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.

Congratulations to the New Berlin Lioness Club on their 50th anniversary!

I am proud to be a member of the New Berlin Lioness Club.  It was a very special and heartwarming celebration of the Club's 50th Anniversary Sunday evening.  A nostalgic display of items over the last 50 years was an amazing walk through history at Klemmer's Banquet Center.  The photographic appearance of the Lion's Corn Roast stand of yesteryear was a sight for a lot of smiles.  The New Berlin Lioness Club conducts fundraisers at the Lion's Wisconsin State Fair Corn Roast, at Fourth of July activities, and a special champagne breakfast every April. Money raised at these special events goes to numerous worthy causes. 

I had the honor of presenting a state citation to the New Berlin Lioness Club at a ceremony Sunday, October 5, 2008. The citation reads:

WHEREAS, The New Berlin Lioness Club, chartered as the New Berlin Lionettes July 8, 1958, and as the New Berlin Lioness Club September 30, 1977, celebrates fifty years of service; and

WHEREAS, New Berlin Lioness Club members through volunteerism, dedication, and commitment maintain ongoing support for club projects that secure funds to enhance others lives; and 

WHEREAS, New Berlin Lioness Club members maintain a history of outstanding service at the Club’s noteworthy projects of Champagne Breakfast, Fourth of July, Wisconsin State Fair, and numerous other projects; and 

WHEREAS, The New Berlin Lioness Club has secured and donated significant monetary sums to numerous Lion projects and community projects including, Lions Camp at Rosholt Wisconsin, Leader Dog, Hearing Fund, Sight Conservation, Youth Exchange, Blind Outdoor Leisure Development, Campaign SightFirst II, the Eye Bank, Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Badger Association of the Blind, Wisconsin Council of the Blind, Wisconsin Braille, City of New Berlin Police, Fire, Library, Park and Recreation, Fourth of July Commission, New Berlin Veterans Memorial, New Berlin Historical Society, New Berlin Scholarship Fund, New Berlin Senior Taxi, Waukesha Women’s Center, Waukesha County Mental Health Association, Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, Red Cross, The Association for the Rights of Citizens with handicaps, Interfaith, Special Olympics, and numerous other projects and programs; and,

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Wisconsin taxpayers lose in Ho-Chunk settlement

Gambling, Taxes

Wisconsin’s dispute with the Ho-Chunk Nation might be over after a four year battle, and Wisconsin taxpayers got the short end of the stick in the gambling compact settlement.

The Ho-Chunk stopped making payments to the state in 2004 after signing a compact with Governor Doyle in 2003. The tribe argued that because a 2004 state Supreme Court ruling invalidated a similar compact agreement with the Forest County Potawatomi, it owed the state nothing.

Since 2004, Ho-Chunk halted payments with the exception of a one-time $30-million payment during 2006 it claimed demonstrated good faith bargaining. Here are the details of the recent settlement that should have taxpayers quizzically shaking their heads wondering, is that all there is?

The state contended the Ho-Chunk owed $72 million. Ho-Chunk has agreed to pay $60 million. That is a $12 million jolt to Wisconsin taxpayers.

Terms of the old compact had the Ho-Chunk paying the state a six percent tax of its take. Under the new compact, the Ho-Chunk will make payments of five percent if net earnings are below $350 million and 5.5 percent if earnings exceed $350 million. The reduced percentage means a loss of millions of dollars to the state. By contrast, the Potawatomi pay 6.5 percent of winnings.

The new compact also allows the Ho-Chunk to make reductions in their annual payments to the state:

  • Beginning May 1, 2010, the tribe can deduct payments made to counties totaling $1,000 for every acre of land owned by the U.S. government in trust for the tribe located within each county’s jurisdiction in July, 2003. The LFB informs me that during July 2003 the Ho-Chunk had approximately 2,300 acres of trust land that could result in a reduction in their annual state payment of $2.3 million.
  • During a 10-year period from May 1, 2009 to May 1, 2019, the tribe could deduct the amounts it paid for public works projects that benefit both the tribe and the state. Deductions would be limited to no more than $1.0 million in any one year and the total deductions for the period could not exceed $5.0 million. That means there could be an average annual deduction of $500,000.
  • The  tribe can also deduct any additional amounts paid by the tribe for projects that the state and the tribe agree provide a substantial public benefit in areas of economic development, infrastructure, health, safety, or welfare. These deductions would begin May 1, 2019, would be limited to a total of $4 million, with annual deductions limited to a maximum of $1 million. 

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New law requires carbon monoxide detectors

News you can use

Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in America.

