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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.

I’d like answers before we let repair shops test auto emissions


A constituent raised concerns to me about the state Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plans to allow auto repair shops to conduct auto emissions tests. A story about the DOT appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Journal Sentinel has also reported that repair shops wouldn’t get paid for emissions tests under the state program. That begs the question, what incentive there would be for shops to participate?  The door is opened to fraud since the shops wouldn’t be paid, the only way to make money would be to find problems with a vehicle requiring repairs that might be questionable. 

Because of the constituent’s concerns, I sent a letter to the DOT Secretary:

July 23, 2008

Frank Busalacchi

Secretary
Wisconsin Department of Transportation

Dear Secretary Busalacchi,

A constituent expresses concern to me about the July 22, 2008, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article revealing that the Department of Transportation (DOT) would allow emissions testing at car repair shops.  The constituent explains that New York allows car repair shops to emissions test, and that his son lives at New York and has been complaining about the practice for years.  He explains the New York practice as a disaster. 

In addition the constituent explains that it is a violation of state law and common sense to allow repair shops to test. 

The newspaper article reveals an appeal to the state Department of Administration has blocked final approval of the contract. 

Before DOT pursues any further efforts toward testing at car repair shops, I ask that you direct a thorough research of the New York program.  Information indicates that this practice may not be in the best interest of Wisconsin residents.

I look forward to your reply.  If you have any questions, please contact me.

Sincerely,

State Senator Mary Lazich 

Copy:  Governor James Doyle 


I received the following response from Secretary Busalacchi:

August 8, 2008

The Honorable Mary Lazich
Wisconsin State Senator
State Capitol, Room 109S
Madison, WI 53707-7882

Dear Senator Lazich:

I am writing in response to your constituent’s concerns regarding a pending vehicle emissions inspection and maintenance (I/M) program transition. Your constituent had questioned the legality of using a “hybrid” I/M program – in which a network of contractor-owned stations that perform only emissions inspections (no repairs) is augmented with a network of subcontractor-owned private inspection and repair facilities (PIFs) – in Wisconsin, and had cited concerns with such a program in the state of New York.

New York’s vehicle inspection program is not a hybrid program. It is a fully decentralized program; that is, each inspection facility is privately owned and operated and all facilities provide both emissions inspection and repair. We have specifically avoided using a fully decentralized program in Wisconsin because fraud is both more common and more difficult to control than in centralized and hybrid programs.

In our planned new program, Southeastern Wisconsin’s motorists would have the option of using one of twenty-five private repair facilities to obtain their emission test; they would also have the option of continuing to visit a contractor owned emission test only facility if they prefer. The proposed changes to this program are designed to enhance the choices and convenience available to motorists.

The award of a new contract for this program is currently under review by the Wisconsin Department of Administration. During this review by DOA, it is inappropriate for the department to make specific comments regarding our legal arguments, or those of any vendor. I am, however, confident in the analysis of the department’s legal team on this matter.

If you have questions about the department’s contracting procedures, please contact Steve Martinelli in our Purchasing Office at (608) 267-4480. Questions about the existing emission inspection program may be directed to Chuck Rhodes, I/M Unit Supervisor, at (414) 266-1084.

Sincerely,

Frank Busalacchi
Secretary 


I will be a guest on the Jay Weber program on Newstalk 1130 WISN Wednesday morning at 6:40 to discuss this issue.

Turning the tables on a Department of Transportation

Mary in the media

You may recall during May 2007, I was interviewed extensively for an investigative report by Fox 6 Milwaukee about meter ramps.  Part of my frustration is the unnecessary amount of time spent idling in line on a ramp waiting for the light to change.

A Michigan woman took her disgust even further in what is being called a first. She complained via e-mail to the state. Nothing unusual there, but then she sent the Michigan Department of Transportation a bill for the estimated gas she thinks she wasted idling in traffic.

Here are all the details of this story.

