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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.

Reminder: calling all veterans

Veterans issues

Next week, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs will hold two meetings in Waukesha to provide information on benefits and services available to veterans.

Here’s more information.

Milwaukee using extortion to pressure for approval of Great Lakes Compact

Great Lakes


Several elected officials, representatives of conservation organizations, and private citizens held news conferences Tuesday calling for quick approval of a Great Lakes Compact. I continue to urge caution to avoid approval for approval’s sake that might result in a flawed Compact.

Some of the comments made to endorse a fast Compact resolution are disturbing.

Milwaukee Alderman Michael Murphy issued a press release that, “the (Milwaukee Common Council’s) Public Works Committee unanimously passed a resolution that Milwaukee will not sign final agreements relating to the sale of water to communities outside the Great Lakes basin until all eight state legislatures in the Council of Great Lakes and two Canadian provinces ratify the compact.”

Murphy’s blunt statement is a direct shot across the bow, a clear indication that the city of Milwaukee doesn’t have any intention of assisting communities like New Berlin or Waukesha in dealing with their need for water.

Murphy’s press release also states that, “Once the compact is ratified; the City of Milwaukee may enter into agreements for the sale of water to neighboring communities outside the Great Lakes Basin.” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has made similar statements, threatening to withhold water.

This amounts to pure extortion, and it’s very sad that Milwaukee officials would use a public-health issue as leverage to extort a vote.

Here are the facts.

Milwaukee's role as it relates to water to the suburbs is only technical infrastructure, not denial or approval of access to Lake Michigan water. Milwaukee doesn’t have authority to say yes or no. It doesn’t have exclusive ownership of Lake Michigan or control of Lake Michigan water.

New Berlin has received approval from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to negotiate with the Milwaukee Water Works for infrastructure access to Lake Michigan water.

The DNR told New Berlin they could negotiate with Milwaukee to access water, and those negotiations are taking place. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is telling mayors in the Senate district that I represent that they will not get water until I and other suburban legislators approve the compact.

The communities are under a radium enforcement issue.  I do not take kindly to extortion, and I find it appalling that Mayor Barrett uses public health, denial of safe drinking water to my constituents as leverage.  I am told that Mayor Barrett is telling Mayors he wants them to develop low income housing and give him a share of all growth that results from Milwaukee giving the communities water. 

If he wants to be the Mayor or city planner for the communities that I represent, then he ought to apply for the job.  Why does government regional cooperation not work?  Because it is never cooperation; it is the City of Milwaukee using any means available to get control of suburban growth and get revenues from communities surrounding the city of Milwaukee.

The broad language of the compact and the problematic provision that allows a single Great Lakes governor to veto a proposal to divert water outside the Great Lakes basin are major sticking points about the Compact that remain. One state enjoying dictatorial power is not consistent with the concept of majority rule our country is founded on, not to mention the issue of a governor of another state having the power to veto actions of people that do not elect that governor.  

I spoke with a senator from Ohio and he informs me that Ohio is not going to ratify the Compact in its current form.  Wisconsin should work in partnership with Ohio to address similar concerns and develop a more effective Compact.  I continue to interact with Ohio Senator Tim Grendell as he drafts legislation in Ohio.

Now the discussion on the Compact shifts to the state Legislature where the issue could very well get bogged down in partisan politics rather than focusing on scientific evidence and expertise. Only two states that have little at stake, Minnesota and Illinois have ratified the Compact. It might be best for the Compact to be sent back to the Governors of the Great Lakes States so that they can correct the fatal flaws. Approving the Compact just to attain a Compact is not the solution.

Jim Ryan dies

I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of my longtime friend and colleague, Hales Corners Village President Jim Ryan.

Jim Ryan was a dedicated public servant, who tirelessly devoted thoughtful attention to his constituents, even during his failing health.

I will always remember him as a kind, decent, honest statesman who gave his all to the citizens he represented. It was an honor to know and work with Jim Ryan. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Senate In Session Today

 

First Order.                Call of Roll.

