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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.

It's time to Google state spending


I have introduced legislation to create a website that would show all state expenditures. The user-friendly searchable website would be maintained by the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA).

Anyone could go to the website and see how the state is spending your money. Legislation that I have introduced would require that on July 1, 2009, the DOA must ensure that all state agency expenditures are available for inspection. The DOA would categorize expenditure information on the Web site by state agency and expenditure category. Within each category, DOA must show the amount and purpose of each expenditure exceeding $100 and the entity or person receiving your money.

All of the following information relating to state agency grants and contracts would be made available to the general public: a copy of the contract and grant award; the state agency making the grant or entering into the contract; the name and address of the person receiving the grant or entering into the contract; the purpose of the grant or contract; the amount of the grant or the amount the state agency must expend under the contract; and the name of the state fund the grant is paid or moneys are expended under the contract.

My bill authorizes frequent updates so the public is aware as quickly as possible about how their tax money is being spent. State agencies will be required to make the information available to the DOA not later than 24 hours after an expenditure is made or an agency makes a grant or enters into a contract.

Several states have already adopted this philosophy called the Google-government trend, a movement that has tremendous benefits for taxpayers. A quick and easy Internet clearinghouse would throw a laser beam on government spending, the increased focus having great potential for significant savings.

As I researched this idea, I was told that the websites already in use in other states are very popular, getting numerous hit and queries daily. Certainly, a similar website for Wisconsin would also get heavy volume, given that we live in one of the highest-taxed states in the nation. The Wisconsin Taxpayer Alliance reports the average tax paid in Wisconsin in 2006 was $2,716. Wouldn’t you like to know where your tax dollars go?

I’ve written about this issue in the past on my community blogs. You can read the articles here and here.
 

State Senate calendar for today, Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Here is the calendar for the state Senate floor session scheduled for today, Tuesday, March 4,  2008:    

First Order.       Call of Roll.
Second Order.  Chief clerk's entries.
Third Order.      Introduction, first reading and reference of proposals; reference of appointments.
Fourth Order.    Report of committees.
Fifth Order.       Petitions and communications.
Sixth Order.      Advice and consent of the Senate.


QUESTION:        Shall the appointment be confirmed?

Anderson, Marcia, of Verona, as a member of the Board of Veterans Affairs, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2013
Naylor, Daniel, of Waupaca, as a member of the Board of Veterans Affairs, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2013.
Neumann, Judith, of Madison, as chair of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, to serve for the term ending March 1, 2013.

Seventh Order.            Referrals and receipt of committee reports concerning proposed administrative rules.
Eighth Order.              Messages from the Assembly.
Ninth Order.               Special Orders.
Tenth Order.               Consideration of motions, resolutions, and joint resolutions not requiring a third reading.


QUESTION:        Shall the joint resolution be adopted?

Senate Joint Resolution 82. Relating to: opposing a federal mandate requiring the suspension or revocation of driver's licenses in all circumstances where a person has been convicted of a drug or other controlled substances violation and exercising the state's option to opt out of this federal mandate

Senate Joint Resolution 95. Relating to: the life and public service of Anne Carol Kok. 

Assembly Joint Resolution 90. Relating to: proclaiming an annual Wisconsin Water Skiing Appreciation Week

Assembly Joint Resolution 94. Relating to: proclaiming May 16, 17, and 18, 2008, Syttende Mai Weekend. 

Assembly Joint Resolution 95. Relating to: celebrating March 1, 2008, as St. David's Day. 

Assembly Joint Resolution 102. Relating to:  honoring the Sun Prairie High School Coed Cheerleading Team for winning the 2008 Universal Cheerleading Association's National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Florida. 


Eleventh Order.          Second reading and amendments of senate joint resolutions and senate bills.

QUESTION:        Shall the bill be ordered to a third reading?

Senate Bill 246. Relating to: mental health professionals who may provide outpatient services for the treatment of nervous and mental conditions and alcoholism and other drug abuse problems or who, under Medical Assistance, may provide psychotherapy and alcohol and other drug abuse services and exempting certain Medical Assistance benefits from physician prescription requirements. Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 340. Relating to: special distinguishing registration plates for certain vehicles owned by members of the national guard. Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 391. Relating to: revoking the voluntary dissolution of a limited liability company (suggested as remedial legislation by the Department of Financial Institutions). 

Senate Bill 409. Relating to: remote dispensing by pharmacists and authorizing the exercise of rule-making powers. Senate Substitute Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 410. Relating to: motor vehicle operating privilege suspensions for controlled substance violations

Senate Bill 412. Relating to: payment of judgments in traffic courts and municipal courts by installments and the suspension of operating privileges.

Senate Bill 426. Relating to: authorizing a city or village to extend the life of a tax incremental district for one year to benefit housing in the city or village. Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 429. Relating to: allowing a village meeting specified criteria to exceed its retail liquor license quota by issuing one additional retail license. Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 434. Relating to: cleanup and consolidation of Department of Commerce economic development programs, establishing a comprehensive annual reporting requirement, requiring the development of programmatic goals and accountability measures for economic development grants and loans, requiring the exercise of rule-making authority, and making an appropriation. Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 454. Relating to: the transportation of invasive species on highways and providing a penalty. Senate Substitute Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 480
. Relating to: changes to economic development tax benefit programs, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, and requiring the exercise of rule-making authority. Senate Amendments 1, 2 and 3 pending

Senate Bill 483. Relating to: repealing and recreating the Wisconsin Uniform Securities Law, granting rule-making authority, and providing penalties. Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 487. Relating to: treatment records and patient health care records.

Senate Bill 517. Relating to: mortgage bankers, mortgage brokers, and loan originators.

Senate Bill 519. Relating to: nonmoving traffic violations involving rented or leased vehicles, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, and requiring the exercise of rule-making authority.

Senate Bill 537. Relating to: judicial discretion in certain John Doe proceedings.

Twelfth Order.            Second reading and amendments of assembly joint resolutions and assembly bills.

QUESTION:        Shall the bill be ordered to a third reading?

Assembly Bill 173. Relating to: membership of the Council on Mental Health

Assembly Bill 483. Relating to: abatement or removal of human health hazards, requirements for certain local health officers, personnel of a local health department, state agency status for certain physicians, community health improvement plans, emergency medical services, requiring the exercise of rule-making authority, and providing penalties.

Thirteenth Order.        Third reading of joint resolutions and bills.
Fourteenth Order.       Motions may be offered.
Fifteenth Order.          Announcements, adjournment honors, and remarks under special privilege.
Sixteenth Order.         Adjournment.

Senate Democrats planning to rush the Compact

Great Lakes

Unbelievably, Senate Democrats scheduled an executive session today in the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on Great Lakes Compact legislation, less than two weeks after the bill was introduced on February 21, 2008.  

There are over 150 pages in the Great Lakes Compact bill, Senate Bill 523.  Yesterday afternoon, March 3, 2008, 33 amendments were unreasonably added to the already massive bill. That leaves less than 24 hours to examine close to three dozen amendments.

It is unconscionable to expect the members of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, concerned parties and the general public to review and comprehend this complex bill in such a short amount of time.

Last Thursday, February 28, 2008, Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker informed the press there would be an upcoming public hearing on the Great Lakes Compact legislation.
Wispolitics.com reported on February 28, 2008, that, “The Great Lakes Compact will get a hearing in the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday (March 5), and it could come to the Senate floor next Thursday (March 6) or March 11, Decker said.”

Instead of scheduling a public hearing, an executive session of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources has been scheduled today to begin at 4:00 p.m. If the state Senate is still in session at 4:00, the executive session is scheduled to begin immediately following the end of the Senate floor session. The public has been all but locked out of the process, deprived of an opportunity to address the many issues involved in legislation of this magnitude.  The public is denied a chance to speak to the 33 amendments added to the bill late yesterday afternoon.

I served with seven other legislators and 11 citizen members for over a year on a special Legislative Council Study Committee on the Great Lakes Water Compact. Senate Democrats   are now attempting to rush a product through the Legislature before the current legislative session ends in less than two weeks. I continue to maintain that due diligence is necessary to produce the strongest Compact possible rather than abrupt approval of a Compact just for approval’s sake.

Wisconsin consumer top complaints

News you can use

This should come as no surprise.

The #1 Wisconsin consumer complaint filed with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) in 2007 was violations of Wisconsin’s No Call List.

Here’s the complete list of the top ten consumer complaints in 2007:

Top 10 consumer complaints in 2007

Product Number of written complaints

1. No call telemarketing: 3,194
2. Telecommunications:  1,583
3. Landlord/tenant: 1,352
4. Home improvement: 892
5. Investment schemes: 599
6. Mail order sales: 552
7. Credit cards: 543
8. Business opportunity/franchise: 539
9. Cable TV: 515
10.Contest/sweepstakes/prize promotion: 493

If you have a consumer complaint, here is advice from DATCP:
First, fill out a consumer complaint form available from the state's Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection's Web site, datcp.state.wi.us.

