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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.

Doyle administration back-tracking on program that promised savings

Audits

  

Over two weeks ago, I blogged that Governor Doyle had quietly dropped a state program designed to save $200 million over four years because it wasn’t working.

An audit of the failed program is now planned.

The Associated Press has more details, including the Doyle administration’s claim that the program was only intended to save $35 million over two years.

By the way, here is the governor’s press release on the program called the ACE Initiative when it was announced. Read the promise in the very first sentence of the release

Good news in the fight against sex offenders

The federal Office of Justice Programs’ Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART) Office has awarded the state of Wisconsin a $204,780 grant to make improvements to the state’s Sex Offender Registry Program.

The enhancements are expected to make information about each registrant more accessible and accurate to law enforcement, according to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC).  With the one-year grant, the department will institute changes that will allow quicker sex offender data updates and create a system for Sex Offender Registry staff to verify offender address information that appears on the Wisconsin Sex Offender Registry web site.

The DOC says the grant money will be used to:

• Create and attach scanned records on each registrant to the Law Enforcement Sex Offender Registry web site, allowing law enforcement to access PDF files with complete and accurate sex offender registry records.

• Develop an improved address verification program, resulting in greater registrant accountability and information accuracy.

• Analyze Wisconsin’s Sex Offender Registry law and compare day-to-day registry operations against new federal registry mandates under the Adam Walsh Act.

• Update registration data collection tools to fulfill mandates under the Adam Walsh Act.

Here are details on the Adam Walsh Act. 

These improvements will increase the state’s ability to ensure offenders do not remain anonymous in our neighborhoods.

Here is more information about the Wisconsin Sex Offender Registry Program.

Photo ID's are constitutional-What are we waiting for?

Photo ID

Indiana, Florida and Georgia.

They are the three states in America that require voters display a government –issued photo ID, like a driver’s license,  to vote.

The U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision ruled that Indiana’s strict photo ID requirement is constitutional. The law had previously been upheld by a federal judge and by a panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his opinion that the state of Indiana had legitimates interests in its photo ID law, including, “protecting the integrity and reliabil­ity of the electoral process, deterring and detecting voter fraud,” and safeguard voter confidence.”

Stevens in his opinion also quoted a report by the Commission on Federal Election Reform chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III that said:


“A good registration list will ensure that citizens are only registered in one place, but election officials still need to make sure that the person arriving at a poll­ing site is the same one that is named on the registra­tion list. In the old days and in small towns where everyone knows each other, voters did not need to identify themselves. But in the United States, where 40 million people move each year, and in urban areas where some people do not even know the people living in their own apartment building let alone their pre­cinct, some form of identification is needed.

There is no evidence of extensive fraud in U. S. elections or of multiple voting, but both occur, and it could affect the outcome of a close election. The elec­toral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters. Photo identification cards cur­rently are needed to board a plane, enter federal buildings, and cash a check. Voting is equally impor­tant.”

Following the ruling, Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita said, "Indiana won the national battle for voter protection. Across the country, leaders are thanking Hoosiers for raising the bar and protecting voters and improving the integrity of the election process. If it is a close race, we're going to be waiting awhile. That could make some (people) anxious. But Indiana is more interested in an accurate outcome."

Indiana’s law requires a government issued photo ID.
Exemptions exist for the indigent, those with a religious objection to being photographed and those living in state-licensed facilities that serve as their precinct's polling place.

If a person is unable or unwilling to present a photo ID, he or she may cast a provisional ballot. Upon casting a provisional ballot, the person has until noon 10 days after the election to follow up with the county election board and either provide a photo ID or affirm that one of the law's exemptions applies.

Rokita says that since the Supreme Court first heard arguments in the case during January 2008, he has received inquiries from 25 states about Indiana’s law.

What about Wisconsin?

Wisconsin missed a golden opportunity to make significant election reform in the previous legislative session. Senate Democrats refused to schedule a constitutional amendment to require a photo ID to vote.  The Senate needed to approve the amendment that I co-sponsored in order for the issue to go to voters in a statewide referendum.

Senate Democrats allowed the 2007-2008 legislative session to end without taking a vote on the amendment.  Had the Senate adopted the amendment, I am confident Wisconsin voters would have overwhelmingly approved it in a statewide referendum. I lobbied aggressively for photo ID, even pointing to studies that demonstrate requiring photo ID’s to vote are not hardships or obstacles to voting.

In Georgia, one of the three states that require a government-issued photo ID, Secretary of State Karen Handel said even when 2 million voters turned out at the polls for the February presidential primary, the state did not have problems.

“There has not been one single demonstrated deprivation of any right to vote or any other violation of a constitutional or statutory right resulting from the photo ID requirement,” Handel said.

Governor Doyle would be wise to call a special session of the Legislature to address the photo ID issue well in advance of the November elections. The governor has vetoed photo ID legislation three times, so that prospect is unlikely.

Stateline.org reports that experts believe the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding Indiana’s law, “paves the way for other states to do the same thing.”

The Indianapolis Star newspaper reports that about half the states have some voter ID requirement. Until Wisconsin starts getting as serious about photo ID as other states, voters will never be able to enjoy the full confidence that their votes have not been disenfranchised.

Boaters urged to clean it up this season

News you can use

Senate District 28 that I represent has a great number of boaters and waterfront property owners.

There is great concern about invasive species, especially hydrilla and milfoil.

Hydrilla is described as a prolific, rapidly-growing submerged aquatic plant that forms dense mats of vegetation. Milfoil is an invasive plant that forms thick mats at the water’s surface that is easily snagged and carried on boat motors and trailers. A single fragment can colonize a new body of water.

To prevent the spread of these and other invasive species and disease, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is urging boaters to follow these steps:


·         Buy bait fish only from a Wisconsin bait dealer.

·         Drain lake or river water from boat, live wells and bait containers before leaving a landing.

·         Do not move live fish away from any water, except for live minnows purchased from a Wisconsin bait dealer and kept under certain conditions.

·         Inspect your boat and trailer and remove all fish, mud and plant matter.

 

The DNR says invasive species and disease spread to new waters aboard boating and fishing equipment, so the best form of prevention is a clean boat. The DNR strongly recommends boaters never leave a lake or river with water, plants or live fish in or on a boat, trailer or boating and fishing equipment.

Conservation wardens and paid and volunteer watercraft inspectors will be out on the water during the fishing opener.

Wisconsin spending on schools above average

Taxes

Wisconsin isn’t cheap when it comes to education.

The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance WTA) reports that Census data shows “Wisconsin spent $10,190 per pupil to operate public schools in 2006. School expenditures here ranked 14th highest among the states and 8.5% above the U.S. average ($9,390). The main reason for the above-average ranking was fringe benefits that exceeded national averages by more than 50%."

Read the WTA press release.

The answers when you ask America about voter ID

Photo ID

Just about everyone in every group in America supports voter ID, and almost no one is excluded from voting by this requirement.

Those are the findings of a survey written about by MIT Department of Political Science Professor Stephen Ansolabehere in February 2007. During 2006, a collaborative survey project among 37 universities included a 36,500 person national sample survey, called the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey (CCES).

