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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.

Welcome Sendik's to the Shoppes at Wyndham Village


This morning, I had the privilege of participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Sendik’s Fine Foods at the Shoppes of Wyndham Village in Franklin.

It was fitting the special ceremony was held under sunshine and gorgeous blue skies, as though the wonderful project was meant to come to Franklin.

I recall the first contact I had about this development when I was asked to lend support in the hope Sendik’s would help Franklin’s tax base.  I was pleased to endorse a project that will benefit consumers, taxpayers, and education in Franklin.

Congratulations go out to Mark and Mary Carstensen for making this quality development dream come true along with Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor, the Franklin Common Council and the Franklin Plan Commission for their vision. Franklin is prosperous, one of the most growing communities in all of Wisconsin.  I appreciate representing Franklin in state Senate District 28 and I wish Sendik’s, owner Tom Balisteri Jr., and the Shoppes at Wyndham Village the very best.

Audit of Wisconsin Lottery released

Audits, Gambling

Every year, the highly regarded Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) is required by state law to conduct an audit of the Wisconsin Lottery. The financial review is complete and here are the audit’s key findings.

More than 99 percent of the lottery revenue comes from instant and online ticket sales. Total ticket sales increased 13.3 percent during the past five fiscal years, from
$435.0 million in 2002-03 to $492.8 million in 2006-07. Sales of scratch-off and pull-tab games increased 13.9 percent during that period, while online game sales increased 12.5 percent. Ticket sales decreased during 2004-05 and 2006-07 due to the timing of large Powerball jackpots that have a sizeable effect on online game ticket sales.

Expenses from game development and production decreased by 14.1 percent over the past five fiscal years. The decreases were the result of the state entering into a seven-year contract with GTECH Corporation in June 2004 to maintain the instant and online gaming system and provide telecommunication services. Other expenses decreased by 16.7 percent over the past five fiscal years. Lottery staff attributes those decreases to strategies implemented to reduce costs.

Under the state Constitution, net proceeds from the Wisconsin Lottery must be used solely for property tax relief to owners of primary residences in Wisconsin and through the farmland tax relief credit to certain farmland owners in Wisconsin. Property tax relief totaled $697.9 million over the past five fiscal years, including $160.0 million in 2006-07.

State laws and legislative action impose limitations on four types of lottery expenses. The LAB reports the Wisconsin Lottery is in compliance with each of the limitations:

1) The LAB reports, “At least 50 percent of Wisconsin Lottery sales be returned to players as prize payments. As a percentage of ticket sales, prize expenses have remained generally consistent, although they increased to 59.3 percent during 2006-07.
Wisconsin Lottery officials attribute the 1.3 percentage point increase between 2004-05 and 2006-07 to offering higher-priced instant games that include higher prize payout percentages. They also note that the 2006-07 prize payout percentage may be higher because the Wisconsin Lottery paid the $100,000 prize for Supercash! eight times more in 2006-07 than in 2005-06.

2) The LAB reports that state law “limits certain administrative expenses to no more than 10.0 percent of gross operating revenues. These administrative expenses include all expenses except prize payments and retailer compensation. The Wisconsin Lottery’s administrative expenses have remained within the statutory limit and were 5.9 percent of gross operating revenues during 2006-07.”

3) The LAB reports, “The Wisconsin Constitution prohibits the expenditure of public funds or of revenues derived from lottery operations for promotional advertising. It directs any advertising to provide information about the chances of winning and prize structures. Through legislative action, the Wisconsin Lottery’s product informational advertising expenses have been limited to $4.6 million annually since 1990-91. This expenditure authority was not exceeded in 2006-07. The Legislature has increased the Wisconsin Lottery’s annual product informational advertising budget to $7.5 million beginning with 2007-08. Wisconsin Lottery staff project that increase will produce an additional $15.0 million in annual lottery ticket sales.”

4) The LAB reports state laws “establish maximum compensation rates for basic
commissions and performance program payments to retailers who sell lottery tickets. Basic commission rates are 5.5 percent of the retail price for online tickets and 6.25 percent for instant tickets. Performance program payments to eligible retailers may not exceed 1.0 percent of total ticket sales. The Wisconsin Lottery’s retailer performance program payments have remained within the statutory limit for the past five fiscal years and were 0.9 percent of ticket sales during 2006-07.”

The LAB gave the opinion in their audit that the Lottery’s “financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the Wisconsin Lottery.”

Here is the LAB full report of the Wisconsin Lottery audit.

Once again, I commend the LAB for their outstanding and thorough analysis.

Congratulations to the city of Franklin

Congratulations to the City of Franklin on the great news that the city’s sex offender ordinance has been upheld in court, and that a convicted sex offender on release will now have to abide by Franklin law.

