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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.

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.

T
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.

Why America is the best

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4th of July parades

I hope to see you at one of the many community parades on the 4th of July. I will be walking in the following parades:

12 pm: Franklin 4th of July Parade

1 pm: New Berlin 4th of July Parade

4pm: Hales Corners Parade

On Sunday, I will walk in the East Troy Parade at 1 pm.

A letter from Mark Gundrum in Iraq

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.

Dear Friends,

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.

Mark Gundrum


Here are some photos of Mark in Iraq.

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