The survey was taken of people who voted in 2006 elections and was conducted in three timeframes: August-September 2006, October 2006, and November 2006.

Here are the key findings pertaining to voter ID. A large majority of all respondents expressed support for the requirement, over 75 percent with 17 percent opposed, and eight percent unsure.

It doesn’t matter what part of the country the question is asked. The majority of voters endorse voter ID. The highest level of support is in the South where every state has some form of ID requirement to vote. An incredible 81 percent supports voter ID in the South, with three-fourths of voters in the Midwest and West and just over two-thirds of voters in the Northeast like the idea.

What is the breakdown by political persuasion? Ansolabehere writes:

“Ninety-five percent of people who identify as Conservatives or as Republicans support voter identification requirements. Slightly more than 7 in 10 moderates and Independents supported the voter identification rule. Two-thirds of Democrats supported the idea, as did 60 percent of people who identify as Liberal and 50 percent of those who identify as very liberal. The very high support among Democratic voters comes as something of a surprise considering the very strong opposition to the voter identification proposal from Democratic congressional leaders and members.”

The biggest surprise from the survey came with race. Ansolabehere writes:

“The surprise was the lack of division. Over 70 percent of Whites, Hispanics, and Blacks support the requirement. Black and Hispanic voters did not express measurably less support for voter identification requirements than whites. The Congressional Black Caucus and the Democratic Party leadership were wholly out of step with the analogous segments of the electorate on this issue. The lowest levels of support (and again it’s a majority) came from White Democrats and White Liberals.”

The true test of voting requirements that include identification according to Ansolabehere is in the rate such laws exclude or prevent people from casting ballots. The MIT professor offers the reminder that the Help America Vote Act created a fail-safe mechanism: the provisional ballot. If a voter’s name is not on a list or questions a rise, the individual can cast a ballot that is verified later. Studies done by the Election Assistance Commission conclude that approximately two percent of ballots cast in 2004 were provisional. About two-thirds of those were valid, and most of those consisted of people who were not in fact registered.

The MIT survey found, as Ansolabehere puts it that, “Almost no one was excluded from voting. Only 23 people in the entire 36,500 person sample said that they were not allowed to vote because of voter identification requirements. That figure translates into approximately one-tenth of one percent of voters. The real lesson from the data is that the total number of people who said they were not allowed to vote because of voter identification requirements is trivially small.”

What about race? Ansolabehre writes:

“Exclusions because of voter qualification questions showed no racial differences. Of those Election Day voters whose registration was problematic, 70 percent were white, 16 percent were black, and 10 percent were Hispanic. Across all racial groups 85 to 86 percent were allowed to cast regular ballots and 13 to 14 percent cast provisional ballots. It is rare in survey data that a true zero arises. The number of people who said they were excluded from the polls as a result of voter identification requirements, however, is approaching that limit.”

Ansolabehere is blunt in his conclusions:

“Voter identification is the controversy that isn’t. Almost no one is excluded by this requirement, and when problems arise there is now a reasonable fail safe mechanism. It is not surprising, then, that large majorities in the public support the idea.

It is charged that voter id requirements are used to discriminate against people, especially racial minorities, and that has a chilling effect. That almost no one is prevented from voting because of voter id requirements casts doubt on arguments from the left that this amounts to a new poll tax or literacy test.

It is also hard to imagine how id requirements could have a chilling effect, if they are rarely used to prevent people from voting. The poll tax, literacy test, and other tools of the Jim Crow laws are powerful metaphors derived from a very ugly period in American history. Id requirements in practice bear absolutely no resemblance to such discriminatory practices. This is simply not a case of voter intimidation. Almost no one in the survey (less than one tenth of one percent of voters) reported that they could not vote.”

Here is survey data breaking down responses from various groups. You will see two numbers. The first is the percentage that supports voter ID from that particular group. The second is the percentage of the group that was prevented from voting because of voter ID:


All Respondents 77% / 0.1% 

Northeast 68% /0.1% 

Midwest 76% /0.2% 

South 81% /0.1% 

West 76% /0.1% 

Democrats 67% / 0.2% 

Republicans 95% /0.1% 

Independents 72% /0.1% 

Very Liberal 51% /0.2% 

Liberal 61% /0.3% 

Moderate 74% /0.1% 

Conservative 95% / 0.1% 

Very Conservative 95% / 0.0% 

Whites 77% /0.1% 

Blacks 70% /0.4% 

Hispanic 78% /0.1% 


Here are some other numbers closer to home to consider.

April 1, 2008, Wisconsin voters decided a statewide referendum about the Frankenstein veto. With 99% of the vote reporting, 567,913 (71%) voted in favor of the constitutional amendment to end the veto, and 237, 338 (29%) voted no. That means at least 805,251 people in Wisconsin voted on the veto issue.

Probably about 805,000 and maybe more Wisconsin voters would like to go to the polls and cast a ballot about a photo ID requirement for voting in our state.

It is sad and unfortunate that 19 individuals, Governor Doyle and 18 state Senate Democrats block voter ID in Wisconsin. Governor Doyle vetoed voter ID three times.  Senate Democrats refused to bring the issue to the Senate floor March 6, 2008, days before the end of the 2007-2008 General Session of the Legislature. The Constitutional Amendment process is dead and must start over with approval during the 2009-2010 session of the Legislature and the 2011-2012 session of the Legislature. The only other option is to convince Governor Doyle to approve and not veto a photo ID bill. 

Governor Doyle and Senate Democrats are, in essence, standing in the way, obstructing the will of hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin citizens denying them an opportunity to speak out on election reform.

Here is Ansolabehre’s entire paper about voter ID.

I discuss photo ID on WPR

Mary in the media

I will be a guest of Joy Cardin’s on Wisconsin Public Radio this Monday morning from 7:30-8:00 a.m.

We will discuss a photo ID requirement for voting.

Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard on WHAD, 90.7 on your FM dial.


Reminder: Town hall meetings begin Monday

I will be holding a series of town hall meetings. They begin this Monday:

MONDAY, MAY 5

FRANKLIN
Franklin Public Library  5:00 – 6:00 p.m.
9151 West Loomis Road


GREENDALE
Layton Street Bank of Greendale 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
5850 Broad Street

Please feel free to attend any of these town hall meetings. I look forward to seeing you and hearing your comments, questions and concerns.

Hear me discuss photo ID on Wisconsin Public Radio

Mary in the media, Photo ID

 

This morning, I was a guest of Joy Cardin’s on Wisconsin Public Radio. We discussed the issue of requiring a photo ID to vote.

You can hear the interview by clicking “Listen” below. My interview is 18:40 into the program.

Joy makes reference to a column I recently wrote on photo ID. You can read it here.

   
Joy Cardin  - 080505B
After seven, on the State Capitol Report, how will Wisconsin be affected by putting off a budget fix, and layoffs in Janesville, among other stories. After seven-thirty, Joy Cardin welcomes a legislator to talk about state Photo I.D.

Guests:
7:00 - Shawn Johnson, WPR state government reporter.
7:30 - Mary Lazich (LAH-zick), Republican state senator, New Berlin.

 
 Listen

Beware of tax rebate scams

News you can use

The National Crime Prevention Council has issued an alert, warning about tax rebate scammers.