Take a copy of the form with you and approach the seller with your concern promptly. Listen to the seller’s explanation and try to come to an agreement.

If no compromise can be met, write a letter detailing your concerns and give the business a deadline to respond.

If you haven't heard from the business by a reasonable deadline, two to three weeks, send the complaint to the division of Trade and Consumer Protection or call its toll-free hotline, (800) 422-7128.

An investigator will contact the business about your complaint, and while the agency cannot force a resolution without legal action, the contact often results in some sort of settlement.

Here is more information from DATCP about their top ten.
 

 

Students love virtual schools

I have blogged about the importance of saving virtual schools in Wisconsin.  

The Legislature needs to come up with a bill to save the schools that Governor Doyle will sign before the legislative session ends next week.

The Appleton Post-Crescent has a great article that speaks to how effective these schools are and how they are valued by students and parents.

Congratulations New Berlin Eisenhower cheerleaders

Today on the floor of the state Senate, I adjourned in honor of the New Berlin Eisenhower Varsity Cheerleading Squad. The girls captured first place at the United Performing Association Americup Cheer & Dance Championship in Minneapolis on February 23, 2008.

After a very successful season that included a first place finish at Regionals, a second place finish at State, and several other first and second place finishes, the Eisenhower Cheerleaders captured a National Championship title!  They competed at the AmeriCup National Cheerleading Championships February 21-23 in Minneapolis. On the first day of competition the cheerleaders captured the Division 2 National Championship title. That qualified New Berlin Eisenhower to move on to the "Grand Championships" where they competed against the top teams in Divisions 1, 2 and 3, schools from across the country and won the Grand Champion title.

I congratulate the cheerleaders for an outstanding year.

Good luck New Berlin Eisenhower boys!

I send my best wishes to the New Berlin Eisenhower boy’s basketball team that will compete at the state basketball tournament this week in Madison.

Good luck to Eisenhower as they play Monroe this Friday in the semifinals of the Division Two boy’s state basketball tournament.

Va. court rules that unelected bodies cannot have taxing authority

Taxes

I find it interesting that the Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional for an unelected body to have the authority to tax.

The Virginia Legislature had created the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to raise $300 million a year in taxes and fees for transportation projects. The state’s highest court ruled that the power to tax lies with elected officials.

Virginia Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling agreed.

“The authority to tax is one of the most significant responsibilities of government and that responsibility cannot and should not be delegated to a body that is not directly responsible to the voters,” Bolling said.

Here is more on the ruling. 

I have authored and introduced Senate Bill 258 that requires that bodies that have taxing authority must be elected bodies. The bill is now in the state Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities and Rail.

Here is a copy of Senate Bill 258.

Bill would require instruction on the Move Over Law

Many motorists are probably unaware that Wisconsin has a Move Over Law.

Drivers are required to move over or slow down for emergency and maintenance vehicles. Violators face a $252 fine and three points off of their driver’s licenses.

A bill circulating in the Legislature would require that a driver education course offered by a technical college district or by a school district must include instruction relating to the Move Over Law.

Students learning to drive must know the laws of the road, including the Move Over Law.

Outlawing human trafficking in Wisconsin

Tuesday, February 26, 2008, the state Senate approved Senate Bill 292 (SB 292), legislation that I co-sponsored that addresses human trafficking.

From an analysis of SB 292 prepared by the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB), “trafficking is defined as recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining an individual without the consent of the individual. Trafficking, or knowingly benefiting from trafficking, is a felony if an individual is trafficked for labor, services, or a commercial sex act and done by specified actions, including harming any individual, removing any identification document of any individual, extortion, and debt bondage.”

Under SB 2292, anyone convicted of trafficking could be punished with a fine of up to $100,000, imprisonment for up to 25 years, or both.

Trafficking of a child under this legislation is a separate offense.

The LRB says, “Any person who knowingly recruits, entices, provides, obtains, or harbors a child for commercial sex acts or sexually explicit performance, or who knowingly benefits from such activity, is guilty of a felony. A person who is convicted is subject to a fine of up to $100,000, imprisonment for up to 40 years, or both.”

The Associated Press (AP) reports that human trafficking is occurring in Wisconsin.

The AP says, “The Office of Justice Assistance's (OJA) study marks the first attempt to gauge trafficking in the state. It concluded international and domestic trafficking involving dozens of victims is taking place in urban and rural areas across much of the southern two-thirds of the state.”

Until now, the AP reports the issue of human trafficking has not been recognized by local law enforcement as a serious problem.  The Office of Justice Assistance’s report cited human trafficking as the third largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Officials say as many as 17,500 people are trafficked every year into the U.S. for sex and forced labor.

Here is the AP story.

Here are the key findings of the OJA study:

♦ Human trafficking exists in Wisconsin; as many as 200 victims of sex and labor trafficking have come in contact with service providers and/or justice system agencies

♦ Wisconsin is home to both international trafficking, with victims coming from all
over the world, and domestic human trafficking

♦ Service Providers and justice system agencies have limited knowledge about human trafficking; most of them are eager to learn more about it

♦ Although human trafficking is not perceived as a problem by the majority of respondents, trafficking exists in both urban and rural areas of the state

♦ Most human trafficking cases reported in the survey are perpetrated by the victim’s family members or prostitute clients and pimps.

The OJA says, “The report, Hidden in Plain Sight: A Baseline Survey of Human Trafficking in Wisconsin, surveyed over 1,300 sexual assault and domestic violence service providers and law enforcement and districts attorney offices with a 30% return rate.  Cases were reported in urban areas like Dane, Milwaukee and Racine counties as well as in rural central and northwestern counties.  The majority of victims (85%) were adults and 75% were victims of sex-related crimes.  Language differences between victims and law enforcement and service providers as well as a fear of deportation are barriers to victims seeking help, respondents reported.”

I agree that the report is a wake-up call for action. Senate Bill 292 is necessary to address this growing problem.
 

Senate Democrats’ strategy: ram legislation through at last minute

Great Lakes

Tuesday, Senate Democrats scheduled an executive voting session for the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on the Great Lakes Compact. There are over 150 pages in the Great Lakes Compact bill, Senate Bill 523, and 33 amendments were added to the complex bill late Monday.

Late Tuesday night, the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources recessed until 11:00 a.m. today without taking votes on the amendments or the bill. This morning, the Senate Committee on Organization met to schedule the calendar for Thursday’s Senate floor session. Committee members were informed a ballot would be sent to members later today to add the Great Lakes Compact bill to Thursday’s Senate calendar after it is passed out of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

I am told the 33 amendments are being combined into one comprehensive substitute amendment. The question is, when will legislators get to see the amended bill?  Will most state Senators get their first look at this large bill when they go to the Senate floor Thursday? Are state Senators expected to vote on such a massive bill without time to review and research the contents?

There’s more on the Senate Democrats’ list of bills to ram through in the final days of the current legislative session that ends next week Thursday, March 13. Stay tuned.

Another 11th hour surprise from Senate Democrats

Remember “Healthy Wisconsin?” That’s the Senate Democrats’ $15 billion government health care plan.  If you thought the plan was dead, guess again. It’s back.

Rejected from the state budget last year, the plan to provide health insurance for everyone in the state is being re-worked by Senate Democrats attempting to take action on the proposal before the end of the session next Thursday, March 13.

I raise the same question about government health care as I do about the Compact legislation. How are legislators expected to vote on such monumental pieces of legislation without time to digest the substance of these bills? This tactic is also extremely unfair to the news media and the general public that will not have time to examine the bills.

Stay tuned to see whether Senate Democrats have other last-minute surprises.

I join my colleagues in call for photo ID

Photo ID

I issued the following press release this morning on photo ID:



LAZICH JOINS OTHER GOP SENATORS IN CALL FOR PHOTO ID
Senate Democrats refuse to schedule constitutional amendment


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            CONTACT: Sen. Lazich
THURSDAY, MARCH 6, 2008                                          (608) 266-5400


(MADISON
)- State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) is urging Senate Democrats to schedule a vote in the Senate on a constitutional amendment that would require a photo ID to vote. Republican Senators held a news conference this morning outside the state Senate chamber.

“An overwhelming majority of voters across Wisconsin, Republican and Democrat, want the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment, but the Senate Democrats continue to stand in the way, obstructing the will of the people,” said Lazich.

Assembly Joint Resolution 17 (AJR 17), the proposed constitutional amendment requiring photo ID must be approved by the state Senate before the current legislative session ends next Thursday, March 13 in order for the issue to go to voters in a statewide referendum. Lazich is a co-sponsor of AJR 17.