Read more

Thursday In the Capitol

Yesterday, the State Senate was on the floor and approved the video competition/cable choice bill after six hours of heated debate, and voted on some other bills.  You may view the results of Senate floor action yesterday by clicking on this link:  http://www.legis.state.wi.us/insession/senate/index.htm  

At noon the Senate recessed and I attended a ceremony honoring Wisconsin fallen soldiers.  Vivid, colorful, striking, paintings of some of Wisconsin's fallen soldiers by Appleton, Wisconsin, artist Tim Mayer surrounded the attendees seated in the first floor Rotunda area of the State Capitol.  State Representative Steve Nass, who is a retired Chief Master Sergeant in the Air National Guard gave an outstanding speech.  Sitting there amongst the paintings of veterans that gave their lives for the continued existence of our country, listening to Steve's speech, Supreme Court Justice Dave Prosser's speech, and the comments of parents of the deceased veterans, suddenly the events of the senate floor and the intense debate of the day seemed minor.  

This Sunday, November 11, 2007, Veterans' Day, take time to reflect on veterans and the soldiers so far away from their homeland protecting us and our country.

An end to the Frankenstein veto?

Finally, a state Senate committee vote has been scheduled on the constitutional amendment that I co-sponsored to do away with the Frankenstein veto. The amendment would prohibit governors, regardless of political party, from using their partial veto power to create new sentences, and thus, new appropriations.

The state Senate Committee on Ethics, Reform and Government Operations is scheduled to vote on Senate Joint Resolution 5, today, Wednesday, November 14, at 1 p.m., in room 330 Southwest at the Capitol. SJR 5 is the Senate's version of Assembly Joint Resolution 1. Both resolutions have the same wording.

Read more

The Do Not Track List

Recently, I blogged about cell phones and the national Do Not Call Registry.

I wrote:

“Registering your cell phone is unnecessary and a very bad idea. Cell phone numbers are unpublished. If 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.

 People may register their home phone numbers at the National Do Not Call Registry or by calling 1-888-382-1222. After a person registers, the phone number will show up on the registry by the next day. Telemarketers then have up to 31 days to get that phone number and remove it from their call lists.” 

Read more

A budget gamble

State budget

Here’s another reason I’m glad I voted against the state budget.

The budget was signed into law by Governor Doyle with the hope that the state will win a court battle against the Ho-Chunk Nation. A loss by the state in the court case creates a $72 million hole in the state budget.

Wisconsin is already reeling from the $892-million structural deficit that results from the new budget.

The La Crosse Tribune is reporting, “The budget assumes that a court will order the Ho-Chunk to make payments to the state that the tribe says it does not owe. The state Department of Administration estimates the tribe will owe about $72 million in fees under its gambling compact by June 30, 2009. But a lawsuit over the money is pending in federal court and there are no guarantees that the state will win.”

Read the entire article.

Balancing the state budget on a wish and a prayer is irresponsible. If this gamble doesn’t work, the taxpayers are on the hook for another $72-million. This type of budgeting is foolish and unacceptable.

State budget trickery

State budget

Once again, gimmicks and tricks were used to balance the state budget that I voted against.

The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WTA) reports, “Increased tobacco taxes, higher vehicle fees, and expanded health care for the poor are a few ways the 2007-09 state budget differs from its predecessors. But when it comes to “balancing the books,” new and old budgets have a lot in common: fund transfers, one-time or unsure revenues, accounting shifts, GAAP and structural deficits, borrowing, and slim balances.”

The state budget contains increased spending, tax increases and a huge structural deficit of $892-million the Legislature will have to grapple with in two years.

Here is the entire WTA report.

Deadline approaching for Boy Scout Logo contest

I want to remind all Scouts about participating in a once-in-a lifetime-chance to be part of Boy Scouts of America (BSA) history. Scouts are invited to compete in the BSA 100th Anniversary Celebration National Logo Contest.

Every registered Scout is eligible to participate. The winning design will become the official symbol for the 100th anniversary of the BSA and placed on all official celebration materials. The winning logo will become a cherished BSA symbol for generations to come.

Centered on the theme, Celebrating the Adventure. Continuing the Journey, the winning logo design will be chosen by a select panel of judges for use as the official symbol of the 100th anniversary beginning in 2008 and for the duration of BSA’s widespread celebration culminating in 2010.

Deadline for entries is November 30, 2007.

Here is more information.

The Journal/Sentinel gets it right on Great Lakes

Great Lakes

The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel Editorial Board has written an excellent editorial in today’s edition, stating the sale of much-needed public drinking water from the city of Milwaukee to New Berlin should not be predicated on approval of the Great Lakes Compact.

The editorial position by the newspaper is right on the money and I commend the Editorial Board for taking this stance.

Here is the editorial.

