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.
My office prepared a state citation that was presented to Joshua Liimatta at the special ceremony. It reads:
Whereas, Joshua Raymond Liimatta is a member of the Boy Scouts of America Troop 40, and through dedication and commitment, attained the rank of Eagle Scout; and
Whereas, Joshua Raymond Liimatta’s Eagle Scout project included planning the expansion and improvement of the Buena Park volleyball courts by removing the sand, increasing the size of the court, putting new sand down, and constructing wooden courtside benches; and
Whereas, Joshua Raymond Liimatta earned 29 merit badges, served his troop in the leadership positions of Assistant Patrol Leader, Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, Troop Guide, Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, Troop Scribe, and was elected to the Order of the Arrow: and
Whereas, Joshua Raymond Liimatta is a 2008 graduate of New Berlin West High School, and plans to attend the University of Wisconsin, Platteville, pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering; now
Therefore, the members of the Wisconsin State Senate on the motion of Senator Mary Lazich, commend Joshua Raymond Liimatta for outstanding dedication and service to scouting. Joshua Raymond Liimatta is further commended for successfully completing the requirements necessary to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honorable rank awarded by the Boy Scouts of America.
My office prepared a state citation that was presented to Matt Singer at the special ceremony. It reads:
Whereas, Matt Singer is a member of the Boy Scouts of America Troop 530, and through dedication and commitment, attained the rank of Eagle Scout; and
Whereas, Matt Singer’s Eagle Scout project included creating over 170 hygiene packs for Saint Benedict the Moore Program, by securing soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, razor, lotion, and socks from businesses, churches, and the community; and
Whereas, Matt Singer earned 47 merit badges, served his troop three times in the leadership positions of Patrol Leader, and Assistant Senior Patrol leader, and was elected to the Order of the Arrow; and
Whereas, Matt Singer is a 2008 graduate of Whitnall High School and plans to attend the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater with an interest in business; now
Therefore, the members of the Wisconsin State Senate on the motion of Senator Mary Lazich, commend Matt Singer for outstanding dedication and service to scouting. Matt Singer is further commended for successfully completing the requirements necessary to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honorable rank awarded by the Boy Scouts of America.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Ho-Chunk Nation missed its June30, 2008 deadline to make a payment to the state of Wisconsin for gambling operations. Since 2004, according to the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, the tribe has made only one payment, $30 million in 2006. The Ho-Chunk Nation now owes the state close to $100 million at a time when the state’s fiscal matters are fragile at best.
Why is the Ho-Chunk Nation refusing to make its payments? The tribe alleges that under a 2004 ruling by the state Supreme Court, Governor Doyle exceeded his authority by negotiating new Indian gaming compacts that expanded gambling into perpetuity. The Ho-Chunk Nation contends the value of its 2003 compact was reduced by the court’s 2004 ruling and has refused to make payments until a new agreement can be reached.
Some history is in order.
On May 13, 2004, the state Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision in Panzer v. Doyle, ruled that Governor Doyle exceeded his authority by agreeing to certain provisions in the 2003 amendments to the gaming compact between the state and the Forest County Potawatomi (FCP) Tribe by agreeing to expanded games, lengthening the compact to perpetuity, and waiving the state’s sovereign immunity.
After the 2004 ruling, Diane Sykes left the state Supreme Court to become a federal judge and was replaced by Governor Doyle’s appointee, Louis Butler. The change in the make-up of the court proved to be significant.
On July 14, 2006, the state Supreme Court ruled that a 1993 amendment to the state constitution approved by voters in a statewide referendum that stated Wisconsin has enough gambling and should not expand does not apply to Indian casinos. The court also affirmed the governor’s authority to renegotiate Indian gaming compacts, paving the way for a huge expansion of gaming at the Potawatomi facility in Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, the Ho-Chunk Nation continues to fight its case in court and is lagging on payments. The inaction is affecting the state budget. As I’ve written in the past, budgets have been drafted and approved assuming the Ho-Chunk Nation will make good on its payments, but that hasn’t happened. Taxpayers have made up the difference, and the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel reports the state has spent close to $1.4 million in legal bills to settle its dispute with the Ho-Chunk Nation.
It is concerning and very unfortunate that the issue of gambling has created a scenario that adversely affects taxpayers. Budgets adopted crossing our fingers and hoping the Ho-Chunk will come through with their payments is not sound budgeting.
One of the state Assembly representatives from Senate District 28, Mark Gundrum is on active duty in Iraq. He has written a letter back home and has given permission to share with you.
Hope everyone back home is enjoying the beautiful Wisconsin summer (minus the terrible flooding of course) and all the great family and community activities that go with it. Depending on what thermometer you are looking at, the temperatures here have begun edging into the 120 degree range; but it is bearable.