The federal government has begun to mail out economic stimulus checks to taxpayers. Scammers are calling people, claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) asking for personal information so the check can be deposited directly into the taxpayer’s account.

Don’t fall for this scam.

The IRS will not telephone or e-mail taxpayers. The only way to secure a stimulus check is to file a 2007 income tax return.

Here are more details.

State Senate in session today

Here is the calendar for the state Senate session today, Tuesday, May 13, 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.

QUESTION:        Shall the committee of conference report be adopted?

Assembly Bill 1, March 2008 Special Session . Relating to: state finances and appropriations. (FE)  By Committee on Assembly Organization, by request of Governor James E. Doyle. (Report adoption of Conference Report by the Committee of Conference on March 2008 Special Session Assembly Bill 1, Ayes 5, Noes 1) Conference substitute amendment 1 pending.

Fifth Order.               Petitions and communications.

Sixth Order.               Advice and consent of the Senate.

QUESTION:        Shall the appointment be confirmed?

Cupp, Mark, of Blue River, as a member of the Land and Water Conservation Board, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2012.

Fulkerson, Jay, of Menasha, as a member of the Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan Authority, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2011. 

Gifford, Michael, of Milwaukee, as a member of the Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan Authority to serve for the term ending May 1, 2011. 

Greenley, Dianne, of McFarland, as a member of the Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan Authority, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2011. 

Henzl, Robert, of Racine, as a member of the Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2009.

L
undberg, William, of Wisconsin Rapids, as a member of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2011.

Miller, Michael, of West Bend, as a member of the Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2011. 

Peirick, Carol, of Madison, as a member of the Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan Authority, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2011.

Quackenbush, William, of Black River Falls, as a member of the Kickapoo Reserve Management Board, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2011.

Rohde, Gary, of River Falls, as a member of the Natural Resources Board, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2011.

Stanley, Tim, of Monona, as a member of the Cemetery Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2011.

Timberlake, Karen, of Madison, as secretary of the Department of Health and Family Services, to serve for the term ending at the pleasure of the Governor.

Tlusty, Wayne, of Rib Lake, as a member of the Examining Board of Architects, Landscape Architects, Professional Engineers, Designers and Land Surveyors, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2011. 

Walsh, Roger, of Wauwatosa, as a member of the Wisconsin Waterways Commission, to serve for the term ending March 1, 2013. 

Wesley, Gregory, of Milwaukee, as a member of the Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District Board, for the term ending July 1, 2011. 

Williams, Jay, of Hartland, as a member of the Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2009. 

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 resolution be adopted?

Senate Resolution 1, March 2008 Special Session .
Relating to: the life and public service of Dr. Krishna Chintamaneni.  By Committee on Senate Organization.

QUESTION:        Shall the joint resolution be adopted?

Senate Joint Resolution 3, March 2008 Special Session . Relating to: the life and service of Milton McPike.  By Committee on Senate Organization.

Eleventh 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.

F
ourteenth Order.     Motions may be offered.

Fifteenth Order.        Announcements, adjournment honors, and remarks under special privilege.

Sixteenth Order.        Adjournment.

I voted against the budget repair bill

The state Senate approved a budget repair bill, 17-16. I voted against the bill.

Here is a link to a summary of the bill prepared by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. (LFB).

The budget repair bill is problematic because it includes a raid on segregated funds, using the tobacco settlement money, delaying payments to schools and counties, more borrowing, and, can you believe it, more spending. This irresponsible package merely uses accounting mischief and borrowing to create fiscal problems in the near future, setting the stage for another budget crisis.

The director of the LFB, Bob Lang says that if this budget repair bill becomes law, the state will have a structural deficit of $1.7 billion. The structural deficit is caused by future budget spending commitments exceeding future expected revenues.

There are some troubling provisions contained in the bill, including a property tax exemption for housing projects  funded by WHEDA, and yet another fiscally irresponsible raid of the Transportation Fund of $50 million.

A tobacco settlement restructuring to grab some ready cash allows the state to receive $1,626 million from 2008-09 through 2029-30, and the state would lose $2,414 million over the same period, resulting in a loss of $788 million.

The Wisconsin driver's license fee was increased by $10 to pay for the REAL ID law. The bill proposes the $10 be used for other purposes to balance the budget. Under this scenario, it is likely your license fee will increase another $10 in the next state budget to pay for the REAL ID law.

Deductions for rental payments and interest payments to related entities are eliminated, resulting in additional taxes on businesses. Democrats call the deductions the Wal-Mart loophole. When I drive past Wal-Mart parking lots, I see a lot of my constituents’ cars in those parking lots. I don’t take kindly to increasing the price they will pay for goods.

Tobacco settlement money would be used to pay for Badger Care and Medical Assistance.

Wisconsin’s Do Not Call List would be expanded to include cell phones. That and a few other policy items beg the question as to why policy measures have been inserted into a budget bill.


Add it all up and the budget repair bill does not repair a thing. It only causes fiscal chaos. I voted no.

I voted against the Great Lakes Compact

Great Lakes

The state Senate today approved the Great Lakes Compact. I am a strong advocate for a Compact that protects the quantity and quality of the Great Lakes. Because this document comes up short, I voted against the Compact.

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 rewarding 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 from both parties, interest groups, businesspeople, environmentalists and university officials worked for countless hours on a critical issue of enormous magnitude. The debate and shared information was of an exceptional quality.

During today’s floor debate, I posed four questions about the Compact to Democrat state Senator Mark Miller. Senator Miller chairs the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, and was instrumental in crafting the Compact legislation.

I asked Senator Miller who would resolve issues about the one state veto, communities in straddling counties, public trust doctrine, and the effect of the Compact on Indian tribes. Senator Miller answered that the federal courts would resolve questions. Legislation that lacks certainty and relinquishes authority to federal courts is not in the best interests of Wisconsin. On the question about the effect on the tribes, Senator Miller replied that he didn’t know.

Senator Miller’s answers sent a strong signal that if the Compact still had many unresolved issues, why should the Legislature endorse it? That prompted me to make a motion to refer the Compact back to the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee for the proper work needed to improve the Compact. The motion failed.

The Compact contains the very problematic 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 flaw in this document. To surrender our sovereignty to a regional body of governors that can make changes after the Compact is adopted is unacceptable. I do not support a document that gives up our sovereignty to another state.

The Compact as written contains page after page of language that lacks definition, as outlined by our highly respected Legislative Council. The significant amount of language lacking definition in the Compact indicates this issue almost certainly will wind up in federal courts for years and years to come.

Lawmakers request veto from Doyle

I was one of several legislators to sign a letter sent to Governor Doyle asking him to veto from the budget repair bill the Property Tax Exemption for Low-Income Housing.

You can read the letter here.
 

Wisconsin legislators ask for federal help on gas prices

I was one of several legislators to sign a letter sent to Wisconsin’s Congressional Delegation, requesting they take action to ease the cost of gas for consumers.

You can read the letter here.

Governor Doyle announces budget repair bill vetoes

 

Governor Doyle this morning announced his vetoes of the budget repair bill approved by the Legislature that I voted against.