“Voters are clamoring for photo ID,” said Lazich. “With the credibility and integrity of our elections in question, Wisconsinites want the chance to speak out on this issue, and Senate Democrats are denying voters the opportunity.”

According to a statewide survey released by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) during October 2005, “Wisconsin residents, by a 63% to 30% margin, clearly favor a constitutional amendment to require photo ID’s for voting.” The same study says “69% of the residents support requiring photo ID’s to vote, while only 27% oppose such a requirement.” The WPRI study also says support for a constitutional amendment is strong in most parts of the state. There is not a region that opposes such an amendment.

Lazich also points to a study released during January 2008 by The
Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University that provides evidence that photo ID’s are not obstacles to voting. A
random sample of registered voters in Indiana, Mississippi and Maryland found that only 1.2 percent of registered voters lack a government-issued photo ID.

The issue of showing a photo ID as a requirement of voting does not appear to be a serious concern in the three surveyed states. Almost all registered voters have an acceptable form of photo ID available (e.g., driver’s license, passport, military ID or some combination of these documents). Nearly all, 96 percent of voters in this study said showing a photo ID would not make them less likely to vote.
 

“A photo ID requirement returns confidence to our system that has been rocked by voter fraud,” said Lazich.  “It ensures that every voter casting a legal ballot is not disenfranchised by a fraudulently cast ballot. Sadly, a group of 18 Senate Democrats, with urging from Governor Doyle, is thwarting the will of the people and standing in the way of common sense public policy.” 

Today's State Senate floor session calendar

First Order.                    Call of Roll.

Second Order.               Chief clerk's entries.

Read more

I voted against the Great Lakes Compact

Great Lakes

Today, I voted against the Great Lakes Compact bill on the floor of the state Senate. The legislation, Senate Bill 523 passed the Senate, 26-6.

For a year and a half, I served on the Legislative Council Special Study Committee on the Great Lakes Compact. The committee was outstanding, the most meaningful committee I have served on during my years in the Legislature.
The makeup of the committee was amazing in that such a varied group of individuals including legislators, interest groups, businesspeople, environmentalists and university officials managed to work diligently for countless hours on a critical issue of enormous magnitude. There is not an issue that is more important than the Compact. 

The way the committee ended its work is telling because more time was necessary to develop the best Compact possible. The sheer length of the Compact was a signal the document needed further study.

Once the Compact is adopted, its policies will remain intact for generations to come, so the job must be done right. Unfortunately, the Compact as written contains page after page of language that is broad and vague, as outlined by our highly respected Legislative Council.

I have already blogged this week about how 33 amendments were proposed to the Great Lakes Compact bill with little time for legislators, the press, interested parties and the general public to review.

It is frustrating to me as the most vocal opponent of the Compact that so many amendments were dropped at the last minute onto a bill that totals over 150 pages. This is no way to run a ship.

The heavy amount of broad language in the Compact indicates this issue almost certainly will wind up in federal courts for years and years to come.  The Compact constitutes make-work for attorneys.
 

I agree that there needs to be a Compact. While I am the biggest opponent to the Compact, I am also the strongest advocate for a Compact that manages our water resources wisely. It’s important for the states to come together, develop an understanding, and come to a compromise.

However, the current Compact has major flaws, including the one state veto provision. Allowing one governor from another state to deny a water diversion to citizens that cannot vote for that governor is a very serious problem with the Compact as written. To relinquish our sovereignty to a regional body of governors that can make changes after the Compact is adopted is unacceptable. Where else do we have a dictatorial or totalitarian form of government where we give up our decision-making authority?  

I could never support a document that relinquishes our sovereignty to another state. I also cannot support legislation that is jammed down our throats at the last minute without appropriate time to examine the bill’s complex details.

The Great Lakes Compact bill, Senate Bill 523 now goes to the state Assembly. The current legislative session ends next Thursday, March 13.

Senate Democrats continue to oppose photo ID

Photo ID

Today on the Senate floor, there was a motion to bring Assembly Joint Resolution 17 (AJR 17) to the floor for a vote. AJR 17 is the constitutional amendment to require a photo ID to vote. AJR 17 allows you to express your desires about photo ID at the voting booth.

The motion to bring the resolution to the floor was a motion to suspend the rules of the Senate that required a two-thirds vote.

All Senate Republicans voted to take up the constitutional amendment.

All Senate Democrats except one  voted against bringing the constitutional amendment to the floor.

The motion failed 15-17.

Senate Democrats continue to obstruct the opportunity for you to express your will about requiring a photo ID to vote. Studies show overwhelmingly that people want photo ID as a requirement to vote.

It's cram and jam time in the state Senate

During the final weeks of the current legislative session, the modus operandi of Democrats controlling the state Senate is to jam and rush significant legislation through without time for legislators to review bills. This week was a perfect example.

Senate Democrats scheduled an executive session for Tuesday in the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on Great Lakes Compact legislation. There are 153 pages in the Great Lakes Compact bill, Senate Bill 523.  Monday, 33 amendments were added to the bill. Less than 24 hours later, the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources was scheduled to vote on the heavily amended bill.

It was unconscionable to expect the committee, concerned parties and the general public to review and comprehend this complex bill in such a short amount of time.

The committee recessed Tuesday, came back to work Wednesday, narrowly approved the bill on a 3-2 vote, and then the full state Senate voted on the bill, with less than 24 hours to prepare, in addition to a full Senate calendar.

I fully expect the same process to play out next as Senate Democrats unveil their government health care plan.

Having massive bills like the amended Great Lakes Compact dropped in your lap with little time to review is unreasonable, especially during a week like this past week. Consider the following that occurred during Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in addition to the 153 page and 33 amendment compact bill:
 
  • Some of the committees I serve on met at the same time. 
  •  Six committee meetings.
  •  Executive voting sessions in the committees on 24 bills.
  •  Public hearings in committees on 22 bills.
  •  Two days on the Senate floor.
  •  Votes on the state Senate floor on 42 bills. 
There is an improbable expectation that legislators can thoroughly review significant pieces of legislation during such a frantic period with schedules already heavy and little notice provided on bills, like the Great Lakes Compact.

This manner of governing, ramming through complex bills abruptly at the last minute without appropriate time to review is extremely unfair to legislators and the constituents they represent.

State Senate calendar for Tuesday

 

Here is the state Senate calendar for Tuesday, March 11, 2008:


Read more

Congratulations Kara Walla!

Fourteen -year -old Kara Walla of Hales Corners won the 2008 Badger State Spelling Bee over the weekend.

Congratulations, Kara!

Read more about Kara’s victory.

Congratulations New Berlin Eisenhower!

New Berlin Eisenhower won the W.I.A.A. Division 2 state basketball championship, defeating Adams-Friendship, 54-41. It’s the first state basketball title in New Berlin Eisenhower’s history.

Congratulations also go out to Alex Izzo of New Berlin Eisenhower for setting a Division 2 tournament record with 7 three-pointers. Izzo finished the championship with a game-high 23 points.

This outstanding team had plenty of heroes.

In the sectional final last week, Jim Root sank the winning shot against Brown Deer to allow New Berlin Eisenhower to advance to the state tournament.

In the semifinals Friday, Kevin Marr made 5 of 6 free throws in the final 42 seconds against defending state champion Monroe.

Senior Mike Hojnacki led the team in scoring and rebounding all season long.

I’m very proud of head coach David Scheidegger and all of the New Berlin Eisenhower Lions!

Senate Democrats resurrect Healthy Wisconsin

Government health care

The state Senate committee on Health, Human Services, Insurance, and Job Creation that I serve on holds a public hearing today on the Senate Democrats’ government health care plan.

The plan is very similar to the proposal Senate Democrats attempted to put in the 2007-09 state budget. That plan was rejected.

The latest version of the Senate Democrats’ government health care plan is Senate Bill 562 (SB 562). Based on a memo on the proposal I requested and received from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the plan is just as troubling as last year’s proposal.

The price tag is $15.2 billion, the largest tax increase in the history of the United States.

The Senate Democrats’ proposal also includes an un-elected Board that would have wide-ranging authority. According to a memo I received from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, here are the details about the responsibilities of the un-elected Board:


“Board Membership. Create the Health Wisconsin Authority (Authority) as a public bodycorporate and politic, the Board of Trustees (Board) of which would consist of: (a) five non-voting members, including the Secretary of Employee Trust Funds, who would serve as the initial chairperson until the Board elects a chairperson from its voting members, and four representatives from the Authority's health care advisory committee who are health care personnel and administrators and who would be selected as Board members by the health care advisory committee; and (b) 16 voting members, nominated by the Governor and appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate, comprised of: (1) four members selected from a list submitted by statewide labor or union coalitions, one of which would be a public employee; (2) four members selected from a list submitted by statewide business and employer organizations, one of which would be a public employer; (3) one member selected from a list submitted by statewide public school teacher labor organizations; (4) one member selected from a list submitted by statewide small business organizations; (5) two members who are farmers, selected from a list submitted by statewide general farm organizations; (6) one member who is a self-employed person; and (7) three members selected from a list submitted by statewide health care consumer organizations. Specify that Board members would serve staggered terms of six years each. Authorize the Board to appoint an Executive Director, who would serve at the Board’s pleasure, and whose compensation would be determined by the Board.