The soldiers over here from the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion in Green Bay are doing some pretty amazing things for our country. Most are in different locations around the Baghdad area. The level of danger varies from time to time and location to location but is always present, so please keep all these great soldiers and their families in your prayers.
Work on Rule of Law and Governance matters here continues. Next to Security, these are some of the highest priority issues for stabilizing Iraq long-term.
Rule of Law work here is definitely interesting. As an example, a few weeks ago we were on a mission to evaluate the conditions at a maximum security prison as well as the progress being made on an addition being built there and whether the addition conforms to international standards. (Wisconsin prisons are like Club Med compared to these.) When we saw the gallows at the prison, one of the men pointed to a spot on the platform and said "if you are wondering exactly where Saddam was hung, that's it right there."
Other Rule of Law missions are less morose - like helping to develop and improve the quality of law schools and legal education in Iraq; or trying to get Iraqi judges to improve their work ethic and output, and increase their sophistication to rely more on physical and other corroborating evidence, rather than so heavily relying only on confessions; or assisting a special judicial panel appointed by the chief justice of Iraq with its inquiry into whether corruption influenced the outcome of a trial of high ranking government officials.
Because of my background as an elected lawmaker, I have had the opportunity to work directly with members of the Iraqi national parliament (called the Council of Representatives) and present seminars to many of the members on good governance concepts - like open government, developing good legislation, effective use of committees, serving constituents, avoiding corruption, etc. After decades of dictatorship and in an embryonic democracy, these are new concepts.
Most of my time is spent in Baghdad, though I occasionally travel to other locations as well, such as a recent mission to Diyala Province. From the local base there, we convoyed into downtown Baqubah to meet with the Governor and members of the Diyala Provincial Council about governance issues. Baqubah is still a bit of a hotbed for al-Qaida, but has improved significantly over the past year. A year ago the Provincial Council was not even meeting due to security concerns. Now they are getting rolling and it was exciting to be a part of it.
Security concerns, however, do remain in places like Baqubah. For example, a suicide bomber detonated herself, killing 15 Iraqis and wounding 40, outside the same building where we had been meeting with the Governor just one week earlier. And in the middle of my talk with the Provincial Council, a suicide car bomber detonated a car bomb nearby the building we were in, killing an Iraqi policeman and injuring 19 others. The explosion was apparently such a commonplace experience for the PC members that they did not flinch a bit, so we just kept right on going with the talk. They had some excellent questions which demonstrated just how new the idea of democracy is for them, but also showed their commitment to making it work.
It has been impressive to see how members of the Council of Representatives and Provincial Councils "get it" and are taking advantage of their newfound freedoms with press conferences, public debate on issues, building coalitions, working together, and compromising as necessary to advance legislation important to Iraq. While it is not all pretty or sophisticated, it is encouraging to see such healthy signs in a new democracy.
Corruption is still a significant concern here, and is on a scale and of a nature that is hard to fathom. This will remain one of Iraq's biggest challenges to overcome if its citizens want the nation to succeed long-term.
Security is steadily improving in most areas of Iraq. The important and exciting part is watching the Iraqi security forces take over responsibilities that used to be handled completely by Coalition Forces. Again, it is not always pretty or sophisticated, but it is steadily occurring. What we need to remember is that, at this point, we do not need Iraq to have the type of security you would find in America or Canada, or even European countries like England, Germany, or Italy. While that level of security would certainly be ideal and should remain a long-term goal for Iraqis to work for themselves, it will not happen anytime soon nor should that be our measure of success. The goal should be for Iraqis to be able to sustain - with very minimal assistance from other countries, and eventually by themselves - the radical transformation that has occurred here thus far, so Iraq can continue on its slow but steady path of improvement.
A stable, secure, functioning democracy in Iraq that has transparent government and embraces the Rule of Law is not only critical to Iraq's future, but at this juncture is very important to America's future as well.
Thank you so much to everyone for keeping all service members in harm's way and their families in your thoughts and prayers.
Here are some photos of Mark in Iraq.
I hope to see you at one of the many community parades on the 4th of July. I will be walking in the following parades:
12 pm: Franklin 4th of July Parade
1 pm: New Berlin 4th of July Parade
4pm: Hales Corners Parade
On Sunday, I will walk in the East Troy Parade at 1 pm.
America has a lot to be thankful for as it celebrates another Independence Day. The 4th of July marks a perfect occasion to reflect upon qualities that make the United States the greatest nation in the world.