Doyle vetoed delaying school payments to the next biennium.

The governor ordered an additional $270 million in lapses from state agencies, including the Transportation Fund. This is a favorite tactic of the governor’s, and it comes at the worst possible time, when roads are in need of repair from the harsh winter, and when motorists expect one of the highest gas taxes in the nation to go the Transportation Fund to be used for road projects.

The governor also vetoed a transfer from the REAL ID fund.

He did veto the Property Tax Exemption on Low-Income Housing that I and other legislators requested.

Doyle did not veto a corporate tax increase.

The Wheeler Report lists the vetoes:


General School Aids Payment Delay. Vetoes delete delay of $125 million in school aids and mechanism to reverse the total $200 million delayed payment.

Tobacco Bond Refinancing. One veto addresses a cross reference relating to the definition of appropriation obligation. The DOA will also be authorized to refund the tobacco appropriation bonds in the future based on call provisions included in the bond structure. Second veto allows the transfer of money from the permanent endowment fund to the MA trust fund at any time during the 07-09 biennium. The DOA secretary is requested to structure the refinancing “in a way that is most cost-effective for the state, including a lower up-front payment.”

Lapses to the General Fund. One veto removes the $50 million restriction on the amount of funds that can be transferred from the DOT and the requirement the transfer must come from an appropriation for state highway rehabilitation. Partial veto increases the lapse and transfer amount to $270 million during the 07-09 biennium.

Real ID Implementation Funds. Veto restores Joint Finance Committee authority over Real ID implementation funds and transfers $2 million of the funds to the General Fund, leaving about $20 million for the committee to supplement DOT for the program.

Required General Fund Balance. Veto restores the $65 million statutory balance requirement (from $25 million in the bill).

Authorization for Child Care Payments. Veto leaves funding for child care payments, but removes methodology for reimbursing child care providers under the Wisconsin Shares child care subsidy program. DWD is directed to suspend the current attendance-based rule for the remainder of fiscal year 07-08.

Property Tax Exemption for Low-Income Housing. Veto removes entire provision “because they are major non-fiscal policy and should not be included in this bill.”

Payments to Related Entities – Australian Unit Trusts. Veto removes exemption from payment provisions for Australian unit trusts. Further, in regard to interest on intra-company loans where both entities of the company are subject to the Wisconsin income tax, DOR is requested to “ensure that companies are not, in effect, taxed twice due to this provision.” 


Here is the governor’s veto message.

Town Hall Meetings this Monday


Reminder: This Monday, May 19, 2008, I will hold another round of town hall meetings scheduled this spring throughout the entire state Senate District 28. I look forward to seeing you and hearing your questions, comments, and concerns.
  

MONDAY, MAY 19

GREENFIELD 5:00 p.m.  - 6:00 p.m.
Greenfield City Hall, Council Chambers
7325 West Forest Home Avenue

HALES CORNERS 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Hales Corners Public Library • 5885 South 116th Street

More Town Hall Meetings this week

Reminder: This week, I will hold another round of town hall meetings scheduled this spring throughout the entire state Senate District 28. I look forward to seeing you and hearing your questions, comments, and concerns.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 21

BIG BEND/VERNON 5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Big Bend Village Hall • W230 S9185 Nevins Street

MUSKEGO 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Muskego Public Library • S73 W16663 Janesville Road


THURSDAY, MAY 22

MUKWONAGO 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Mukwonago Town Hall  • W320 S8315 Beulah Road

Wisconsin tourism means big bucks

Wisconsin is about to enter summer, the most important period of the state’s tourism industry. With gas prices at an all-time high, the summer tourism forecast is uncertain. Will people stay home, or will they opt to spend their leisure time close to home here in Wisconsin?

What is clear is that Wisconsin’s year-round tourism business translates into big bucks for the state economy. The Department of Tourism estimates tourism, the state’s third largest industry, added more than $12.8 billion to the state economy during 2007. From 1994 through 2007, travel expenditures increased in Wisconsin 122 percent.

Calculating the impact of state tourism is based on a formula that includes about 2,000 face-to-face interviews with travelers to Wisconsin in all seasons at various events, 3,000 telephone interviews with lodging properties, and over 1,000 telephone interviews with Wisconsin households that hosted travelers or other guests.

Summer, the period June through August, is Wisconsin’s busiest and most productive tourism season, raking in $4.9 billion during 2007. Fall, September through November comes next with $3.1 billion, followed by spring, March-May with $2.6 billion, and winter, December 2007 through February 2008 with $2.2 billion.

Where are most of the tourism dollars spent? Milwaukee County leads the pack with $1.678 billion. Next is Dane County with$1.184 billion. During 2007, Sauk County, home of Wisconsin Dells became the third Wisconsin county to surpass the billion-dollar mark in tourism spending at $1.047 billion.

Rounding out the state's top ten counties in traveler spending were Waukesha, Brown, Walworth, Door, Outagamie, Sheboygan and Vilas counties.

The contribution to Wisconsin businesses by travelers is significant. Wisconsin travelers spend $3.94 billion on shopping, $3.41 billion on food, $2.84 billion on recreation, and $1.61 billion on lodging.

The vast majority of travelers are here for leisure, 70 percent. The leisure category includes sporting events, casino trips group tours, festivals, and visit to families and friends. Another 19 percent were here during 2007 on business, and 11 percent attended meetings or conventions.

Over half, 53 percent of travel expenditures during 2007, $6.7 billion was spent on overnight stays in hotels, motels, resorts, and Bed and Breakfasts (B & B’s).

Another 37 percent did not spend on lodging. Instead, they fell into the category of day trippers, or they visited families and friends. Even so, they still spent $4.71 billion, a sizeable figure for travelers just passing through. The rest of the travelers were campers or stayed in cabins, cottages or condos.

Businesses prosper. So does state employment. Wisconsin’s tourism industry during 2007 supported the full-time equivalent of 200-thousand jobs and $3.6 billion in wages and salaries, covering a wide variety of positions from entry level and part-time to management and executive slots. The Tourism Department estimates that if jobs indirectly related to tourism are factored in, the industry supports 302,000 jobs and $7.09 billion in wages and salaries.

The contribution in taxes and fees is also substantial, $1.422 billion to the state and $638 million to local governments, totaling $2.06 billion.

The Department of Tourism is banking on the state's new branding initiative to help grow Wisconsin's tourism industry. According to the Department, “The new brand platform pays tribute to Wisconsin as a place where the people are fiercely proud, passionate and loyal, and where the culture fuels creativity and embraces originality. It puts the spotlight on the Wisconsin style of hospitality and the friendly people who deliver it, giving visitors a genuine sense of belonging. This hospitality and culture of originality allow visitors to fully ‘be themselves,’ in other words, to relax and pursue their passions.”

The brand promise reads: “Because of the passionate nature of the state's people to create fun, express themselves in original ways and feel more comfortable doing it here than anywhere else, in Wisconsin originality rules.”

A new theme line, advertising concepts and marketing materials will be developed based on the brand promise.

If your summer vacation plans include Wisconsin, know that you are contributing to the state economy and one of the state’s largest and most successful industries.