Board Responsibilities. Charge the Board with the duty to establish, fund, and administer a health care system in Wisconsin that would ensure that all eligible persons have access to high quality, timely, and affordable health care. Direct the Board, in carrying out that duty, to seek to attain the following goals: (a) that every Wisconsin resident has access to affordable, comprehensive health care services; (b) that health care reform would maintain and improve the choice of health care providers and high quality health care services in Wisconsin; and (c) that health care reform would implement cost containment strategies that retain and assure affordable coverage for all Wisconsin residents.

Require the Board to do the following: (a) provide for mechanisms to enroll into the Healthy Wisconsin Plan (plan) every eligible Wisconsin resident; (b) create a program for consumer protection and a process to resolve disputes with providers; (c) establish an independent and binding appeals process for resolving disputes over eligibility and other determinations made by the Board, and entitle individuals adversely affected by any such determination to judicial review of the determination; (d) submit an annual report on the Board’s activities to the Governor and each house of the Legislature; (e) contract for annual, independent program evaluations and financial audits that measure the extent to which the plan is achieving its statutorily-defined goals; (f) accept bids from health care networks, or make payments to fee-for-service providers, upon consulting with the Department of Employee Trust Funds to determine the most effective and efficient way to purchase health care benefits; and (g) audit health care networks and providers to determine if their services meet the plan’s statutory objectives and criteria.

Vest the Board with all powers necessary or convenient to carry out the plan’s statutory
purposes and provisions. Specify that those powers would include, but not be limited to, the power to establish the Authority’s annual budget and monitor its fiscal management, to execute contracts, to employ any officers, agents, and employees it may require, to sue and to be sued, to borrow money as necessary on a short-term basis to address cash flow issues, and to compel witnesses to attend meetings and to testify upon any necessary matter concerning the plan.”


The Senate Democrats’ costly plan would likely bankrupt the state and establish an astonishing bureaucracy with little accountability. An un-elected Board would have the power to set health care costs and determine the type and amount of health care services.

SB 562, like the Great Lakes Compact legislation is on the fast track. I will be voting against the proposal.

Senate Democrats refuse to allow vote on coercive abortion

State Senate Democrats voted unanimously today to block the state Senate from bringing up the coercive abortion bill that I co-authored for an immediate vote.

Assembly Bill 427 (AB 427) is a prevention bill. The goal of this legislation is to prevent women from suffering post-abortion trauma.

There has been a public hearing on the bill. I testified at the hearing. AB 427 passed the state Assembly on October 30, 2007, 65-32.

I made a motion on the floor of the state Senate today to bring AB 427 to the floor for a vote. Senate Democrats asked that the Senate stand informal for two minutes. Senate Democrats then went into a closed door caucus for about 15 minutes to discuss my motion.

When the Senate Democrats came out of their caucus, the Senate voted 18-15 against bringing AB 427 up for a Senate vote, even though one Senate Democrat is the Senate author of the bill and another Senate Democrat is a co-sponsor.

I submit the following question: If you authored or co-sponsored a bill, why would you, in the last few days of the legislative session, oppose an opportunity to have a vote on your very own bill?

Senate calendar for today, March 12

Here is the state Senate calendar for today, Wednesay, March 12, 2008:


First Order.     Call of Roll.
Second Order. Chief clerk's entries.
Third Order.    Introduction, first reading and reference of proposals; reference of appointments.
Fourth Order.  Report of committees.
Fifth Order.     Petitions and communications.
Sixth Order.    Advice and consent of the Senate.
Seventh Order.  Referrals and receipt of committee reports concerning proposed administrative rules.
Eighth Order.  Messages from the Assembly.
Ninth Order.   Special Orders.


QUESTION:        Shall the appointment be confirmed?

Special Order at 11:01 A.M.
Culver, Curt S., of Nashotah, as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Medical College of Wisconsin, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2010.


Special Order at 11:02 A.M.
Stark, Will, of De Pere, as a member of the Fox River Navigational System Authority, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2010.

QUESTION:        Shall the bill be ordered to a third reading?

Special Order at 11:03 A.M.
Assembly Bill 297. Relating to: the regulation of certain structures in navigable waters, granting rule-making authority, and making an appropriation.Senate Amendment 1 pending

QUESTION:        Shall the amendment be concurred in?

Special Order at 11:04 A.M.
Senate Bill 69. Relating to: information obtained by a tax preparer in the course of preparing a client's tax return. Assembly Substitute Amendment 3 pending

Special Order at 11:05 A.M.
Senate Bill 176. Relating to: payment of a 1st class city police officer's salary after discharge and the adjournment of a trial or investigation relating to charges brought against such an officer. Assembly Substitute Amendment 2 pending

QUESTION:        Shall the joint resolution be adopted?

Special Order at 11:06 A.M.
Senate Joint Resolution 101. Relating to: commending Chancellor John P. Keating on his commitment to excellence in higher education. 

Special Order at 11:07 A.M.
Senate Joint Resolution 102. Relating to: the life and public service of Jerome F. Quinn. 

Special Order at 11:08 A.M.
Senate Joint Resolution 103. Relating to: commending Chancellor John D. Wiley for his outstanding service to the state of Wisconsin. 

QUESTION:        Shall the bill be ordered to a third reading?

Special Order at 11:09 A.M.
Senate Bill 251. Relating to: removal of a pupil from class, from any portion of school property, or from a school-sponsored activity. Senate Substitute Amendment 1 pending

Special Order at 11:10 A.M.
Senate Bill 274. Relating to: restrictions relating to soil testing and the installation, design, maintenance, repair, and sale of private sewage systems and providing a penalty. Senate Amendment 1 pending

Special Order at 11:11 A.M.
Senate Bill 285. Relating to: the regulation of certain telecommunications utilities and the public service commission's jurisdiction over public utilities in general. Senate Amendment 1 to Senate Substitute Amendment 1 and Senate Substitute Amendment 1 pending

Special Order at 11:12 A.M.
Senate Bill 349. Relating to: records of pupils attending a private school participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. 

Special Order at 11:13 A.M.
Senate Bill 379. Relating to: fire safety performance standards for cigarettes, making an appropriation, and providing a penalty.Senate Amendments 1 and 2 pending

Special Order at 11:14 A.M.
Senate Bill 397. Relating to: the disposal, collection, and recycling of electronic devices, making an appropriation, and providing penalties. Senate Amendment 1 to Senate Substitute Amendment 1 and Senate Substitute Amendment 1 pending

Special Order at 11:15 A.M.
Senate Bill 442. Relating to: the use of cellular telephones and other devices while operating certain motor vehicles transporting children and providing a penalty. Senate Amendment 1 pending

Special Order at 11:16 A.M.
Senate Bill 453. Relating to: the total amount of airport development zone and technology zone tax credits.

Special Order at 11:17 A.M.
Senate Bill 474. Relating to: licenses and limited X-ray machine operator permits to engage in the practice of radiography, creating a radiography examining board, granting rule-making authority, requiring the exercise of rule-making authority, and providing a penalty.

Special Order at 11:18 A.M.
Senate Bill 486. Relating to: requiring the licensure of instructional staff in schools participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. 

Special Order at 11:19 A.M.
Senate Bill 493. Relating to: providing information about suicide prevention to public and private school professional staff. 

Special Order at 11:20 A.M.
Senate Bill 494. Relating to: changing the procedures for filling vacant civil service positions in the city of Milwaukee.

Special Order at 11:21 A.M.
Senate Bill 504. Relating to: supervision of barber or cosmetologist apprentices.

Special Order at 11:22 A.M.
Senate Bill 510. Relating to: requiring the combined reporting of corporate income and franchise taxes; supplemental funding for the renewable energy grant and loan program; Wisconsin higher education grants for technical college students; income eligibility for child care subsidies; incentive grants to technical college district boards for training in advanced manufacturing skills; airport development zone and technology zone tax credits; funding for the Department of Transportation; the Regional Transit Authority and commuter rail transit systems; authorizing the Wisconsin Health and Educational Facilities Authority to issue bonds to finance projects related to research facilities; and making an appropriation. Senate Amendment 1 pending

Special Order at 11:23 A.M.
Senate Bill 536. Relating to: adding a member to the Council on Veterans Programs. 

Special Order at 11:24 A.M.
Senate Bill 544. Relating to: requiring that local regulation of a wind energy system be consistent with Public Service Commission rules and granting rule-making authority. Senate Amendments 1, 2 and 4 pending

Special Order at 11:25 A.M.
Senate Bill 549. Relating to: the confidentiality and electronic filing of real estate transfer returns. 

