having a detrimental impact on the economy.

Skittish about the stock market and the economy in Europe, the affluent have tightened their wallets. As a result, the reported recovery is running out of gas, prompting discussion about another federal stimulus.

The New York Times reports, “B
usinesses and economists want to see people of all incomes spending more, because the demand for goods and services would in turn encourage companies to hire workers. The American consumer accounts for an estimated 60 percent of the country’s economic activity. But the Top 5 percent in income earners — those households earning $210,000 or more — account for about one-third of consumer outlays, including spending on goods and services, interest payments on consumer debt and cash gifts, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by Moody’s Analytics. That means the purchasing decisions of the rich have an outsize effect on economic data. According to Gallup, spending by upper-income consumers — defined as those earning $90,000 or more — surged to an average of $145 a day in May, up 33 percent from a year earlier. Then in June, that daily average slid to $119.”

Suddenly, the sentiment that we have experienced the worst is gone. Economic anxiety is back.

An economist quoted by the New York Times credits the wealthy for carrying the economy on its collective back and preventing an even worse recession. While the less affluent stopped spending, in large part because of unemployment, wealthier Americans continued to exercise their spending power. The trend is dissipating as those with higher incomes are starting to pull back. America’s economic recovery is the loser.

The New York Times has more details.

Will a soda tax sweep the nation?

Taxes


Following approval of a soda tax in Washington State during April 2010, it appeared the new sin tax would sprout up in other states. Washington followed in the footsteps of Maine and Colorado that passed similar tax increases.

However, the pendulum is swinging. Taking full note, the beverage industry decided to fight back, and successfully killed soda tax proposals in Mississippi, New Mexico, and New York State.  The Washington State tax could be repealed with enough valid signatures turned in to force a November ballot initiative.

Stateline.org reports, “In every state where a soda-tax plan has been proposed, it’s been met with a heavily-funded campaign from the beverage lobby to oppose any type of increase. The tactics are unique to each state, but the message is usually the same: Don’t lay the blame for obesity solely on soda.”

Read more here.

Lawn mower safety is serious

News you can use


One year ago, two-year old Brandon Rudie of the Town of Dale in Outagamie County was critically injured as his father accidentally backed over him with a lawn tractor. After several surgeries, Brandon is making a remarkable recovery.

WFRV-TV has Brandon’s story:


Read more

How many daily e-mails before you get stressed?


As a state Senator, I represent about 160,000 constituents, and receive a lot of e-mails.

How much e-mail is too much? According to Harris Interactive, small business employees, a phenomenal  94 percent said 50 emails per day is the breaking point before work becomes stressful.

Joanne Cantor, director of the Center for Communication Research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and author of "Conquer CyberOverload,” says there are methods to avoiding e-mail anxiety. As reported by ABC News:

"Don't check your email all the time. Adjust your settings so that email messages only come through once every 30 minutes or every hour. She also suggested keeping your inbox to just 15 or 20 messages at a time. Sorting message into folders and using automatic filters can help prevent the massive shock that can come with seeing hundreds (or thousands) of unread emails at a time.”

Read more from ABC.

Town hall meetings Wednesday


I have scheduled a series of town hall meetings July 28, 2010.

Here are the details.

Korean War Armistice Day


Today,
Tuesday, July 27, 2001 is Korean War Armistice Day in Wisconsin. The state Legislature and Governor Doyle designated July 27 every year to commemorate the day that marked the end of the Korean War, often referred to as “The Forgotten War.”

Wisconsin Public Television in collaboration with the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs produced special videos about Korean War stories with Wisconsin angles. You can see the videos here.

FEMA reps to begin storm investigation Wednesday


FEMA (
Federal Emergency Management Agency) will have representatives in Milwaukee County beginning Wednesday morning to survey and assess damage from last week’s storms, according to information from Carl Stenbol, Emergency Management Bureau Administrator for the Milwaukee County Emergency Management Bureau.  The FEMA investigation should take 3-4 days.

Damage estimates for Milwaukee County compiled by the Bureau, thus far total $37.5 million.

Here are some of the damage figures for Milwaukee County communities in Senate District 28 given by Stenbol:

PRIVATE SECTOR DAMAGE


Greendale: 100 homes damaged, total of $400,000; 6 businesses damaged, total of $250,000

Greenfield: 18 homes damaged, $160,000

Hales Corners: 20 homes damaged, $50,000

Franklin: 1 home damaged, $25,000

The Franklin note is not a typo. Stenbol described Franklin’s damage as light calling Franklin the only community in Milwaukee County to be so fortunate.

PUBLIC SECTOR DAMAGE

Greendale: Road damage, $75,00; buildings, $15,00; utility, $10,00; Total $100,000

Greenfield: Debris removal, $15,000; police/ fire overtime, $6,600; road damage, $3,000; buildings, $25,000; total, $49,600

Hales Corners: Debris removal, $2,500; police/ fire overtime, $2,500; road damage, $1,000; water control (utility), $100,000; total, $106,000

Franklin: Debris removal, $9,719; water control (utility), $240; total, $9,959

Stenbol commends state emergency officials that have cooperated and worked well with Milwaukee County personnel.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) warns to be cautious about who you hire to work on repairs. Beware of “storm chasers." 

Big time irony out of Madison

Photo ID


Here is a very interesting story from the state’s capital city. See if you detect any irony.