Wisconsin needs greater transparency

It’s time for Wisconsin to adopt a policy of transparency in government spending. Simply put, there should be a one-stop, user-friendly website that reveals all state spending.

Wisconsin needs to get involved in 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.

I am in the process of researching this issue and to draft legislation to create a system that’s easy to use and understand that eliminates taxpayer frustration and reduces the perception of abuse. Transparency provides greater disclosure and elevates public participation in their government, making for a better informed citizenry.

Wisconsin needs to do a much better job of taking advantage of the Internet to provide greater transparency. Our state receives only an average grade of using the Internet to inform the public in a new report on government transparency.

A report entitled The State of State Disclosure has been released by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First.

According to a Good Jobs First press release, “The Good Jobs First study evaluates the quantity and quality of state government online disclosure in three categories: economic development subsidies, state procurement contracts and lobbying activities at the state level. It rates each state’s Web sites in the three areas on criteria such as ease of searching (especially for company-specific data), level of detail, scope of coverage and currency of data. Using these criteria, it assigns a score (0 to 100 percent) to the states’ performances in each of the three areas and overall, and translates the percentages into school-style letter grades (A through F).”

Wisconsin got a grade of C+ with a score of 77%, slightly above the national average of a D- at 60%.


In the category of lobbying, Wisconsin with a website produced by the state Ethics Board (http://ethics.state.wi.us/LobbyingRegistrationReports/LobbyingOverview.htm) gets a perfect score of 100%.

The report states, “We rate Wisconsin's as the best lobbying disclosure site in the nation. All of the data we sought are fully disclosed, searchable, hot-linked and current. There are links to the texts of bills lobbied by individuals or principals and to money spent and hours spent lobbying. A "bills lobbied" table includes type of lobbying activity, time and dollar estimates, position taken, and comments. Keyword search by issue produces a list with notes about principal organizations' business interests with links to a list of all bills lobbied. In addition to keyword, the user can search by issue, bill, administrative rule, topic of a not-yet introduced bill or rule, chapter or statue affected by a bill, and by changes in the last ten days. The user can view prior year reports of "greatest lobbying effort" sorted by organization, hours, and dollars. Prior year summaries are available by organization, bill, bill subject and administrative rule.  Finally, a user can subscribe to the FOCUS service for daily email updates on any of the searchable terms.”

Wisconsin scores lower in the other two categories. 

In contracting, Wisconsin scores 79%. The report says the Wisconsin Bureau of Procurement “provides a list of state contracts that is organized alphabetically by commodity or contractual service.  It also provides a copy of the Notice of Intent to Award Contract with vendor name and price list or a copy of the contract with detailed vendor information and pricing.  University of Wisconsin System Purchasing contracts, University of Wisconsin-Madison contracts and the City of Milwaukee contracts are listed on separate sites. Users cannot search by vendor name. Wisconsin recently created the "Contract Sunshine" Web site (http://ethics.state.wi.us/contractsunshine/contractsunshineagentlistings.html) that includes links to contract lists for individual agencies for specific periods of time. It does not, however, provide detailed vendor information or copies of contracts.”

Finally, in the category of subsidies, Wisconsin scores only 52%.

On this category, the report states, “The Wisconsin Department of Commerce is required to submit an annual report to the legislature on the performance of Industrial Revenue Bond (IRB) financing. The report must measure the effects of IRB financing on employment in the state, including jobs created by IRB financed projects and relocation of firms receiving IRBs within the state. The Department of Commerce last published such a report (http://commerce.wi.gov/BDdocs/BD-IRB-2003Report_000.pdf) with 2003 data. The report lists data on company name, business activity, bond issuer, volume cap, total project cost, taxable property, new and retained jobs and average wage. The report also includes narratives on each project and details on firms relocating within the state. Although the department's website lists the allocation status of IRB loans awarded in 2007, the new list does not meet the reporting requirements of disclosing jobs and relocation data.”

Here is the data on Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s overall score of 77% is deceiving, bolstered by the outstanding work being done by the Ethics Board. The state is following a national pattern of achieving limited progress when it comes to using the Internet to improve and augment the public’s right to know. Major progress can be made with a user-friendly website that provides comprehensive data on state spending.

 

The true meaning of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has become more secularized than Christmas. The fourth Thursday in November means the Rockettes dancing in front of Macy’s, the National Dog Show, football morning to night, the mountain of sale ads in the newspaper.