Special Order at 11:26 A.M.
Senate Bill 551. Relating to: reporting requirements for certain charitable organizations.

Special Order at 11:27 A.M.
Assembly Bill 169. Relating to: obtaining a special registration plate for disabled persons. 

Special Order at 11:28 A.M.
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ssembly Bill 216. Relating to: community service work option for certain defendants.

Special Order at 11:29 A.M.
Assembly Bill 334. Relating to: designating feral pigs as harmful wild animals. 

Special Order at 11:30 A.M.
Assembly Bill 468. Relating to: notaries public who are not attorneys and providing penalties.

Special Order at 11:31 A.M.
Assembly Bill 613. Relating to: salaries of deputy district attorneys.

Special Order at 11:32 A.M.
Assembly Bill 623. Relating to: investments and operations of the State of Wisconsin Investment Board. 

Special Order at 11:33 A.M.
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ssembly Bill 654. Relating to: eliminating the study related to imposing local general property taxes on public utility property. 

Special Order at 11:34 A.M.
Assembly Bill 764. Relating to: coverage of long-term care districts under the Wisconsin Retirement System.

Special Order at 11:35 A.M.
S
enate Bill 257. Relating to: invasion of privacy.  Senate Amendment 1 pending

S
pecial Order at 11:36 A.M.
Senate Bill 355. Relating to: restrictions on the operation of motor vehicles by persons using electronic text messaging devices and providing a penalty. 

Special Order at 11:37 A.M.
Senate Bill 476. Relating to: the effect of an order denying, limiting, discontinuing, or prohibiting parental visitation with a child who is adjudged to be in need of protection or services, who is the subject of a termination of parental rights petition, or who is in sustaining care following a termination of parental rights on visitation between the child and a sibling and requiring a child's permanency plan to include a statement as to whether visitation between the child and a sibling is in the best interests of the child and sibling when parental visitation is denied, limited, discontinued, or prohibited.

Special Order at 11:38.M.
Senate Bill 545. Relating to: creating an alcohol beverages licensing exception for certain auction sales of wine.   Senate Amendment 1 pending

Tenth Order.             Consideration of motions, resolutions, and joint resolutions not requiring a third reading.
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leventh Order.        Second reading and amendments of senate joint resolutions and senate bills.
Twelfth Order.          Second reading and amendments of assembly joint resolutions and assembly bills.
Thirteenth Order.     Third reading of joint resolutions and bills.
Fourteenth Order.     Motions may be offered.
Fifteenth Order.        Announcements, adjournment honors, and remarks under special privilege.
Sixteenth Order.        Adjournment.

Read more

The wrong solution for our budget shortfall

State budget

Have you heard about Wisconsin’s revenue shortfall?

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau announced the shortfall is an incredible $652.3 million. It’s a huge problem that needs to be addressed and with a proper solution.

Have you seen the cost of gasoline? At $3.20/gallon and climbing, the price is the highest ever in Wisconsin.

Have you traveled on the Interstate lately? A myriad of potholes and huge divots, the Interstate and many Wisconsin roads are in deplorable condition.

Have you renewed your license or registration lately? Did you notice the $10 increase in license renewal, and the $20 increase in registration renewal?

Connect the dots: the large revenue shortfall, the high cost of gasoline, roads that look like minefields, and increased fees. Keep those issues in mind as you consider Governor Doyle’s proposal to repair the state budget.

Part of the governor’s plan to fix the budget shortfall is to raid the state’s Transportation Fund of $243 million and transfer it to the General Fund. The Transportation Fund is financed through the state gas tax, one of the highest in the nation, and driver license fees and registration fees. The revenue is used for road projects.

That means less money will be available for work on Wisconsin roads at a time they are in desperate need of attention.

Once again, Governor Doyle has dug into the pockets of taxpayers and his bag of tricks and pulled out an oldie, but not a goodie: raiding the Transportation Fund to plug a spending hole.

During February 2005, Governor Doyle presented his 2005-07 state budget to the Legislature including a $180 million transfer from the state's Patient Compensation Fund and another $250 million from the transportation fund.

After the 2005-07 state budget was approved by the Legislature, Governor Doyle partially vetoed 752 words out of a large section of the budget to create a 20-word sentence. The result was a raid of $427-million from the Transportation Fund, an appropriation the Legislature did not authorize.

The 2007-09 state budget transfers $200 million from the state's Patient Compensation Fund to the general fund. The Wisconsin Medical Society is now suing the state because of the raid that could be illegal.

When citizens pay a tax or fee designated for a specific purpose, like the gas tax for roads, they expect the funds will be used in that manner. The use of funds for other programs or services other than those the funding was intended for is a serious breach of faith and trust with the public. These raids are wrong and must stop.

This legislative session, a constitutional amendment, Assembly Joint Resolution 34 (AJR 34) to prevent budget raids was approved by the state Assembly, 91-6. AJR 34 would prohibit state lawmakers from raiding segregated funds to fill budget holes and prevent funds from being used outside their original intent.

This is the first consideration of AJR 34. The amendment must still pass the state Senate in this legislative session, then be approved by both houses of the Legislature in the next legislative session before going to voters in a statewide referendum. It is highly unlikely the state Senate will schedule AJR 34 for a vote before the current session ends Thursday.

Wisconsin got into its current budget mess because the state taxes, spends, and borrows too much. Governor Doyle’s plan to fix the state budget is to increase the hospital tax and raid the Transportation Fund. Raising taxes and raiding funds are the wrong solutions. Think about that the next time you fill up your tank or hit a pothole.

Senate Democrats support school choice roadblocks

Senate Democrats approved bills in the Senate today that set up obstacles for the popular and successful Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

Senate Bill 486 (SB 486) stipulates that beginning in the 2009−10 school year, each private school participating in the school choice program must ensure that all instructional staff in the private school hold a license or a permit to teach issued by the state Department of Public Instruction.

I had the opportunity to tour a choice school in Milwaukee. One of the instructors teaching physical education had a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He was more than qualified to be teaching physical education and his students thoroughly enjoyed his class.

Under SB 486 that was approved along party lines by the state Senate, this Tae Kwon Do black belt-holder would be prohibited from teaching in an area he’s very knowledgeable unless he goes through the hoops to get a DPI license. That would be unfair to the staff person and extremely sad for school children benefiting from this professional’s expertise.

Choice schools have a system in place to ensure quality teachers.

As part of an accreditation process required under a bill signed into law during the 2005 legislative session, 2005 Act 125, choice schools have a professional development plan. There are also training and education credits in the specific subject areas that a staff person teaches.

I also voted against Senate Bill 349 (SB 349). SB 349 is about record keeping.

Previous legislation, 2005 Act 125, addressed the issue. Under the law, choice schools must be accredited within three years by an approved agency.  Each of the agencies has specific requirements that must be followed for keeping student records.

I voted against these bills because they are more efforts by Senate Democrats to impede the continued progress of choice schools by imposing unnecessary regulations.

Sibling visitation bill approved by state Senate

Legislation I authored that allows siblings to continue visitation in the event parental visitation is terminated was approved by the state Senate today.

Senate Bill 476 is follow-up legislation to 2005 Wisconsin Act 448 that I authored that gives children awaiting adoption the right to be adopted into the family of an already adopted sibling. Children in foster care or awaiting adoption under the law now have the opportunity to grow up with a sibling rather than a stranger.

Currently, sibling visitation ceases upon termination of parental visitation. Senate Bill 476 is a logical step to take now that the state allows siblings to be adopted into the same family.

One of my constituents with much experience as a foster parent brought this problem to my attention. The constituent was disturbed that upon the appropriate termination of parent visitation, the children were not allowed to continue sibling visitation. Under Senate Bill 476, if it is in the best interest of the child/children, visitation is to be allowed.

The children must be of utmost importance and consideration during this sad and tragic event in their lives. Senate Bill 476 allows siblings to continue visitation and prevents children from experiencing further separation, disruption, and confusion.

State Senate calendar for today, Thursday

Here is the calendar for the state Senate floor session today, March 13:



First Order.               Call of Roll.
Second Order.           Chief clerk's entries.
Third Order.              Introduction, first reading and reference of proposals; reference of appointments.
Fourth Order.            Report of committees.
Fifth Order.               Petitions and communications.
Sixth Order.              Advice and consent of the Senate. 

QUESTION:        Shall the appointment be confirmed?

Frank, Matt, of Middleton, as Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, to serve for the term ending at the pleasure of the Governor.

Nelson, Elwyn, of Oshkosh, as a member of the Fox River Navigational System Authority, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2010.

Eighth Order.            Messages from the Assembly.
Ninth Order.              Special Orders.
Tenth Order.             Consideration of motions, resolutions, and joint resolutions not requiring a third reading.