Wisconsin's unhealthy culture


The health of Wisconsin needs serious improvement. I am speaking from a cultural rather than a physical perspective.

Taking a cue from William Bennett’s The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, the Wisconsin Family Council (WFC) has released Wisconsin Cultural Indicators, a comprehensive review of Wisconsin trends in various social and cultural categories. The CEO of WFC, Julaine Appling writes the report shows how these indicators, “impact Wisconsin’s best natural resource: her traditional families.”

Here are some of the unhealthy findings:
  

Read more

State legislators ask Congress to lift moratorium on drilling


I signed on to a letter sent to the United States Congress with copies to the Wisconsin Congressional delegation and Governor Doyle regarding the high price of gasoline. It reads:

Members of the Congress of  the United States of America

July 28, 2008

We the undersigned, as members of the Wisconsin State Legislature, along with our constituencies, are very concerned about the increasing price of oil and gasoline, as well as its effect on the economy of our state and of the United States as a whole. Resources available within the United States and in surrounding coastal regions are not being adequately utilized. Our reliance upon foreign sources of energy leaves us vulnerable to both market fluctuations in price and potential fuel shortfalls. Further, we are concerned that the resulting transfer of wealth to nations unfriendly to the United States is occurring at an ever-increasing rate. We hereby petition the Congress of the United States of America to repeal the current moratorium on offshore and domestic oil drilling.

The letter is signed by 19 state legislators.

Since 1982, a federal law prohibits offshore drilling in all states except Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and parts of Alaska and California. Record-setting gas and oil prices show the clear need to utilize new sources of energy, especially drilling in our own country.

Last month, officials in Louisiana gave a tour to visiting state legislators to demonstrate that offshore drilling can be done without harming the environment. Louisiana and three other Gulf Coast states signed an agreement with oil companies and environmental groups to push environmentally friendly drilling.

It can be done, so what are we waiting for?

Stateline has more.

Many Wisconsin students unprepared for college

Wisconsin high school students have a long, proud history of exceptional performance on ACT tests, registering some of the highest scores in the country. That is the good news. The bad news is that despite performing well on ACT tests, many Wisconsin high schoolers remain unprepared for college.

The non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) has found that only 29 percent of the state’s 46,430 students tested in 2007 met ACT college-readiness benchmarks in core subjects.

According to WISTAX, “More than three-fourths of the Badger State students were prepared for a college English composition course (77% vs. 69% nationally), but results were lower in social science (60% vs. 53% nationally), college algebra (53% vs. 43%), and college biology (37% vs. 28%). Combining all four subjects, only 29% of 2007 Wisconsin high school graduates were likely to succeed in all four subjects.”

Even the state’s best students fall into this category. WISTAX found, “Between one- and two-fifths of Wisconsin’s most advanced students—those taking classes well beyond the core, i. e., four or more years of classes in all areas, including calculus—were not college ready: English (18%), math (22%), social studies (35%), and science (43%).”

ACT discovered the problem in Wisconsin is the high school curriculum has an inadequate “quality and Intensity” for college preparedness.

Wisconsin students, while faring better than their national counterparts, are following a country-wide trend of high school graduates lacking the skills needed for college. Instructors at colleges and universities have noticed, and even students concede the finding is true.

According to a 2005 survey done by the non-partisan group, Achieve,  “
As many as 40 percent of the nation's high school graduates say they are inadequately prepared to deal with the demands of employment and postsecondary education, putting their own individual success and the nation's economic growth in peril. More than 80 percent of high school graduates say they would work harder, take tougher courses, if they could do high school over again.”

The survey found agreement that the bar is set too low in high school for students and that expectations and standards need to be higher.

Here are details on the Achieve survey.
 The Cato Institute also prepared a report based on the Achieve findings.

Wisconsin students still score well on ACT tests and exceed the national average. However, the WISTAX findings 
show our high school students can and must do better.

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