Understand, there is nothing wrong with parades and Packer games. However, we need to remember that Thanksgiving is much more

Like Christmas, the Thanksgiving holiday is under attack from those who wish to tarnish its tradition, even questioning its very origin.

Sadly, some historians are claiming the first Thanksgiving was not a religious gathering to give praise. The contention is that in 1621, the Pilgrims partied with a large feast. When shots were fired to add to the celebration, nearby natives crashed the festivities.

I prefer the thoughts of Yale professor David Gelernter who wrote the following in the Wall Street Journal in 2004:

“The First Thanksgiving is one of those heartwarming stories that every child used to know, and some up-to-date teachers take special delight in suppressing. It is especially sad when children don't learn the history of Thanksgiving, which is that rarest of anomalies--a religious festival celebrated by many faiths. The story of the first Thanksgiving would inspire and soothe this nation if only we would let it--this nation so deeply divided between Christians and non-Christians or nominal Christians, where Christians are a solid majority on a winning streak and many non-Christians are scared to death, of "Christian fundamentalists" especially.

Christian fundamentalists were the first European settlers in this country, and Thanksgiving is their idea. Many Americans are afraid that fundamentalists are inherently intolerant and want to stamp out all religions but their own. Yet that first thanksgiving was celebrated by radical Christian fundamentalists, and American Indians were honored guests--as every child used to know.

But that long-ago First Thanksgiving still speaks to and for every American, and we ought to listen. It speaks to Christians; they thought it up. It speaks to Jews--Pilgrim Christianity was a profoundly "Hebraic" Christianity. Thanksgiving speaks for Americans too: it is just like us to set a day aside for a national thank you to the Lord, or (anyway) to someone. Americans continue to be what Lincoln called us, the "almost chosen people," struggling to do right by man and God.”

Amidst the various television offerings and never-ending assortment of goodies, please remember the true, and yes, religious significance of Thanksgiving.As we reflect on our own blessings after a year of news stories about war and terrorism, those blessings certainly seem very clear. Pause and appreciate what we have: family, friends, individual liberties and freedom, and for those truly fortunate, rewarding employment and fine health. The most joyous season we are about to enter should be a reminder to all of us not to take any of what we enjoy each and every day for granted.

While we consider what we truly are thankful for, we should take time to also hope that those who are not as blessed may find whatever it takes to make their lives better. Far too many in our country and abroad have suffered great hardships this past year. They should not be forgotten. They need to be remembered in our thoughts and prayers.

Watch TV. Root for the Packers. Eat and eat some more. But carve out some time to gather as a family, ponder your many blessings, and give thanks, for that is the true meaning of this wonderful holiday.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Toys for Tots campaign now underway in New Berlin

I am pleased that one of the fine businesses in the state Senate district that I represent is again participating in the annual Toys for Tots campaign. 

Here is a press release issued by Ament Industrial Truck and the New Berlin Chamber of Commerce: 

Once again this year Ament Industrial Truck and The New Berlin Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau will be working closely with The United States Marine Corps Reserve, the Marine Corps League Badger Detachment, FM 106, CBS 58 and The Salvation Army in their TOYS for TOTS Program for 2007. Each year, the generosity of individuals, families and businesses make it possible to serve thousands of needy children in Southeastern Wisconsin. For most of these kids it’s the one bright spot in their holiday. So, while you’re out Christmas shopping this year pick up some extra toys for children who need your help. Starting November 6th you can drop off the NEW toys, unwrapped, at our office located at 2140 South Calhoun Road, New Berlin. Our office hours are weekdays from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM. We ask that all donations be dropped off by December 14th so we have time to deliver them to the Toys for Tots distribution center.

If you cannot drop off your donation, please feel free to contact us at 262-785-9890 and we will be happy to pick them up.

So please do it soon. Together lets make this the biggest year yet.

To make a monetary contribution, make your check payable to “Marine Toys for Tots Foundation”

They can be dropped off at our office or mailed to us at:

Ament Industrial Truck
2140 S. Calhoun Rd.
New Berlin, WI 53151 

God Bless You and Merry Christmas! 

Dave Ament
Ament Industrial Truck
New Berlin Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, Board of Directors
7th District Alderman, New Berlin

 

America's wealthy paying more than their fair share

Taxes

The top one percent of federal income taxpayers in America pays more than the bottom 90 percent.