A new Wisconsin law went into effect October 1, 2008 that requires carbon monoxide detectors be installed in most new residential construction units as of that date. The units include tourist cabins, bed and breakfast establishments, and any public building used for sleeping or lodging, such as hotels, motels, condominiums, apartment buildings, dormitories, fraternities, sororities, convents, seminaries, community-based residential facilities, and home shelters. Hospitals and nursing homes are exempt.

The law requires that the detectors be installed in existing residential buildings of the types mentioned above by April 1, 2010. 

Carbon monoxide is without odor or color, making it difficult to realize when it has become a problem. Low levels of carbon monoxide poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning or other illnesses. If untreated, the symptoms can lead to long term health problems. Symptoms of low levels of carbon monoxide poisoning include shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches. Moderate levels of exposure can be fatal if symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, and light-headedness persist. High levels can cause death in a matter of minutes.

To help those suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, get them outdoors immediately, or open all doors and windows. Get them to a hospital or emergency room as quickly as possible.

I voted in favor of Senate Bill 289 that was approved by the Legislature and signed into law. Here is a Legislative Council memo about Senate Bill 289 and details about the enacted law.

Audit finds state can’t collect damages for Social Security mess


Between December 2006 and January 2008, state government suffered three breaches of privacy when Social Security numbers were exposed to the public. 

During January 2008, I blogged, “A third breach of privacy in just over a year also occurred this month with a portion of 5,000 taxpayers in northeastern Wisconsin having their Social Security numbers exposed in a state mailing. A folding error enabled some of the recipients' Social Security numbers to be seen in the windows of envelopes containing federal 1099-G tax forms.”

I remain unable to fathom a situation that it is necessary to publish the Social Security number of any recipient of a state service. The third breach of privacy that occurred earlier this year led to a review prepared by the state’s highly-regarded Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB).

Since April 2008, state law has directed the LAB to establish a toll-free hotline to take reports of fraud, waste, and mismanagement in state government and to investigate reports received through the hotline. The LAB  started its investigation of the January 2008 breach of privacy in response to complaints that the state Department of Administration (DOA) had not used proper oversight of contract staff provided by Spherion for print and mail services. Complaints raised questions about workplace safety, a hostile work environment, and false billing hours. DOA reported that Spherion staff failed to notice the folding error that led to up to 5,000 tax forms mailed with Social Security numbers visible through envelope windows.

One of the LAB’s findings is unfortunate. The LAB discovered that the state’s contract with Spherion did not include any provisions to collect damages for instances like the breach of privacy.

The LAB writes, “The contract had no specific liquidated damage provisions, and DOA did not elect to pursue breach of contract damages from Spherion to pay the cost of addressing the security breach, including the cost of credit monitoring for affected taxpayers. DOA noted that it was not appropriate to require Spherion to pay for credit monitoring because it believes Spherion’s overall performance has been satisfactory and the number of documents affected represented a small percentage of the total number processed.”

As for preventing future blunders, the LAB writes, “DOA indicated that it has developed standard contract terms and conditions related to imposing liquidated damages and requiring contractors to pay the costs of security breaches for which they are responsible. It plans to encourage state agencies to incorporate these provisions into future contracts, where appropriate.”

The state’s contract with Spherion expires June 30, 2009, and DOA has begun a process to solicit bids during October or November of this year. The LAB calculates as much as $616,500 could be saved in the five-year period from fiscal year 2009-2010  through fiscal year 2013-2014 if state staff filled all print and mail positions currently filled by contract staff.

The LAB recommends that if DOA continues to contract for some or all print and mail staff in the future, billing procedures should be formalized, contractors should be prohibited from billing for time new staff are trained, and contracts should include standard provisions for damages if private information is disclosed.

The LAB did not substantiate any complaints about workplace safety, a hostile work environment, and fraudulent time recording by contract staff.

Here is the complete LAB report. 

I commend the LAB for another outstanding review on behalf of Wisconsin taxpayers.

It’s that time: Watch out for deer

Motorcycles, News you can use

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) is issuing the following warning to motorists: Be extremely cautious the next several weeks. Here’s why:

Deer will be abundant and their movement unpredictable along Wisconsin roadways in coming weeks.”

The risk for car-deer crashes increases this time of year. During fall, deer on the prowl to mate are active and while on the move often find their way in the path of vehicles. October is a bad month for deer collisions and so is November. The most commonly struck objects in Wisconsin crashes are, in this order, another vehicle, a fixed object, and deer.

As a motorcycle enthusiast, I especially want to emphasize this finding:
Motorcycles were involved in 10 of the 14 fatal deer-vehicle crashes in Wisconsin during 2007.

Here is a press release from the DOT including advice about how to prevent car-deer crashes.

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