The Wisconsin State Journal 
reports the Madison School District is going to require proof of age for certain new students wishing to enroll:

The Madison School District will ask for proof of age when registering students who live with people other than their parents or guardians or those who are 18 years or older and are enrolling themselves for school. The district disclosed the new procedure — which goes into effect next month for the 2010-11 school year — in a statement to the State Journal dated July 23 and received Monday. The announcement comes three months after the revelation that a 21-year-old gang member charged in a fatal April shooting had enrolled in Madison's West High School and later transferred to Middleton High School under a fake name and age.

Asking for proof of age will serve as a good ‘second-check’ on information that is provided with the student's standard registration forms and any information received from a former school,’ the district said in its statement to the newspaper.

Don Johnson, superintendent of the Middleton-Cross Plains School District, which also has reviewed its enrollment policy, said the district will be more aggressive in asking for proof of age from students who don't provide it during registration.

‘In every case, we'll make at least three attempts to get that birth certificate or proof of name or date of birth,’ Johnson said.”

I find it more than a bit strange that a school district can, without much fanfare, opposition, or controversy, quietly and quickly implement a policy requiring proof of age and promise to enforce it aggressively. However, the state cannot find its way to implement a common sense photo ID requirement for voting.

Historically, Democrat lawmakers in Wisconsin and other states have been the predominant roadblocks to photo ID, even though the concept enjoys wide bipartisan support.

Here are two examples of photo ID irony.

1) From a Florida Democrat website
:

“The Congressional district-level caucuses to select Florida's 121 district-level delegates and 25 district-level alternates will occur around the state on March 1, 2008.

In order to participate in the district-level caucus, one must establish that he or she is a registered Democratic voter in the Congressional district within which the caucus is taking place.  Voters must present a photo I.D. and if possible, a voter information card.”


2) The Las Vegas Review Journal ran an editorial about Nevada Democrat presidential caucuses during January 2008 that read, in part:

For decades, Democrats have stood against strengthening voter identification standards at polling sites. Modest identification reforms have been enacted in about half the states, with a handful of them requiring photo identification to prevent election fraud and uphold the integrity of balloting.

Although Americans need photo ID to write checks, use credit cards, board airplanes and even collect welfare benefits, Democrats have argued that lower-income and minority citizens are less likely to possess acceptable identification, and therefore more likely to be denied their right to vote.

But for Saturday's much-anticipated caucus, the state party is poised to demand that Strip workers -- many of them minority, low-income citizens -- furnish ID to participate in the ‘at-large’ sites set up near major hotels to accommodate them.”

I guess showing proof of age or a photo ID isn’t such a terrible burden after all.

Children lose under ObamaCare

Government health care


It's happening
.

Experts that examined and analyzed proposed federal government health care approved in Washington foresaw many negative ramifications.  Many critics maintain an intention of ObamaCare, an eventual single payer system, was that private insurance providers would simply get out of the game. The term often used to describe the exodus of private insurers resulting in fewer private options is crowd out.

It is starting to happen.

The Associated Press (AP) reports:

“Some major health insurance companies will no longer issue certain types of policies for children, an unintended consequence of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, state officials said.

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said several big insurers in his state will stop issuing new policies that cover children individually. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland said a couple of local insurers in her state are doing likewise.

Insurers are not canceling children's coverage already issued, but refusing to write new policies.”

According to the AP, here is what is motivating some insurers to pull back:

“Starting later this year, the health care overhaul law requires insurers to accept children regardless of medical problems -- a major early benefit of the complex legislation. Insurers are worried that parents will wait until kids get sick to sign them up, saddling the companies with unpredictable costs.”

A Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida vice president put it bluntly:

"Guaranteed issue means you could technically buy it on the way to the hospital."

Read more from the AP. 

DNR taking on biggest whitetail research studies ever

News you can use


Last week, I blogged about Operation Deer Watch that begins soon in Wisconsin


The program asks Wisconsin residents to supply information to an online website that will help track the state’s deer population.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is asking for more assistance from the public in two other studies examining buck and fawn mortality rates. At a price tag of $2 million, the studies represent the most ever spent in Wisconsin on whitetail research. Landowners and hunters in Shawano, Waupaca and Outagamie counties the Clam Lake area are being asked for their cooperation.

Radio telemetry and ear tags will be utilized to track 150 bucks in each of the study areas mentioned above as part of the buck mortality study. Beginning in January 2011, box and netted cage traps and helicopter netting will capture the bucks during a four-year study that could be expanded.

A fawn mortality study starting during May 2011 will last two years, trapping 50 fawns each spring. Their mortality rates will be analyzed until the hunting season begins.  For the purpose of the study, fawns are defined as any deer six months old or younger. Hunters are concerned predatory animals have decimated the state’s herd.

Key to the studies is public cooperation. The Appleton Post-Crescent notes, “Many of the state's hunters have questioned the DNR's ability to accurately calculate deer populations, particularly after the DNR said it miscalculated the overall population by about 50 percent after a severe winter in 2007 and 2008. At hearings the past two years throughout the state, hunters have reported seeing far fewer deer in most deer management units, and some have threatened to close their land to all hunters and boycott the 2010 season.”

More information about the DNR studies can be found here.

Congratulations Franklin!

Good news from Senate District 28


What a terrific year for the Franklin High School summer baseball team!

Head coach Jim Hughes won the 743rd game of his illustrious career, the most in state history. 


To top if off, the Franklin Sabers defeated West Bend West Thursday to win the WIAA Summer Baseball state tournament.

My sincere congratulations to Coach Jim Hughes and his championship team for an outstanding season!




Franklin coach Jim Hughes accepts the championship trophy. NOW Photo by Peter Zuzga






Franklin players enjoy their championship swim.NOW Photo by Peter Zuzga




 

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