That is the finding from the very latest data from the Internal Revenue service as reported by the non-partisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C.

The Tax Foundation reports:

Do America’s wealthy pay their fair share of taxes? Most politicians say they don’t.


But a new Tax Foundation study of IRS tax returns shows the highest-earning Americans pay an overwhelmingly large share of the nation’s income tax burden.

According to the study, America’s richest 25 percent of taxpayers paid about 86 percent of all federal income taxes in 2005, despite earning only 67 percent of the nation’s income. The highest-earning 1 percent alone—those earning more than $364,657—paid a staggering 39.4 percent of all federal income taxes, despite earning just 21 percent of the nation’s income.

That means the top 1 percent of tax returns paid about the same amount of federal income tax as the bottom 95 percent of tax returns combined.

“These new data overturn the widespread misconception that high-earners in America don’t pay federal income taxes,” said Tax Foundation President Scott A. Hodge. “The federal tax code today is heavily skewed toward imposing very high tax burdens on high earners.”

Here is the full report from the Tax Foundation.

Think universal health care is dead?

Government health care

Guess again.

Momentum is slowly building in the high-profile state of California to enact government health care.

Stateline.org reports, “California has 6.6 million uninsured – more than any state – and a third of those reside in Los Angeles County, according to the California HealthCare Foundation, a nonprofit group that studies the state’s health-care delivery and financing. A trendsetting state on issues from cleaning up smog to banning toxic plastics in toys, California now could become a prime test bed for universal health care.”

Here is the stateline.org report.

Think it couldn’t happen here?

Senate Democrats vow to return with another catastrophically expensive government health care plan.

Government health care was rejected during the budget process and it must be defeated when the plan resurfaces.

Sign up for Wisconsin's No Call List

If you haven’t registered your home phone on Wisconsin’s No Call List, you can get on the list January 1, 2008. But you have until December 1, 2007 to register.

Registering is easy. Just fill out this online form.

Signing up identifies you as someone who does not wish to receive telemarketing calls. It's free and available for residential telephone customers in Wisconsin. Your number will remain on the List for two years. Adding your residential phone number to the List will help reduce telemarketing calls to your home.

Christmas in the state Capitol

The state Department of Administration (DOA) has announced Christmas events and displays in the State Capitol. (The Department uses the word, “Holiday.” I say, “Christmas”).

Here’s the DOA news release.

 

Wisconsin income tax refund checks waiting to be claimed

A lot of Wisconsin residents have not received their income tax refund checks.

The Marshfield News-Herald is reporting that 1,164 Wisconsin taxpayers didn’t get checks. They were returned to the Internal Revenue Service by the U.S. Postal Service as “undeliverable.” The total amount of the returned refund checks is close to $849,000.

The number of taxpayers around the country that are due refund checks jumped by 21 percent this year in part because of the Telephone Excise Tax Refund. The refund is a one-time payment that was available on 2006 federal income tax returns to return previously collected long-distance telephone taxes.

How do you know if you have a refund check coming?

Call 1-800-829-1954 or go to www.irs.gov
and click on, “Where’s My Refund?”

Who knows? A nice holiday bonus might be waiting for you.

Taxing the Internet: An update

In June, I blogged about measures being sought in Congress to tax the very technology you are using right now…the Internet.

I wrote, “Don’t look now but tax-crazy America could be taxing the Internet and your computer as early as this fall. That would mean taxes on e-mail, taxes on Internet shopping, and taxes on broadband connections.State and local governments are pushing Congress for two dramatic changes: the power to charge sales taxes on Internet shopping, and the ability to impose new monthly taxes on DSL and other Net connections. The result could be an increase in tax collections in the billions of dollars.”

Here’s my summer blog on the issue. 

There is good news.

Both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives approved extending a moratorium on Internet taxes for another seven years, ensuring that Americans will be able to continue using the Internet tax-free. A powerful tool, the Internet has provided a tremendous shot in the arm to the nation’s economy, and has become a necessary component of everyday life for millions of Americans. President Bush signed into law the legislation extending the moratorium for seven years.

Keep in mind the National Governor’s Association (NGA) favors taxes on the Internet, and lobbied Congress to extend the moratorium for another four years, not seven.  Governor Doyle is a member of the NGA Executive Committee and the NGA Economic Development and Commerce Committee.

The seven –year reprieve is very good news for small business, consumers, and taxpayers. Even better news would be to make the moratorium on Internet taxes permanent.