It's time to buy a poppy

You’ll see them out in the community, at the malls and at grocery stores: proud military veterans offering poppies for a donation. Every nine-piece poppy is painstakingly assembled by disabled and needy veterans, the bright red color symbolizing the bloodshed and sacrifices made by those who fought for our country. Proceeds are exclusively used to assist hospitalized and disabled veterans.

Dedicated veterans who make the poppies earn a small wage; for some, it’s their only income. The labor of love gives them a priceless sense of pride and accomplishment.

Poppies date back to the Belgium battlefields of World War I. Surrounded by soil damaged by death and destruction, red poppies somehow grew wild. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae of the Canadian military wrote about the flower in his 1915 poem, In Flanders Fields: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row that mark our place…” McCrae’s poem inspired Madame E. Guerin, founder of the American and French Children’s League to choose the poppy as the most fitting memorial flower.

Guerin persuaded veterans’ organizations in several countries to sell the poppy to benefit underprivileged children in France. By the early 1920’s, Guerin had brought her campaign to the United States, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion were distributing poppies.

Today, the little red flower’s trademark is the Buddy Poppy, so named for the poppy makers and the memories of their friends who never returned home from war. Silk flowers today are made by veterans in 11 different locations around the country, including Milwaukee. Over three quarters of a billion Buddy Poppies have been sold by the Veterans of Foreign Wars for the aid, assistance, relief, and comfort of needy or disabled veterans or members of the Armed Forces and their dependents, and the widows and orphans of deceased veterans.

The cost of making the poppies really doesn’t matter. The memorial Buddy Poppy is given by a needy veteran in exchange for a contribution. Offering the poppies helps the Veterans of Foreign Wars live up to their longtime motto, “to honor the dead by helping the living.” Please consider a generous donation when you see these wonderful veterans, and wear your poppy as a remembrance of those who served and died for our country.

Memorial Day is this Monday, May 26, 2008. I am honored once again to be a guest speaker at the Memorial Day Ceremony in New Berlin. The ceremony will begin at 11:00 a.m. at Highland Memorial Cemetery located at 14875 W. Greenfield Avenue.

I’m pleased to participate in Memorial Day ceremony

Memorial Day is this Monday, May 26, 2008. I am honored once again to be a guest speaker at the Memorial Day ceremony in New Berlin.

Here are details from New Berlin Memorial Day Committee Chair Dave Ament:
 


2008 MEMORIAL DAY CEREMONY  

Monday, May 26, 2008 is Memorial Day.

This is the only day of the year that we as a Nation have set aside to honor the men & women that gave their lives for our Freedom. We must never forget the ultimate sacrifice made by them through out the history of our Nation. All too many of us have lost sight of the true meaning of this most important day. The men and women whose heroism we both celebrate and mourn must never be taken for granted. We must do everything we can to ensure that the generations that follow will fully appreciate the sacrifices that so many have made and the sorrow their families have had to endure so that the rest of us can live in relative peace and security. 

The New Berlin Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau is proud to join the Hoeppner-Horn Bros. VFW Post 5716 & Highland Memorial Park Cemetery to make Memorial Day mean even more to the Citizens of New Berlin.

The ceremony will start at 11:00 a.m. with the VFW making their ritual march to the Veterans Memorial. Former VFW Post Commander Don Hermann will speak. Other guest
speakers will include Mayor Jack Chiovatero and State Senator Mary Lazich. This year State Representative Mark Gundrum is serving his Country in Iraq and for the first time may not be able to attend.

Members of the VFW Post will perform a rifle salute. Alderman Ted Wysocki has arranged for a Fly Over, weather permitting. New Berlin, Holy Apostles Boy Scout Troop 93 will help
direct traffic, hand out programs & flags for those who attend. There will  be a balloon release with memorial tags. Ament Industrial Truck and Moorland Auto Repair will provide the flags. The event will end with a cannon shoot. The cannon supplied by Glen Porter of
Highland Memorial Park Cemetery. The New Berlin Community Band will perform patriotic music during the ceremony.

The event should last about 45 min. to 1 hour.

Please join your New Berlin neighbors in honoring their memory.

Dave Ament
7th District Alderman, New Berlin
New Berlin Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, Board of Director
Memorial Day Committee Chair     

Top tourism events

News you can use, Tourism

The Wisconsin Department of Tourism has compiled a list of Wisconsin’s top events at state historic sites from May through December.

Here’s the list.

Photo ID didn't stop Indiana voters

Photo ID

Lost in the story about a dozen nuns in Indiana being prevented from voting because they did not have photo ID is the huge turnout in the Indiana primary.

Indiana has the strictest photo ID requirement in the country, a law that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Critics of photo ID claimed the law would disenfranchise voters and reduce voter turnout.

Hardly.

The Associated Press reports, “V
oting appeared to run smoothly, despite the fears of some elections experts that the photo ID law could cause confusion at the polls. More than 1.6 million votes were cast Tuesday in the Democratic and GOP presidential races with nearly all precincts reporting, according to unofficial tallies by The Associated Press. That smashed the 1992 primary turnout of a little more than 1 million votes.”

The Indiana experience proves again that photo ID is not the problem in America’s voting system.

Traditional voting being replaced by the Post Office

Photo ID

With more and more citizens demanding a photo ID requirement to vote, there is another trend that is slowly developing in American elections.

The number of people who prefer not to vote in-person on Election Day and would rather mail in their vote is increasing. In fact, the state of Oregon is the first and only state in the country where all voting is done by mail. Other states are taking notice and have either implemented the system in some areas or are exploring the concept.

One of the reasons for the increase in mail voting is the relative ease of obtaining an absentee ballot. All a voter need do in many states is request an absentee ballot. No reason or explanation is necessary.

Governing Magazine goes so far as to say, “The traditional precinct election, where everyone shows up on the appointed day, is in the process of decline.”

Most states use an election system that is part in-person, part mail-in. But the eyes of election officials are on Oregon because its system is thought to be simpler, not to mention more convenient for voters who have time to study and research ballots before making choices. Once the ballot is filled out, it can be mailed or dropped off at government offices.

Supporters also claim since voters gets ballots a few weeks before election, they serve as reminders that will lead to people casting votes even in low-profile elections where they may have otherwise forgot or were unaware. Even so, requiring ballots to be mailed in has increased voter participation only slightly.

Some election officials value a mailing system, not because of convenience or simplicity, but out of necessity. The average poll worker in America is 72 years old. The number of precinct stations to vote is dropping. If voters are required to mail in ballots, the need for polling places and poll workers disappears.

If the system is so appealing, why aren’t more states jumping on the bandwagon? One reason is the ease with which absentee ballots are available. There is also concern about fraud, undue pressure applied to a voter from a family member, and the sanctity of the secret ballot lost now that it has left the polling place.

Clearly this is an election issue that will receive further study and a great amount of attention in the future all across the country.

Here is the story from Governing Magazine

Here are details on obtaining an absentee ballot in Wisconsin.

 

All states beat deadline to comply with Real ID

Photo ID

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has declared that all 50 states are compliant with the Real ID driver’s license program. Maine was the last state to come on board in late March, beating the March 31, 2008 deadline. Had Maine refused to comply, the DHS would have ordered airport screeners to pat down all Maine residents before they could board airplanes.