QUESTION:        Shall the resolution be adopted?

Senate Resolution 28. Relating to: divestment of State of Wisconsin Investment Board investments in certain companies with ongoing business operations in Sudan. 

Senate Resolution 29. Relating to: the life of David F. Schulz who passed away on Sunday, the 7th of October, 2007, after many years of government and academic service. 

Senate Joint Resolution 105. Relating to: expressing support for the Milwaukee Center for Independence.  

Eleventh Order.         Second reading and amendments of senate joint resolutions and senate bills.

QUESTION:        Shall the joint resolution be ordered to a third reading?

Senate Joint Resolution 80. Relating to: providing property tax relief to persons who have their principal dwelling in this state (first consideration). Senate Substitute Amendment 1 pending

QUESTION:        Shall the bill be ordered to a third reading?

Senate Bill 215. Relating to: making June 19, Juneteenth Day, a legal holiday. 

Senate Bill 232. Relating to: pharmacists, contraceptives, and the definition of abortion. Senate Amendments 1 and 2 pending

Senate Bill 374. Relating to: compulsory financial responsibility for the operation of motor vehicles, providing an exemption from emergency rule-making procedures, granting rule-making authority, and providing a penalty

Senate Bill 404. Relating to: making companies that hire illegal aliens ineligible for certain tax exemptions, governmental contracts, grants, and loans, granting rule-making authority, and providing penalties. Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 500. Relating to: creating an agricultural education and workforce development council and making an appropriation.

Senate Bill 532. Relating to: motor vehicle operating privileges, seizures by courts or law enforcement officers of operator's licenses, and reinstatement of canceled identification cards. 

Senate Bill 546. Relating to: drunken driving and creating a penalty. 

Senate Bill 553. Relating to: notices concerning construction near or on lakes, streams, or wetlands that are given to applicants for building permits and other construction approvals, requiring the Department of Natural Resources to furnish informational brochures about wetlands laws, requiring the Department of Natural Resources to provide evaluations and statements about whether certain land contains wetlands, and making an appropriation. Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 557. Relating to: state special education aid for the salaries of certain pupil services personnel and granting rule-authority.

Twelfth Order.          Second reading and amendments of assembly joint resolutions and assembly bills.

QUESTION:        Shall the bill be ordered to a third reading?

Assembly Bill 144. Relating to: escapes by persons on probation, parole, and extended supervision and providing penalties.

Assembly Bill 301. Relating to: holding periods for secondhand dealers and pawnbrokers and regulating occasional sellers of computer toys and games and audio and video recordings.

Assembly Bill 531. Relating to: the frequency of wage payments to volunteer fire fighters and emergency medical technicians. 

Assembly Bill 605. Relating to: investment of assets in the state investment fund (suggested as remedial legislation by the Investment Board). 

Assembly Bill 606. Relating to: Investment Board report dealing with investments in this state (suggested as remedial legislation by the Investment Board). 

Assembly Bill 615. Relating to: service on foreign corporations (suggested as remedial legislation by the Office of the Secretary of State).  A

A
ssembly Bill 617. Relating to: adding the definition of fiscal year to abandoned property reporting requirements law and assessment of a service charge after June 30 regarding abandoned property (suggested as remedial legislation by the Office of the State Treasurer). 

Thirteenth Order.     Third reading of joint resolutions and bills.
F
ourteenth Order.     Motions may be offered.
Fifteenth Order.        Announcements, adjournment honors, and remarks under special privilege.
Sixteenth Order.        Adjournment.

 

Adjourning in honor of some wonderful constituents

Tuesday on the floor of the state Senate, I adjourned the Senate session in honor of  Kara Walla of Hales Corners,  winner of  the state spelling bee, and the New Berlin Eisenhower boy’s basketball team that won the W.I.A.A. Division 2 state basketball championship.

You can watch the adjournment honors here.

Wisconsin is one of the biggest business taxers in the world

Business, Taxes


The nonpartisan research group, the Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. has released a study showing most states in America, including Wisconsin, tax businesses at a higher rate than any other country in the developed world.

Here is how the Tax Foundation came up with its findings. For each state, the Tax Foundation added the state’s corporate tax rate to the federal corporate tax rate.  The results:
  • 25 states, including Wisconsin have a combined corporate tax rate higher than top-ranked Japan.
  • 35 states, including Wisconsin have a combined corporate tax rate higher than third-ranked Germany.
  • 46 states, including Wisconsin have a combined corporate tax rate higher than fourth-ranked Canada.
  • All 50 states have a combined corporate tax rate higher than fifth-ranked France.

I agree with Tax Foundation president Scott Hodge, who authored the study. Hodge says, “Tax competition for jobs and investment is fierce, and the U.S. continues to fall further and further behind. Our states should be the world's leaders in many things, but high taxation should not be one of them. The high federal corporate tax rate is literally crushing states' competitive abilities. That means fewer jobs for American workers."

Here is the Tax Foundation news release.

Here is the Tax Foundation full study.

I'm in State Legislatures magazine

Great Lakes, Mary in the media

I was interviewed for an article about the competition for water that appears in the March issue of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ magazine, “State Legislatures.”

The article, entitled, “Hot Water,” discusses the Great Lakes Compact:


Supporters of the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact note that it still needs to be ratified by the legislatures of six more states and that the going may not be entirely smooth. In Wisconsin, Senator Mary Lazich says she has concerns that the effect of the compact may be additional bureaucracy. “I think it has the potential to be make-work for the government and private sector attorneys who will be involved in defining all of this down the road,” says Lazich.

But even with such reservations, Lazich acknowledges that momentum is in the compact’s favor, and for a compelling reason. “All of us are reading about the water issues across the country and it makes us even more determined to preserve our Great Lakes. We want to see the language of the compact tweaked a little, but ultimately the only thing that matters is making sure that nothing detrimental happens to the lakes.”

Here is the entire article.

Can you handle March Madness?

Gambling


It began this past Sunday when the NCAA announced its 65-team men’s basketball tournament and will continue until a champion is crowned Monday, April 7.

March Madness captures the imagination of the country for 22 days. Fans and non-fans watch the games, talk about the games, plan their schedules around the games, and they bet on the games.

"It is by far the biggest gambling event of the year," Victor Matheson, an expert on sports economics at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts told the Dallas Morning News.

The newspaper also reports that as many as 37 million people are expected to participate in the wagering, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a job counseling firm in Chicago.

The overwhelming majority of March Madness gamblers are involved in small pools with co-workers and friends. A small percentage partakes in high roller stakes that can be very risky.

"We are aware of pools that can get up to $100,000," NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said.

The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) says, “Two to three percent of the US population will have a gambling problem in any given year. That’s 6 million to 9 million Americans yet only a small fraction seeks out services, such as treatment and self-help recovery programs.”

The temptation grows as March Madness erupts, a sporting event that eclipses the popularity of the Super Bowl because it runs for three weeks as opposed to three hours. As such, it lures in more gamblers.

The Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling Rose Gruber says March tends to be a record-setting month for people calling in to the Council’s helpline seeking assistance for addictive gambling.

The NCPG has compiled a list of questions about the signs of problem gambling. It says if you or someone you know answers yes to any of the following questions, it is likely that gambling has become a serious problem:

1) Have you gambled until your last dollar is gone?


2) Have you often gambled longer than you had planned?

3) Have you lied about your gambling to friends or family?

4) Have you used your income or savings to gamble while letting bills go unpaid?

5) Have you made repeated attempts to stop gambling?

6) Have you broken the law or considered breaking the law to get money to gamble?

7) Have you borrowed money to finance your gambling?

8) Have you felt depressed or suicidal because of your gambling losses?

9) Have you been remorseful after gambling?

10) Have you gambled to try to get money to meet your financial obligations?

The NCPG says problem gambling has serious consequences:

• Trust is often the first casualty in the family of the problem gambler. Change in the behavior of the family member is often attributed to many other possible problems before gambling is identified as the problem.

• Respect for the problem gambler is generally lost once this problem has been identified. “Why can’t you just stop so the problem will go away?”“You can fix this!” When the gambler can’t, respect for them is lost.

• Relationships are built on trust and respect. Without these, family relationships will be weakened or destroyed. 

• Family Dynamic is dependent on each family member meeting the needs of the others. Problem gambling can destroy the ability of the gambler to do this. 

• Employment can be affected in various ways. The gambler will often neglect responsibilities at work and/or develop an attendance problem asthey begin to have less control over their need to gamble. In the worst situation, the gambler will steal from their employer in order to continue their gambling. Any of this can lead to loss of employment and prosecution.

 • Financial security for the family is often lost as the gambler seeks more and more resources with which to gamble. All of the family’s financial resources may be liquidated without their knowledge. Savings, home equity, retirement accounts, children’s savings, etc may all be lost or damaged.  