It is important to note that even though the moratorium on Internet taxes was extended, Internet access services remain taxable in Wisconsin. Here are details from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue

Wisconsin debt explodes: Every person now owes $3500

A stunning report by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) illustrates how dramatically debt in Wisconsin has skyrocketed because the debt issued by the state far exceeds the ability of taxpayers to pay.

Too often, the state has budgeted using a credit card, thrusting Wisconsin into a highly risky scenario of forcing future generations to pay.

According to the WPRI, “In 1979, outstanding General Purpose Revenue (GPR)-supported general obligation bonding equated to 16.1% of state GPR. By 2006, that number had more than doubled, to 33.9%. In December 2006, Wisconsin had $19.3 billion in outstanding debt, or $3,476 for every state resident. Where once Wisconsin ranked 40th in the nation in outstanding debt per capita, we now rank 10th.”

Read the WPRI press release.

Here is the entire report, prepared by my former staffer, Christian Schneider.

I renew the call for photo ID

Audits, Photo ID


After the Legislative Audit Bureau released its audit today on compliance with election laws,  I issued the following press release, renewing the call for photo ID in Wisconsin

Do not call the No Call List

Many Wisconsinites are trying to beat the Friday midnight deadline to register for Wisconsin’s No Call List so they can get on the list January 1, 2008.

So many people are dialing 866-966-2255 that they get this message:

"We're sorry. All circuits are busy now. Will you please try your call again later."

The message is followed by an annoying ring tone.

The Appleton Post Crescent reports:

Glen Loyd, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, said that people who can't get through should try back again later, and people may have greater success getting through late at night. He said the system works "if you give it a chance."

"It isn't broken … normally everyone gets through eventually," he said.

People must sign up by midnight Friday to get on the list, which aims to block telemarketing calls. People who signed up for the list two years ago will drop off if they don't renew. The next chance to get on the list will be in March.

Loyd said the state has added additional lines to handle the increased calls that came in as the deadline neared, and the automated system has been taking in about 25,000 calls daily. He said some people also are having difficulty getting the Web site to work at certain times because of increased traffic.

Loyd said people who can't get through can call the agency's general line for help signing up. That number is 800-422-7128.

While some people are having a hard time getting through, Loyd said the system will record as many as 100,000 numbers in a week.


As I wrote in a previous blog, the easiest way to register is by filling out the online form. Click on the link to my previous blog and you will find the form.

I discuss photo ID on WISN

Mary in the media, Photo ID

This morning, I was a guest on the Vicki McKenna show on Newstalk 1130 WISN. We discussed my call for the state to approve photo ID.

You can hear the interview on the WISN podcast.

Click on LISTEN on Thursday, Hour 1, Part 2. 

The podcast will be available for a limited time.

Congratulations, Wisconsin hunters!

The just-completed 2007 deer hunting season was the second-safest hunting season on record, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

There were six hunting incidents and three fatalities.

The DNR reports that the 10-year average for total numbers of incidents during the regular nine-day season is 16.4. The state averages two fatalities per year.

Wisconsin gun deer license sales through the end of the nine-day hunt totaled 641,432. The DNR reports that with six incidents, that means that the incident rate was about 1.06 per 100,000 participants. The national average for hunting incident rates is around five per 100,000 participants. The DNR says Wisconsin has been able to reduce the hunting incident rates by 90 percent over the last 40 years, and that no other safety education training program in the entire country has been that successful.

Wisconsin hunters are exhibiting the proper behavior necessary for a safe hunt. They are to be commended for following the rules of safety.

Good luck, Mark!

Today, one of the Assembly representatives in our state Senate district and my good friend, Mark Gundrum, left for Fort Bragg.

Mark will undergo weeks of training before heading to Iraq to serve his country.

I will miss Mark a great deal as will his constituents and the Wisconsin Legislature.

May God bless him during this tour of duty and bring him safely back to Wisconsin and his wonderful family.

Wisconsin needs photo ID and fast

Audits, Photo ID

Wisconsin can and must enact a photo ID requirement for voting.

The wake-up call comes in an audit prepared by the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) that provides a clear message: approve photo ID now.

Several recommendations were made by the LAB in their audit on compliance with election laws. The very first recommendation is the most significant:

“The Elections Board and, after it is replaced, the Government Accountability Board request that municipal clerks obtain birth dates from voters during future elections and consider ways to more easily facilitate the collection of this information.”