After the Legislature approved Real ID in the 2005 legislative session that I supported, Governor Doyle signed the measure into law on March 10, 2006.

The DHS website says:

“REAL ID is a law and rule that establishes minimum standards for state-issued driver's licenses and personal identification cards. REAL ID compliant drivers licenses and ID cards will allow you to board a federally-regulated airplane, access a federal facility or a nuclear power plant.

The REAL ID Act of 2005, was passed by Congress to make it more difficult to fraudulently acquire a drivers license or ID card, as part of the effort to fight terrorism and reduce fraud.

REAL ID compliant licenses and ID cards must meet minimum standards which include


  • information and security features that must be incorporated into each card
  • proof of identity and U.S. citizenship or legal status of an applicant
  • verification of the source documents provided by an applicant
  • security standards for the offices that issue licenses and identification cards

 

The 9/11 Commission endorsed the REAL ID requirements, noting that “For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons … All but one of the 9/11 hijackers acquired some form of identification document, some by fraud.  Acquisition of these forms of identification would have assisted them in boarding commercial flights, renting cars, and other necessary activities.”


Real ID was introduced in Congress by James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin). Sensenbrenner’s motivation was a finding by a federal investigation that 9/11 hijackers used about 30 driver’s licenses or state-issued ID’s to pull off their murderous attacks.

Even though 50 states are officially in compliance, there is opposition in many states to Real ID. What is being called a crisis has been averted temporarily because states have been granted extensions to comply with the provisions of Real ID. That extension expires December 31, 2009. leaving it to the next President and Congress to address.

Stateline.org has more. 

I concur with Stewart A. Baker, DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy who wrote the following during March 2008:

“The driver’s license is the most commonly used identity document in the United States. Originally designed to verify that you’re allowed to drive, it is now the primary identification for almost everyone over the age of 16 in the United States. It’s used to enter federal buildings, board airplanes, prove your age, and it’s even used in some states as a debit card.

Like it or not, Americans rely on driver’s licenses for every day life. That’s why the security of state licensing systems is so important. And, licensing systems are only as secure as the weakest link.

Unfortunately, we learned this the hard way. Twice.

First, in 1995, when Timothy McVeigh was able to create a fake South Dakota license with ease; all it took was a manual typewriter and a kitchen iron. He used the license to rent a Ryder truck in Oklahoma and destroy the Murrah Federal Building. Then, on September 11, 2001, eighteen of the nineteen hijackers carried government-issued IDs – mostly state driver’s licenses, many obtained fraudulently.

The
9/11 Commission recognized that it’s too easy to get false identification in the U.S. That’s why the Commission determined that ‘(s)ecure identification should begin in the United States. The federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.’ Congress responded with the REAL ID Act of 2005, which requires the federal government to set standards for the identifications it accepts.”

For our safety and security, it is abundantly clear the United States needs Real ID.

Read more

Move Over instruction now required in Wisconsin

News you can use

Wisconsin is raising awareness about its Move Over Law.

The state Department of Transportation (DOT) is putting up information signs on the interstate.

Governor Doyle has signed a bill into law that I supported that will require instruction about the Move Over Law in driver education classes.

Here is a history of the bill that has a link to a Legislative Council memo and the enacted law. 

Please check out the DOT website for audio and video public service announcements that tell why the Move Over law is so important Wisconsin.

If those public service announcements aren’t convincing enough, maybe this emotional news piece from WISN-TV Channel 12 will get the message across.

New fraud hotline operating

Audits, News you can use

Governor Doyle signed into a law a bill I co-sponsored that creates a toll−free telephone number to receive reports from Wisconsin citizens about fraud, waste, and mismanagement of tax funds.

The toll-free hotline is operated by the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau and is now up and running.

Here is a Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel article, details from the Legislative Audit Bureau on how the fraud hotline works, and the history of Senate Bill 86 that contains links to Legislative Council memos and the enacted law
.

Pier protection bill signed into law

Legislation I supported to protect the existing piers of waterfront property owners has been approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor.

The Wisconsin Realtors Association that was part of a wide-ranging coalition that worked on the legislation reports Assembly Bill 297 will protect about 99% of current piers by grandfathering standards for those piers. Piers up to 8-feet wide and loading platforms or “decks” that are 200 square feet or less will be exempted as will decks between 200 and 300 square feet, as long as they are no wider than 10 feet.

A balance needed to be struck between the rights of waterfront property owners whose families have maintained piers for decades and the rights of the public to have access to Wisconsin’s wonderful waterways. Assembly Bill 297 provides that balance.

Owners of piers that will not be grandfathered should find the process of obtaining permits to keep their piers easier.

There are plenty of details to consider about the new law that went into effect April 14, 2008.

Conditions under previous law remain intact in the new law. A riparian owner is exempt from obtaining a permit for piers and wharves that meet all of the following requirements according to the Wisconsin Legislative Council:



  • Is not more than six feet wide.
  • Extends no farther than to a point where the water is three feet at its maximum depth or where there is adequate depth for mooring a boat, whichever is farther from the shoreline.
  • Has no more than two boat slips for the first 50 feet of the riparian owner’s shoreline footage and no more than one additional boat slip for each additional 50 feet of shoreline.
  • Is located in an area other than an area of special natural resource interest, as defined in the statutes.
  • Does not interfere with the riparian rights of other riparian owners.

The new law expands the exemption mentioned above for a pier (but not a wharf) to allow a loading platform at the end of the pier that is perpendicular to the pier, is located on either or both sides of the pier, and is no more than eight feet wide.

The exemptions apply to piers and wharves that were placed on the bed of a navigable water on or before February 6, 2004.

Piers and wharves that were in place on or before February 6, 2004 that do not meet the previously mentioned requirements are referred to as “grandfathered piers and wharves.”

The new law creates an exemption from obtaining a permit for certain grandfathered piers and wharves. These piers and wharves:  


  • May not be more than eight feet wide.

  • May have a platform at the end of the pier (not wharf) that is 200 square feet or less or, if it is from 200 to 300 square feet, is no more than 10 feet wide.

  • May not interfere with the riparian rights of any other riparian owner.

 

Read more

Doyle promises to revive the hospital tax

The Capital Times is reporting Governor Doyle will bring back the hospital tax. The governor proposed the tax as part of the budget repair bill, but the tax was removed during budget deliberations by a conference committee.

I oppose the hospital tax.

Here is the Capital Times story.

Tracking ethanol’s damage

Ethanol

The Wall Street Journal has a great editorial tracking the ramifications of ethanol. It reads, in part:

“Corn ethanol can now join the scare over silicone breast implants and the pesticide Alar as among the greatest scams of the age. But before we move on to the next green miracle cure, it's worth recounting how much damage this ethanol political machine is doing.

To create just one gallon of fuel, ethanol slurps up 1,700 gallons of water, according to Cornell's David Pimentel, and 51 cents of tax credits. And it still can't compete against oil without a protective 54-cents-per-gallon tariff on imports and a federal mandate that forces it into our gas tanks. The record 30 million acres the U.S. will devote to ethanol production this year will consume almost a third of America's corn crop while yielding fuel amounting to less than 3% of petroleum consumption.”