Congratulations go out to Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor, members of the Franklin Common Council, the City Attorney of Franklin, and the Franklin-based Citizens for a Safe Wisconsin that worked so diligently in drafting and adopting an ordinance that sustains a constitutional challenge.

I also commend and thank Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John Franke for issuing the correct judgment in this case.   It is very gratifying to represent Franklin, a community that cares passionately about the health and welfare of all children in Wisconsin, and expended amazing amounts of time to craft the ordinance that protects children and the greater community.

Congratulations Derek McElvoy!

Eagle Scouts

Derek McElroy’s Eagle Scout ceremony was held Sunday, July 6, 2008. The ceremony was held at the Franklin Veteran's Memorial, just next to the Franklin Public Library. Derek McElroy, age16, performed an outstanding service to community and country with his very impressive Eagle Scout project. I presented a citation to Derek McElroy at the special ceremony. It reads:

Whereas, Derek Jeffery McElroy is a member of Boy Scouts of America Troop 531, and through dedication and commitment, attained the rank of Eagle Scout; and

Whereas, Derek Jeffery McElroy’s Eagle Scout project included designing, obtaining approval, securing over $27,000, and coordinating 550 volunteer hours creating an officially registered Wisconsin Veteran’s Memorial, displaying the American Flag, flanked by six additional flags for each branch of service, and the POW-MIA flag, a granite tribute with the words “Dedicated to Those Who Protect the Power of Our Nation’s Freedom”, two granite benches for reflection, with an overall value of over $50,000; and

Whereas, Derek Jeffery McElroy earned the 2006 Patriotism Award from AMVETS Post 60, The Americanism Award from the Milwaukee County Board of Veterans, and a Certificate of Recognition from the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs; and

Whereas, Derek Jeffery McElroy earned 30 merit badges, was elected to the Order of the Arrow, and served his troop in the leadership positions of Assistant Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, and Den Chief; and

Whereas, Derek Jeffery McElroy, a Junior at Franklin High School, is a member of the Wrestling, Track, and Cross Country Teams, and is Red Cross Wilderness First Aid certified; now

Therefore, the members of the Wisconsin State Senate on the motion of Senator Mary Lazich, commend Derek Jeffery McElroy for outstanding dedication and service to scouting.  Derek Jeffery McElroy 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.

Do cellphone bans really work?

North Carolina
instituted a ban on cell phone use for drivers under the age of 18 that began on December 1, 2006. Support for the ban among teenagers was 74 percent. An overwhelming 95 percent of parents in North Carolina supported the restrictions.

So, what kind of impact has the North Carolina ban had in the past 19 months? Would you believe that teenage drivers are using their cellphones even more, begging the question whether cellphone bans really work.

he Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that researchers spent time staking out high school parking lots and conducting telephone surveys with teens and their parents in what is considered the first study of a cellphone ban for young motorists. Researchers watching teen drivers leave school parking lots one to two months prior to the start of the ban observed 11 percent used cellphones. Five months after the ban was in effect, the number of teen drivers observed using cellphones actually increased slightly to 12 percent.

The IIHS says, “Most drivers were using hand-helds. Nine percent were holding phones to their ears, while fewer than one percent were using hands-free devices. About two percent were observed dialing or texting.“

The conclusion of the study is that North Carolina’s cellphone ban is not reducing the use of cellphones by teen drivers. Young motorists are simply ignoring the law believing enforcement is lax and penalties are small. Parents and teen drivers agree that police officers aren’t enforcing the law with 71 percent of teens and 60 percent of parents saying enforcement is rare or nonexistent. When violators are caught, and the North Carolina Highway Patrol wrote only 35 tickets in 2007, the ticket costs $25.

IIHS senior vice president for research Anne McCartt, author of the study about the North Carolina cellphone ban, says such laws are difficult to enforce because it is almost impossible for officers to see teens using hand-held devices or correctly determine a driver’s age.

Concern over the high risk of crashes among teen drivers has prompted legislation to restrict cellphone use. The intent is that young drivers will comply as they do with nighttime restrictions or limits on number of passengers set forth with graduated driver’s licenses or GDL’s. In Wisconsin, for example, the GDL allows novice drivers (ages 15 1/2 to 18) to gain knowledge and experience while under the supervision of an experienced adult as they progress through the learning stages. However, the experience in North Carolina indicates cellphone bans for teen drivers don’t work.

It is almost guaranteed that a bill will be proposed in the next legislative session to ban or limit the use of cell phones in cars. Such a law is unnecessary in Wisconsin. Wisconsin statutes already allow police to cite for inattentive driving, and that would include use of a cell phone. The Wisconsin law is “No person while driving a motor vehicle shall be so engaged or occupied as to interfere with the safe driving of such vehicle.”

States do not completely ban the use of cell phones while driving and with good reason.  More substantive information is needed to ensure the creation of sound, reasonable public policy.

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