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.
One of the state Assembly representatives from Senate District 28, Mark Gundrum is on active duty in Iraq. He has written a letter back home and has given permission to share with you.
Hope everyone back home is enjoying the beautiful Wisconsin summer (minus the terrible flooding of course) and all the great family and community activities that go with it. Depending on what thermometer you are looking at, the temperatures here have begun edging into the 120 degree range; but it is bearable.
The soldiers over here from the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion in Green Bay are doing some pretty amazing things for our country. Most are in different locations around the Baghdad area. The level of danger varies from time to time and location to location but is always present, so please keep all these great soldiers and their families in your prayers.
Work on Rule of Law and Governance matters here continues. Next to Security, these are some of the highest priority issues for stabilizing Iraq long-term.
Rule of Law work here is definitely interesting. As an example, a few weeks ago we were on a mission to evaluate the conditions at a maximum security prison as well as the progress being made on an addition being built there and whether the addition conforms to international standards. (Wisconsin prisons are like Club Med compared to these.) When we saw the gallows at the prison, one of the men pointed to a spot on the platform and said "if you are wondering exactly where Saddam was hung, that's it right there."
Other Rule of Law missions are less morose - like helping to develop and improve the quality of law schools and legal education in Iraq; or trying to get Iraqi judges to improve their work ethic and output, and increase their sophistication to rely more on physical and other corroborating evidence, rather than so heavily relying only on confessions; or assisting a special judicial panel appointed by the chief justice of Iraq with its inquiry into whether corruption influenced the outcome of a trial of high ranking government officials.
Because of my background as an elected lawmaker, I have had the opportunity to work directly with members of the Iraqi national parliament (called the Council of Representatives) and present seminars to many of the members on good governance concepts - like open government, developing good legislation, effective use of committees, serving constituents, avoiding corruption, etc. After decades of dictatorship and in an embryonic democracy, these are new concepts.
Most of my time is spent in Baghdad, though I occasionally travel to other locations as well, such as a recent mission to Diyala Province. From the local base there, we convoyed into downtown Baqubah to meet with the Governor and members of the Diyala Provincial Council about governance issues. Baqubah is still a bit of a hotbed for al-Qaida, but has improved significantly over the past year. A year ago the Provincial Council was not even meeting due to security concerns. Now they are getting rolling and it was exciting to be a part of it.
Security concerns, however, do remain in places like Baqubah. For example, a suicide bomber detonated herself, killing 15 Iraqis and wounding 40, outside the same building where we had been meeting with the Governor just one week earlier. And in the middle of my talk with the Provincial Council, a suicide car bomber detonated a car bomb nearby the building we were in, killing an Iraqi policeman and injuring 19 others. The explosion was apparently such a commonplace experience for the PC members that they did not flinch a bit, so we just kept right on going with the talk. They had some excellent questions which demonstrated just how new the idea of democracy is for them, but also showed their commitment to making it work.
It has been impressive to see how members of the Council of Representatives and Provincial Councils "get it" and are taking advantage of their newfound freedoms with press conferences, public debate on issues, building coalitions, working together, and compromising as necessary to advance legislation important to Iraq. While it is not all pretty or sophisticated, it is encouraging to see such healthy signs in a new democracy.
Corruption is still a significant concern here, and is on a scale and of a nature that is hard to fathom. This will remain one of Iraq's biggest challenges to overcome if its citizens want the nation to succeed long-term.
Security is steadily improving in most areas of Iraq. The important and exciting part is watching the Iraqi security forces take over responsibilities that used to be handled completely by Coalition Forces. Again, it is not always pretty or sophisticated, but it is steadily occurring. What we need to remember is that, at this point, we do not need Iraq to have the type of security you would find in America or Canada, or even European countries like England, Germany, or Italy. While that level of security would certainly be ideal and should remain a long-term goal for Iraqis to work for themselves, it will not happen anytime soon nor should that be our measure of success. The goal should be for Iraqis to be able to sustain - with very minimal assistance from other countries, and eventually by themselves - the radical transformation that has occurred here thus far, so Iraq can continue on its slow but steady path of improvement.
A stable, secure, functioning democracy in Iraq that has transparent government and embraces the Rule of Law is not only critical to Iraq's future, but at this juncture is very important to America's future as well.
Thank you so much to everyone for keeping all service members in harm's way and their families in your thoughts and prayers.