Here is the entire editorial.

Seniors beware: There is no free lunch

News you can use


The state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance has issued a consumer alert, warning senior citizens to be aware of and question sellers of insurance and annuities. There is a chance the seller is only in it for himself.

The Insurance Commissioner’s Office offers the following suggestions to avoid becoming a victim of fraud:


Question the credentials of “experts.”

Individuals often boast designations and credentials using terms such as “certified,” “accredited,” “retirement planner,” “senior advisor” or “senior consultant” to convince people they have special expertise to help seniors choose investment strategies. This may not be true. While some organizations require members to complete a difficult study program and pass extensive exams to earn designations, other organizations have much less stringent requirements that can be completed in a three- or four-day course. In the worst cases, some senior “expert” designations are earned simply by paying a monetary fee. Ask about the person’s qualifications and training, and check them out for yourself. Find out how the person earned the credential, and whether the credential actually requires learning more about older adults’ financial needs and/or more about the product being sold.

Beware of the “Free Lunch” Seminar.

According to a report from FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), four out of five investors 69 years and older received at least one invitation to a free lunch investment seminar in the past three years and three out of five received six or more. There is often a catch to a “free” seminar, even those advertised as unbiased and educational. Federal regulators examined 110 firms that offer free lunch seminars and found that every seminar was a sales presentation. While certain information provided at seminars may be useful, a seminar may end up being a sales presentation for life insurance, annuities, other insurance products, or investments. Such seminars often use enticements, including free meals and door prizes, or claims of “urgency” or “limited space,” in order to encourage you to attend. You should be aware that if you give contact information on a registration form, that information will be used to solicit you for future sales and marketing efforts.


Does this product make sense for you?

Always be sure you understand what is being sold. Do not hesitate to ask questions. Financial products can be complicated even for the most informed consumer. You should be able to explain this product in your own words to someone (other than the salesperson) in a way that makes sense to both of you. The product must be right for you, your lifestyle, your financial goals, and your tolerance for risk. It’s rare that one product will meet the financial needs and goals of everyone attending a seminar. Be cautious about any promises that one product can meet all your financial needs. If the presenter doesn’t know your personal financial situation, he/she can’t know if the product is right for you.

Never make a final decision at a seminar.

 
A Boston Globe article reported that “more than a third of ‘free lunch’ seminars aimed at seniors focused on unsuitable or fraudulent investments.” If you attend a seminar, you may be exposed to high pressure tactics, frightening stories about individuals who don’t have enough money to live on in retirement, and promises of amazing financial returns. Consider obtaining a second opinion from an accountant or other professional who will not benefit financially from the sale.

Report scams.

If you feel that you may have been pressured into purchasing a product that is not right for you or if you feel that you may have been misled during a sales presentation about the product you purchased or if you simply don’t understand the product, do not hesitate to contact your state or federal regulator for assistance. Regulatory agencies are available to assist you. Financial scams happen to all kinds of consumers, including seniors. Do not let fear or uncertainty keep you from contacting the proper regulatory agencies.

Important Contacts
In all cases, before you disclose any personal or financial information, call the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance at (800) 236-8517 or the Department of Financial Institutions Division of Securities at (608) 266-1064 to verify that the person is licensed to sell insurance products or securities products, and that there have been no complaints or enforcement actions against the person. If a company hosted the seminar, contact the Better Business Bureau (or check their website at www.bbbonline.com) to learn about any complaints. To check for complaints against securities brokers, visit the Web sites of the NASAA (North American Securities Administrators Association) at www.nasaa.org, or FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) at www.finra.org.

Here is the Boston Globe article referenced above.

If you know a senior that could benefit from this information, please forward it to that senior.

Wisconsin case featured in national telemarketing investigation

News you can use

 

Operation Tele-Phoney is the largest sweep of telemarketing fraud cases ever conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  Details of the extensive investigation were announced at a news conference at FTC headquarters in Washington D.C.

One of the cases highlighted in this national sweep was the successful prosecution of a fraudulent charitable telephone solicitation practice in Wisconsin. Donors were duped into believing their contributions would immediately go toward noteworthy charities.

Read more about the crackdown here. 

The FTC has announced the “Who’s Calling?” consumer education campaign that encourages consumers to: 1) Recognize the signs of telemarketing fraud and 2) Report fraud to the FTC and state attorneys general. Here are more details.

Read more

Thank you John Dillinger: the state of Wisconsin


Famed actor Johnny Depp has been in Wisconsin filming scenes for the movie, “Public Enemies.” Depp plays notorious gangster John Dillinger.

Production of the film in Wisconsin has resulted in cash into the coffers of state historical societies. Here’s the story from rivertowns.net:
   


John Dillinger appears to be working for Wisconsin

By Brian Bull, Wisconsin Public Radio

MILWAUKEE -- John Dillinger's legacy as a bank robber actually seems to be helping put money into the coffers of groups who are often looking for financial help -- the state's historical societies.

Director Michael Mann's film biography of the gangster, "Public Enemies," has relied heavily on authentic-looking locations across Wisconsin.

One of them is the former Second Ward office of First Wisconsin Bank in Milwaukee. The 95-year old building -- which now hosts the Milwaukee Historical Society -- was halfway through a five-year, $7.5 million renovation when Mann's scouts picked it as a location.

The Society's executive director, Bob Teske, says the generous location fee the crew paid was just the beginning.

"Just in terms for the two scagliola columns that surround our building we have had a pair of those repaired last year when we installed an elevator and just that one pair the work came to around $15,000," said Teske.

He says the filmmakers restored another six in preparation for filming on site, as well as a good deal of other repair work that brought the total to over $100,000.

Teske says that's money the Society didn't have to fork out, and the craftsmanship was top-notch.

Rick Bernstein of the Wisconsin Historical Society's Field Services Program adds that as long as people remember a movie, they can also remember the sites where it was filmed and visit them, something known as "heritage tourism."

"It's a form of tourism that really keys into this historic preservation ethic and people who are heritage tourists generally stay longer and spend more money than average tourists will," said Bernstein.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Historical Society's Bob Teske says they're trying to host the local premiere of "Public Enemies" next year, to help raise more money and publicity for their efforts.

The movie Public Enemies began filming in Columbus in March and is directed by Michael Mann of Miami Vice fame.

The movie stars Johnny Depp and is about the efforts of FBI agent Melvin Purvis to bring notorious criminals, including John Dillinger, to justice in the 1930s.

Film crews have been shooting at locations around Wisconsin including Oshkosh and in Manitowish Waters in Vilas County.

Filming in Manitowish Waters was at the Little Bohemia Lodge which was the actual location of a shootout between FBI agents and Dillinger on April 28, 1934.

Wisconsin recently enacted a film tax credit program to entice filmmakers to the state. Public Enemies is the first major film production to take advantage of the program which started in 2007.

Competition will bring down Milwaukee’s high health care costs


Milwaukee
has some of the most expensive health care in the country. The main reason, according to a new study by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) is that there is not enough competition.