What better way to obtain the birth dates of all voters than from a driver’s license or state-issued photo ID?

The Legislature approved photo ID legislation on three occasions, only to see Governor Doyle veto it all three times. If Governor Doyle had not vetoed photo ID, Wisconsin would be able to avoid many voter irregularities.

The audit found that the statewide voter registration system implemented at a cost of over $22 million failed to properly verify voting eligibility, thus opening the door to fraud. The state Elections Board attempted to match data in the system with data compiled by the departments of Corrections, Health and Family Services, and Transportation in order to pinpoint individuals ineligible to vote.

But as the LAB pointed out, “Electronic matching failed for the November 2006 general election and the spring 2007 election. Elections Board officials now believe that the data matching will not work during Wisconsin’s presidential primary in February 2008.”

This finding by the Audit Bureau places the entire credibility of Wisconsin’s critically important February 2008 Presidential primary in doubt. Our faith in our election system could be restored with a photo ID requirement.

An investigation of the November, 2004 election in the city of Milwaukee by U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic and then-Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann found the following:

  • In more than 100 cases, people voted twice, used phony names or addresses, or used the names of dead people.
  • More than 200 felons voted illegally.
  • The number of votes counted exceeds the number of votes recorded by more than 4,600.  
We have clear, hard evidence that illegal votes are being cast, and are canceling the ballots of honest voters. A photo ID tells the poll worker you are the person you say you are. A photo ID will prevent people from giving phony names and addresses to voter registration drives, and then showing up on Election Day to vote illegally.

Once again, I commend the LAB for another outstanding, thorough review of an issue that deserves greater scrutiny and attention.

Now it’s time for the Legislature to move quickly to adopt photo ID before the important February 2008 Wisconsin Presidential primary. Republicans who’ve supported photo ID in the past are ready to work to get this critical measure approved. The question is, what about Governor Doyle and legislative Democrats? If they want to restore Wisconsin’s reputation of clean, honest elections, they’ll work with Republicans to get the job done.

Less sales tax revenue bad for Wisconsin

Last year in Wisconsin, business tax collections were up. So were individual income tax collections.

Sales tax collections also went up, but only by 0.8%.

More purchases are being made over the Internet. Rising fuel prices have resulted in less discretionary income to spend. The sagging housing market has had a negative impact.

The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WTA) reports that if sales tax collections continue at their current pace, the state faces a shortfall of $372.1 million by mid-2009.

Here’s the WTA report.

Governor calls special session on the wrong issue

Photo ID

Gov. Jim Doyle has called a special session of the Legislature for December 11 at 11 a.m. to take action on campaign finance reform.

The Governor’s office says the legislation would "modernize Wisconsin’s public financing system by increasing candidates’ spending limits and maximum public grant amounts, ban fundraising during the budget process, and establish a separate fully-funded campaign finance system for Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates."

The call for a special session on campaign finance reform comes just a few days after the Legislative Audit Bureau in its latest audit strongly recommended that municipal clerks obtain the birth dates from all voters during future elections and consider methods to collect this information more easily.

It is clear to me that the easiest and best way to get the birth dates of all voters is to require a photo ID in the form of a driver’s license or state-issued ID.

The best campaign finance reform is assuring that honest voters each get one equally weighted vote. The most effective means to achieve that goal is with a photo ID requirement.

Wisconsinites overwhelmingly support a photo ID requirement to vote. A statewide poll of 500 likely voters in March 2001 by Wood Communications of Madison found 65% thought all voters should have to show photo identification before casting ballots. Support was even greater, 71% to 22%, in the 10-county area of southeastern Wisconsin.

About 81% of those considering themselves Republicans supported the requirement, and over half of Democrats, 55% backed it. About 75% of those surveyed between 35 and 44 years old endorsed a photo ID requirement, 57% of those between 55 and 64 years old supported it.

Allowing candidates to spend more money isn’t the answer, nor is increasing tax collections for public funding of candidates the key to bringing back credibility to Wisconsin’s once squeaky clean elections.Many voters view public campaign financing as welfare for politicians, and do not support increasing taxes for campaign spending.
A photo ID requirement is one of the best remedies to fix a voting system in desperate need of repair.The voting public would strongly welcome a legislative compromise on photo ID. Photo ID is definitely the issue a special session should be called to address.

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