Here are some photos of Mark in Iraq.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Ho-Chunk Nation missed its June30, 2008 deadline to make a payment to the state of Wisconsin for gambling operations. Since 2004, according to the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, the tribe has made only one payment, $30 million in 2006. The Ho-Chunk Nation now owes the state close to $100 million at a time when the state’s fiscal matters are fragile at best.
Why is the Ho-Chunk Nation refusing to make its payments? The tribe alleges that under a 2004 ruling by the state Supreme Court, Governor Doyle exceeded his authority by negotiating new Indian gaming compacts that expanded gambling into perpetuity. The Ho-Chunk Nation contends the value of its 2003 compact was reduced by the court’s 2004 ruling and has refused to make payments until a new agreement can be reached.
Some history is in order.
On May 13, 2004, the state Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision in Panzer v. Doyle, ruled that Governor Doyle exceeded his authority by agreeing to certain provisions in the 2003 amendments to the gaming compact between the state and the Forest County Potawatomi (FCP) Tribe by agreeing to expanded games, lengthening the compact to perpetuity, and waiving the state’s sovereign immunity.
After the 2004 ruling, Diane Sykes left the state Supreme Court to become a federal judge and was replaced by Governor Doyle’s appointee, Louis Butler. The change in the make-up of the court proved to be significant.
On July 14, 2006, the state Supreme Court ruled that a 1993 amendment to the state constitution approved by voters in a statewide referendum that stated Wisconsin has enough gambling and should not expand does not apply to Indian casinos. The court also affirmed the governor’s authority to renegotiate Indian gaming compacts, paving the way for a huge expansion of gaming at the Potawatomi facility in Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, the Ho-Chunk Nation continues to fight its case in court and is lagging on payments. The inaction is affecting the state budget. As I’ve written in the past, budgets have been drafted and approved assuming the Ho-Chunk Nation will make good on its payments, but that hasn’t happened. Taxpayers have made up the difference, and the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel reports the state has spent close to $1.4 million in legal bills to settle its dispute with the Ho-Chunk Nation.
It is concerning and very unfortunate that the issue of gambling has created a scenario that adversely affects taxpayers. Budgets adopted crossing our fingers and hoping the Ho-Chunk will come through with their payments is not sound budgeting.
My office prepared a state citation that was presented to Matt Singer at the special ceremony. It reads:
Whereas, Matt Singer is a member of the Boy Scouts of America Troop 530, and through dedication and commitment, attained the rank of Eagle Scout; and
Whereas, Matt Singer’s Eagle Scout project included creating over 170 hygiene packs for Saint Benedict the Moore Program, by securing soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, razor, lotion, and socks from businesses, churches, and the community; and
Whereas, Matt Singer earned 47 merit badges, served his troop three times in the leadership positions of Patrol Leader, and Assistant Senior Patrol leader, and was elected to the Order of the Arrow; and
Whereas, Matt Singer is a 2008 graduate of Whitnall High School and plans to attend the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater with an interest in business; now
Therefore, the members of the Wisconsin State Senate on the motion of Senator Mary Lazich, commend Matt Singer for outstanding dedication and service to scouting. Matt Singer is further commended for successfully completing the requirements necessary to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honorable rank awarded by the Boy Scouts of America.
My office prepared a state citation that was presented to Joshua Liimatta at the special ceremony. It reads:
Whereas, Joshua Raymond Liimatta is a member of the Boy Scouts of America Troop 40, and through dedication and commitment, attained the rank of Eagle Scout; and
Whereas, Joshua Raymond Liimatta’s Eagle Scout project included planning the expansion and improvement of the Buena Park volleyball courts by removing the sand, increasing the size of the court, putting new sand down, and constructing wooden courtside benches; and
Whereas, Joshua Raymond Liimatta earned 29 merit badges, served his troop in the leadership positions of Assistant Patrol Leader, Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, Troop Guide, Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, Troop Scribe, and was elected to the Order of the Arrow: and
Whereas, Joshua Raymond Liimatta is a 2008 graduate of New Berlin West High School, and plans to attend the University of Wisconsin, Platteville, pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering; now
Therefore, the members of the Wisconsin State Senate on the motion of Senator Mary Lazich, commend Joshua Raymond Liimatta for outstanding dedication and service to scouting. Joshua Raymond Liimatta is further commended for successfully completing the requirements necessary to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honorable rank awarded by the Boy Scouts of America.