The author of the study, Linda Gorman, Ph.D. attributes the high cost to Milwaukee’s historic ties to unions. She says another factor is that health care has become consolidated, leaving less competition to keep costs lower. When competition is lacking, consumers have less alternatives. The result is more expensive health care.

How expensive is Milwaukee’s health care? The WPRI study says Milwaukee’s health care is anywhere from 27 to 55 percent higher than the national average.

State law has contributed to the increasing costs. The WPRI cites that, “Wisconsin law mandates 33 procedures  be covered by a health plan operating in the state, including regulations requiring that dentists be included in plans, and mandates that require insurers to cover contraceptives, in-vitro fertilization, prescription drugs, rehabilitation, and well-child care. Each one of these adds to the cost of a consumer’s health care and makes it more difficult for a health plan to operate in Wisconsin.”

What is the solution? Gorman says there are two remedies:

1)     There must be market-based tools, such as Health Savings Accounts.
2)     High-deductible health plans

Gorman says prices will come down when competition has consumers shopping around. She contends that high deductible policies will allow consumers to actually save over $100,000 during their 40-year work career, and even cites companies like Whole Foods, Wendy’s International Inc, and Lutheran Social Services of Illinois that have experienced success going to HSA’s and high-deductible plans.

Here is the WPRI study.

Wisconsin report card: Needs improvement

Business, Taxes

On April 1, 2008, I blogged about a Competitive Wisconsin Inc. (CWI) report that used 33 measures in six categories to show Wisconsin’s ability to compete nationally continues to sag. 

The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) took the tables and charts from the CWI report and assigned grades to Wisconsin in all 33 benchmarks.

WISTAX reports, “Of the 33 measures, Wisconsin had four grades in the A range, 12 each in the B and C ranges, and five in the D range. The average grade over all measures was just below 2.5, or B-/C+. The two areas with the strongest grades were quality of life (averaging about a B) and workforce excellence (B- average). Low grades were given to new business creations (D+) and venture capital per worker (D), both of which suggest that future job creation could be at risk. Also disconcerting was the steady rise in energy costs (C-), once an area of decided advantage.”

Here is the entire WISTAX report.

An Amber Alert system for seniors

 

It was a warm Saturday afternoon in Texas in January 1996. Nine-year-old Amber Hagerman was riding her bicycle when a neighbor heard Amber scream.  The neighbor saw a man pull Amber off her bike, throw her into the front seat of his pickup truck, and speed away.

The neighbor immediately called police and gave a description of the suspect and his truck. A search ensued, but four days later, Amber’s body was found in a drainage ditch four miles away, her throat slashed. The young girl’s assailant has never been found. 

Read more

More Town Hall Meetings this week


Reminder: This week, I conclude my series of town hall meetings scheduled this spring throughout the entire state Senate District 28. I look forward to seeing you and hearing your questions, comments, and concerns.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 28

WATERFORD 5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Waterford Public Library • 101 North River Street

EAST TROY 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
East Troy Village Hall  • 2106 Church Street


THURSDAY, MAY 29

NEW BERLIN 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
New Berlin Public Library • 15105 Library Lane

WAUKESHA 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Waukesha Town Hall • W250 S3567 Center Road

I voted against state employee contracts

At a time when Wisconsin continues to struggle with high rates of taxing and spending, a looming structural deficit of over $1.6 billion, high gas and food prices, and per capita income below the national average, hard-working families in the private sector expect state government to exercise fiscal responsibility.

The state Senate is being asked to approve state contracts that according to data I requested from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau would be greater than the increase required for a QEO (Qualified Economic Offer). 

The biennial QEO increase amount would be 7.74 percent. Proposed state employment contract increases over the 2007-09 biennium range from 8.0 percent at the low end to 11.0 percent at the high end.

Many workers across the state struggling to pay their bills and our high taxes can only dream of such increases.

This is an inappropriate time to be offering contract increases beyond the rate of the QEO and beyond the rate of inflation. I voted against the contracts.

Please see Page Two of a memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau for comparison of the state employment contract increases to the QEO.

Congratulations again to Kara Walla

Root for state spelling champ

 

Read more

Happy 160th Wisconsin!

This week, the state of Wisconsin celebrated a milestone.

From the Wisconsin Historical Society website:

On This Day: May 29, 1848 - Wisconsin Enters the Union
On this date Wisconsin became the 30th state to enter the Union with an area of 56,154 square miles, comprising 1/56 of the United States at the time. Its nickname, the "Badger State," was not in reference to the fierce animal but miners who spent their winters in the state, living in dugouts and burrowing much like a badger. [Source: "B" Book I, Beer Bottles, Brawls, Boards, Brothels, Bibles, Battles & Brownstone by Tony Woiak, pg. 37]

Constituents speak out at town hall meetings


I have completed a series of town hall meetings in state Senate District 28 in the communities that I represent: New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Greenfield, Hales Corners, Big Bend, Muskego, Mukwonago, Waterford, East Troy, and Waukesha.

Constituents attending came armed with a variety of questions and topics they wanted to discuss. There were, however, specific issues residents of Senate District 28 consistently raised at virtually every town hall meeting. The consensus was these are top-of-mind, high priority, hot button items.

Let’s begin with the hands down number one concern. It usually began with a comment like, “Isn’t there something this state can do?” or, “Why can’t the Legislature and the governor just say no?”

Frustrated citizens cannot understand why, at a time of layoffs, shaky job security, home foreclosures, shrinking incomes, rising gas and food prices and state budget deficits that state government time and time again opts to increase taxing and spending.  Citizens are making tough choices to adapt to difficult economic times and fully expect government to follow suit. Instead, state government taxes and spends even more.

The message at the town hall meetings was evident: enough is enough. I am pleased to report that I have kept my pledge and refused to vote for any tax increase. I also oppose and voted against the state budget and budget repair bill that increased spending.

Town hall attendees also made it abundantly clear they want a photo ID requirement for voting in Wisconsin. Support for the measure is overwhelming, and again, residents are dumbfounded as to why such a popular idea has been impossible to achieve.

Governor Doyle vetoed photo ID three times.  During the legislative session, Democrats controlling the state Senate refused to bring a constitutional amendment requiring photo ID to the Senate floor for a vote, killing the measure. Had the amendment been put to voters in a statewide referendum, the margin of victory would likely have been substantial.

Residents attending the town hall meetings and that have contacted me are well aware of what transpired in Madison this past session and they are angry. I wish the governor and every Senate Democrat that obstructed the will of the people on photo ID would have been at the town hall meetings to hear how passionate voters are on this issue.

The “E” word also elicits great emotion: ethanol. The consensus, and I concur, is that there are far too many problems associated with ethanol, and with gas prices skyrocketing, there is growing opposition to ethanol mandates.

I was one of several legislators to sign a letter sent to Wisconsin’s Congressional Delegation, requesting they take action to ease the cost of gas for consumers. The letter asks for a repeal of the federal renewable fuel mandate, the elimination of tax credits for ethanol production, and the lifting of the reformulated gas (RFG) mandate in six southeast Wisconsin counties.

I wish to thank everyone that attended the town hall meetings. It is great to meet constituents face to face and hear what’s on their minds. I also thank community officials for allowing me the use of government facilities, libraries and a local business to host the town hall meetings.

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