• Reputations are difficult to protect as the gambling problem affects more and more aspects of the gambler’s life and become known by individuals outside of the family.

 • Domestic violence may result in a family affected by a member with an addiction problem. The family of a problem gambler can be impacted just as easily as that of someone with an alcohol or drug addiction. The problem gambler may be the victim or perpetrator.

 • Co-occurring disorders such as depression, substance abuse, and other compulsive behaviors often occur as a result of or along with the gambling problem. • Children of problem gamblers have a higher probability of developing a gambling problem than those with parents who do not gamble. This follows the pattern as experienced by children of those affected by substance and domestic violence.

If you have questions, need help, or know someone who does, you can call the
Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-GAMBLE-5 or the National Council on Problem Gambling at 1-800-522-4700. 

Vote Yes on April 1 to kill the Frankenstein veto

 “Few votes are as obvious and easy as this one.”

That’s what a Wisconsin State Journal editorial says about the statewide referendum that will be on the April 1 ballot asking voters whether they want to get rid of or keep the governor’s Frankenstein veto power.

I co-sponsored the constitutional amendment that will prohibit Wisconsin governors, Republican or Democrat, from using their expansive veto power to form new words, phrases or sentences to authorize spending the Legislature never approved. 

The constitutional amendment will read:

"QUESTION 1: Partial veto. Shall section 10 (1) (c) of article V of the constitution be amended to prohibit the governor, in exercising his or her partial veto authority, from creating a new sentence by combining parts of two or more sentences of the enrolled bill? "

The appropriate answer is “yes.”

Here’s a reminder of what prompted the constitutional amendment and why the Frankenstein veto must go. Governor Doyle used his partial veto 139 times on the 2005-07 state budget. One of his Frankenstein vetoes increased a transfer from the transportation fund to the general fund from $268 million to $427 million. He accomplished the veto by crossing out 752 words, putting together individual words from unrelated sentences to form a new sentence. To achieve the $427 million figure, he took individual digits from five sets of numbers.

Governor Doyle also utilized the Frankenstein veto in the 2007-09 state budget. He used his veto authority to eliminate the levy limit placed on technical colleges. The budget approved by the Legislature had imposed a cap on growth for technical colleges at four percent.

The governor also used his veto pen to relax the limit placed on local governments by allowing municipalities to increase their levies by 3.86 percent or the rate of new construction for 2007.The governor’s actions almost certainly signal increases in local property taxes, especially for technical colleges that have seen the largest increases of any portion of local property tax bills in recent years.

Should Wisconsin voters strike down the Frankenstein veto, Wisconsin’s governor will still possess the most powerful veto of any governor in the country. The governor would still be able to:


  • Reduce spending amounts by eliminating numbers (striking a zero, for example, to cut an appropriation from $100,000 to $10,000)
 
  • Reduce spending amounts by writing in lower figures
 
  • Effectively change policy in new laws by striking words within a sentence, or cutting whole sentences within a given budget item.

The abuse of the governor’s veto authority must end. You have an opportunity to end the budget shenanigans. The vote on April 1 is to get rid of the Frankenstein veto.

Illinois pharmacists fighting back

During the legislative session that ended last week, I opposed Senate Bill 232, legislation that would have forced all licensed Wisconsin pharmacists, regardless of their medical and moral judgment, to dispense the morning-after pill and other FDA-approved contraceptive drugs that cause abortions.

Pharmacists would have been required to set aside their moral and medical concerns about birth control and be subservient to the birth control industry. Pharmacists who refuse to give birth control to female customers do so because they are concerned about their patients’ health. Forcing pharmacists to act against their conscience would lead many to leave the profession.

Thankfully, Senate Bill 232 failed in the legislative session.

The issue has now become controversial in the neighboring state of Illinois.

A group of pharmacists is asking the Illinois Supreme Court to toss out a rule that forces them to dispense emergency contraception despite moral objections. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich imposed the rule in 2005 that stipulates pharmacists cannot turn away women who request emergency contraception.

The case is being watched closely by other states, like Wisconsin, that have similar concerns.


Here is the story. (UPDATED)

Rebate scams continue

Last month, I warned about a rebate scam. Phone calls and e-mails claiming to be from the IRS are asking unsuspecting individuals to confirm private financial information so that refunds and the new rebate can be deposited directly into their accounts.

Those scams continue.

The Baraboo News Republic reports:

Crooks send e-mails that appear to be from the IRS telling taxpayers they must fill out a form on the Internet before collecting their money. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers electronically and doesn't ask for personal information over the internet.

A new scheme tries to get taxpayers to reveal personal information before obtaining their economic stimulus payment. That payment goes out automatically to anyone who files a tax return.

The IRS says taxpayers this year have forwarded the agency 33,000 "phishing" scam e-mails reflecting more than 1,500 different schemes.”

Anyone that receives a fake e-mail should not open any links and should forward the message to phishing@irs.gov.

Here is the Baraboo News Republic story.

Haven’t we been down Tobacco Road before?


We are learning more about Governor Doyle’s plan to fix the massive state budget revenue shortfall.

The governor wants to impose a hospital tax. He also wants to raid the Transportation Fund of $243 million and transfer it to the General Fund.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports another element of the governor’s fix is to use payments that are part of a settlement with tobacco companies.  The newspaper reports that part of the governor’s plan will cost the state $94 million.

If you think this sounds familiar, you are right.

The Wisconsin State Journal correctly points out that Governor Doyle’s predecessor, Governor Scott McCallum borrowed against future payments by the tobacco companies to balance the state budget in 2001 and 2002. Governor Doyle, the Attorney general at the time, criticized McCallum. Now it seems Governor Doyle is resorting to the same tactic.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports:

“As attorney general, Doyle helped win a settlement with tobacco companies over the costs of smoking. The settlement called for yearly payments from the companies to the state in perpetuity.

Under a plan authorized by lawmakers and McCallum, the state in 2002 borrowed against that future stream of tobacco company money, receiving $1.6 billion upfront and diverting the annual payments — potentially worth more than $5 billion — to pay off the loans, the so-called tobacco bonds. McCallum, a Republican, originally called for using part of the $1.6 billion to fight the effects of tobacco use, but in the end, it all went to plug a state budget hole.

Doyle now wants to refinance those loans, receiving a lower interest rate and extending the payments, to free up $68 million a year for the state through 2020 that could be used to balance the budget and cover health-care costs.

The cost to taxpayers comes because Doyle's plan would delay by a decade the time it takes the state to pay off its debt on the tobacco bonds and start receiving the hundreds of millions of dollars in tobacco company payments free and clear.

Currently, the state is expected to pay off those bonds by 2017. But under the Doyle plan, the state wouldn't pay them off until 2027, according to the analysis by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Over the next two decades, that delay in receiving payments from the tobacco companies will cost the state $94 million in today's dollars, the (Legislative) Fiscal Bureau report found.”

Here is the entire Wisconsin State Journal article.

I discuss the Great Lakes Compact on WPR

Great Lakes, Mary in the media

I was a guest on the Joy Cardin program on Wisconsin Public Radio. I discussed the concerns I have with the Great Lakes Compact.

You can hear the program by going here.

Scroll down to 3/11/08, 6:00 a.m., and click “Listen.”

My interview is during the second part of the hour.

Expanding Wisconsin's No Call List

Last month, the state Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 99 (SB 99) that expands the Wisconsin No Call List to include cell phone numbers. SB 99 also allows a small business to request that a land line or cell phone number be included on the No Call List that is administered by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

Also under SB 99, a telemarketer is prohibited from calling a customer who has verbally informed the telemarketer that the customer does not want to receive telephone solicitations. Penalties for violators would increase from the current forfeiture of $100. SB 99 increases the forfeiture for violators to not less than $1,000 or more than $10,000.  

I voted for the bill to give consumers this option although I advised caution. Registering your cell phone is unnecessary and a very bad idea. Cell phone numbers are unpublished. If, for example, you provide your cell phone number to the national do not call list, suddenly, it becomes a published number. The lists of numbers must be purchased by telemarketers so they can comply with the do not call registry. It would be extremely easy for unscrupulous entities and foreign, international entities to get their hands on the numbers. Your best bet is to avoid registering your cell phone.

The state Assembly failed to take up SB 99 before the 2007 legislative session ended. The bill is dead and could be re-introduced in the next session in January 2009.

UPDATE: The Strangulation Prevention Enforcement Act

The legislature has approved the Strangulation Prevention Enforcement Act, legislation that I co-sponsored. The bill has been signed into law by Governor Doyle.

The law will provide law enforcement guidelines to address the severity of strangulation and prosecute as a felony.

Under this law, anyone who intentionally impedes the normal breathing or blood circulation of another person by applying pressure on the throat or neck, or by blocking the nose or mouth, of the other person is guilty of a Class H felony. Violators could be fined up to $10,000, be imprisoned up to six years, or both. The law expands the definition of a “dangerous weapon” to include a ligature or any other instrument used on the throat, neck, nose, or mouth of another person to impede, partially or completely, breathing or circulation of blood, and includes strangulation and suffocation in the definition of a “violent crime.”

The Executive Director of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Patti Seeger says in a news release, "All too often domestic abusers strangle their victims as they escalate the violence, but strangulation often leaves no visible injury and is not treated as the serious and dangerous crime that it truly is. This legislation will be a powerful tool for intervening in a potentially lethal form of domestic violence and prevent it from intensifying."

New law makes it tougher to fight assessments

Taxes

An anti-property taxpayer bill was approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Doyle.

Assembly Bill 580 (AB 580) passed 94-3 in the state Assembly and 32-1 in the state Senate. I was the lone dissenting vote in the Senate on AB 580 and here’s why.

According to the Legislative Reference Bureau, under current law, if any property is assessed at a value that is different from the property’s value in the previous year, the assessor must inform the property owner of the new assessment. It must be done in writing, at least 15 days before the first meeting of the taxation district board of review.

Any taxpayer that receives a notice of changed assessment may challenge the assessment by submitting an objection to the board. The board then holds a hearing on the objection and, ultimately, decides whether the assessment is correct or whether the assessment should be changed based on the taxpayer’s objection. If the taxpayer does not agree with the decision of the board, the taxpayer may appeal the decision to the circuit court. If the court finds any error in the board’s proceedings that renders the assessment or the proceedings void, the court remands the assessment to the board for further proceedings.

AB 580 makes changes to the current procedure.

Under AB 580, the review board must grant a taxpayer a 60−day extension for a
hearing of the taxpayer’s objection to a changed assessment. The 60-day extension is granted only if the taxation district has approved an ordinance authorizing extensions. The objecting taxpayers must submit a request for the extension and pay a $100 fee.

Here is another provision of the new law that is troubling. If the taxpayer challenges the assessment, the court will presume that the review board’s assessment is correct. That appears to create a court scenario that is unfair and biased.

Property taxpayers in Wisconsin already bear a heavy burden. Stacking the deck against them in court before a hearing even begins, assuming that the assessor is correct, and slapping them with a fee is bad public policy. The Governor should have vetoed this bill.

Here is a copy of the new law, 2007 Wisconsin Act 86
.

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 all is going well back in beautiful Wisconsin. My wife has kept me informed of what a challenging winter it has been. But for a few sandstorms, the weather here in Iraq has been tolerable thus far, though it did hit 100 degrees earlier this week. I am sure I will be very envious of Wisconsin weather come summer.

I have been in Iraq for about a month and a half now. Serving our country in this capacity is one of the greatest honors an American can experience. My work is primarily focused on helping the rule of law take hold and, hopefully, one day thrive in Iraq. Because of my background in the state legislature and local government, I have also been plugged in a fair amount on Iraqi governance matters as well. Earlier this week, we convoyed into downtown Baghdad for a committee meeting of the Baghdad Provincial Council (a near-equivalent to our state legislature).

Most of my time is spent in Baghdad, though I did make a site visit to Mosul for several days to assess the extent to which the rule of law is taking hold there. We convoyed into town for some insightful meetings with local Iraqi judges, the police chief, and the jail administrator. Because al-Qaida in Iraq and insurgents are still very active in Mosul, we always had to make these visits unannounced and keep them efficient and fairly brief.

America and Iraq are at such an important crossroads for the future right now. There have been so many encouraging improvements in conditions over the past year in Iraq. The Iraqi Army and police force have begun picking up more of the security responsibilities that used to fall on Coalition shoulders alone. The national governing bodies - the Council of Representatives and Presidency Council, as well as the provincial governing bodies - like the Baghdad Provincial Council, have begun functioning like governing bodies in other more established democracies. Similarly, many Iraqi judges and other actors in the criminal justice system here are beginning to demonstrate a commitment to the rule of law. It is exciting to see decisions being made by Iraqi officials based on debate, persuasion, justice, and a commitment to doing what is right, instead of out of fear for personal or family safety - as was the case for more than three decades under Saddam Hussein's regime and even just a year ago when terrorists and insurgents controlled portions of Iraq.

But things must be kept in perspective. There are many forces within (and some outside of) this country still actively committed to undermining a free and sovereign Iraq. Mortar and rocket attacks, car bombs, IEDs, suicide bombers, snipers, etc., attacking innocent Iraqis and American troops are still a very real part of life here. Corruption is still a concern throughout much of Iraq's government to a greater extent than in most other, more established democracies. And fear, though less than perhaps at anytime in the last few decades, is still a concern for honest, upright government officials here. That's why we are at such a crossroads.

The next several months will be quite telling. This is the time when Iraqis, from the policeman on the street to the shopkeeper on the corner to the highest government official, must take full responsibility for their sovereignty and freedom and make the sacrifices necessary to make it their own and make it permanent.

While here, I have been privileged to work with some amazing American patriots. So many wear a uniform - Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Many are not service members, but are civilian government employees and contractors who have volunteered to come to Iraq because they too want to serve their country in this capacity. Many of these service members and civilians have made tremendous sacrifices to come here and do their part for our country.

America is so great and strong, however, not just because there are service members willing to go to far off lands to fight for our country - but because other great Americans - the ones who are back at home, also step up to the plate and do their part by supporting service members while deployed. That is something my family has been very blessed to experience first-hand over the past few months.

Thank you to all those who have helped clear our driveway during one of the worst winters ever, who have made meals for my family - so my wife could use that time to tend to the needs of our six children, who have bought groceries for our family, watched the children in times of need, and have helped in so many, many other ways.

Please remember to pray for the military spouses and children left behind when a loved one goes off to serve. It takes a significant toll on the family. Though many months of my deployment still remain, for my family that toll has been lessened substantially thanks to the great generosity of so many wonderful friends, family and neighbors. Other service members may not be so fortunate. If you know someone who is deployed, please consider offering to help their family in some small way. The impact it makes for that family and the peace of mind it helps provide the service member serving overseas is substantial.

Once again, my family and I wish to say 'Thank You' for all the support we have received during these initial months of my deployment.

Mark Gundrum

The comments herein represent only the opinions of the author and are in no way meant to represent the views of the United States government or the military.



PHOTO 1: Mark and Major Michael Hert, of the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion in Green Bay, pause with their convoy prior to heading into downtown Baghdad for a Baghdad Provincial Council committee meeting.

 

 
PHOTO 2: Making a new friend while outside a Baghdad courthouse evaluating the workings of a new Iraqi reconciliation/amnesty initiative.

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Tax Freedom Day in Wisconsin is April 24

Taxes

Think about all of the important expenditures your family makes in the course of a year. The list certainly would include food, clothing, and shelter.

Now think about the time you have to work to earn enough money to afford those necessities.

In calculating this year’s Tax Freedom Day, the non-partisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. says, “Americans will work longer to pay for government (113 days) than they will for food, clothing and housing combined (108 days). In fact, Americans will work longer to afford federal taxes alone (74 days) than they will to afford housing (60 days). As a group, Americans will also work longer to pay state and local taxes than they will to pay for food.”

Tax Freedom Day, the day that workers will have earned enough to pay all their federal, state and local taxes, comes on April 23, 2008. Wisconsin’s Tax Freedom day, the 14th latest in the country, arrives one day later, April 24, 2008.

Using data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Tax Foundation determined America’s Tax Freedom Day by dividing the nation’s total tax payments$3,910 billion, by the nation’s income as projected by the Tax Foundation for 2008, $12,696 billion. The result, 30.8% is then multiplied by 365 days, equaling 113 days. The 113th day of the year (TheTax Foundation ignored Leap Day) is April 23.

The annual study also breaks down the burden of the various taxes Americans pay, beginning with the largest and most visible, individual income and payroll taxes.

All but 7 states, impose a state income tax on top of the federal income tax. Each American will have to work 42 days to pay off income taxes.

Americans will work, according to the Tax Foundation, another 28 days to afford their payroll taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare, deductions that are clearly designated on payroll stubs. To pay for other add-on taxes like sales and excise taxes, Americans will work another 16 days.

We cannot forget local property taxes. That adds on another 12 days of work.

The Tax Foundation also calculates Americans have to work 13 days to pay for corporate income taxes, figuring that taxes on businesses do get passed on to individuals in the form of increased prices, smaller wages and employment levels, and lower stockholder values.

Add in one more day for estate and gift taxes and one more day for other taxes and the total number of work days needed to afford the tax burden is 113.

Here is the bottom line: You work long and hard to afford essentials like food and clothing. Nothing you work so hard for is as expensive as government.

Here is more information on Tax Freedom Day.

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