SECURITY. Our nation is safe, placing protection of its citizens as one of its highest priorities. Brave young men and women volunteer to risk their lives in foreign lands so that we may enjoy the many freedoms that make us the envy of the world. Dedicated police officers and firefighters work daily to safeguard our communities.
OPPORTUNITY. America is a land where young people’s dreams become realities, where the toughest challenges are never unreachable, where anything is possible.
CHOICES. In our free society, choices are endless. Think about it. Americans enjoy a myriad of selections for schools, churches, occupations, where to live, travel, shop, eat, and play. No other country comes close to offering its citizens the countless options available to Americans.
OUR VOTING SYSTEM. Our elections give voice to the public that holds chosen representatives accountable. Referring to the Presidential primaries, Economist.com writes, “In any other country, the incredible circus that has marked the past year could not have occurred. The business of choosing the main contenders for the top job would have been done behind closed doors, or with a limited franchise and a few weeks of campaigning.”
Police in Egypt fired tear gas and rubber bullets at voters and blocked streets and alleys leading to a polling station during December 2005. Last year in Nigeria, riots broke out when electoral officials delivered only half of the ballot papers that should have arrived at local polling stations. A police officer who attempted to stop the theft of a ballot box was beaten with his own club by a gang of thugs and forced to flee. Prior to January 2005 elections in Iraq, Insurgents had vowed to wash the streets with "voters' blood." More than a dozen attacks killed at least 28 people and wounded 71 others.
In America, elections are so routine they are often taken for granted.
EDUCATION. The American education system has the world’s best schools with cutting-edge programs and diverse fields of study, anything from theater to nuclear physics.
A FREE PRESS. John Johnson writes on the website of the U.S. State Department, “For a society to be considered truly democratic, there should be a high degree of protection accorded to the expression of ideas in published form, whether the medium is newspapers, magazines, books, pamphlets, motion pictures, television or, most recently, the Internet. A free press -- even one that occasionally exceeds bounds of good taste -- is essential to the preservation of a democratic society.”
We have such a press in America: informative, entertaining, thought provoking, compelling, watchful, and free, a press that sets us apart from many other countries.
ALTRUISM. During 2003, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago conducted the first national study measuring altruism and empathy. The study asked about 15 different acts of altruism, including talking with someone who is depressed, helping with housework, giving up a seat to a stranger, giving money to a charity, volunteering, helping someone find a job, or helping in another way, such as lending money. The key finding was that Americans on average give selflessly of themselves more than 100 times a year.
The Wall Street Journal reported, “Americans gave a record amount to charity in 2007, topping $300 billion for the first time, despite mounting economic worries.”
Arthur Brooks, an expert on philanthropy and a professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, calls the United States, “a land of charity,” and considers charitable giving and volunteerism the signal characteristic of Americans.
QUALITY OF LIFE. The editors of International Living say to determine what constitutes quality of life, “Place a premium on the things that can’t be plugged into a spreadsheet.”
It is difficult to top America in the sheer diversity of everything that is good: food, clothing, housing, the environment, infrastructure, health care, education, business, transportation, technology, recreation, culture, leisure, simple comfort.
For these and so many other reasons, our great nation remains a beacon for millions seeking the best lifestyle possible.
Happy Birthday America!
North Carolina instituted a ban on cell phone use for drivers under the age of 18 that began on December 1, 2006. Support for the ban among teenagers was 74 percent. An overwhelming 95 percent of parents in North Carolina supported the restrictions.
So, what kind of impact has the North Carolina ban had in the past 19 months? Would you believe that teenage drivers are using their cellphones even more, begging the question whether cellphone bans really work.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that researchers spent time staking out high school parking lots and conducting telephone surveys with teens and their parents in what is considered the first study of a cellphone ban for young motorists. Researchers watching teen drivers leave school parking lots one to two months prior to the start of the ban observed 11 percent used cellphones. Five months after the ban was in effect, the number of teen drivers observed using cellphones actually increased slightly to 12 percent.
The IIHS says, “Most drivers were using hand-helds. Nine percent were holding phones to their ears, while fewer than one percent were using hands-free devices. About two percent were observed dialing or texting.“
The conclusion of the study is that North Carolina’s cellphone ban is not reducing the use of cellphones by teen drivers. Young motorists are simply ignoring the law believing enforcement is lax and penalties are small. Parents and teen drivers agree that police officers aren’t enforcing the law with 71 percent of teens and 60 percent of parents saying enforcement is rare or nonexistent. When violators are caught, and the North Carolina Highway Patrol wrote only 35 tickets in 2007, the ticket costs $25.
IIHS senior vice president for research Anne McCartt, author of the study about the North Carolina cellphone ban, says such laws are difficult to enforce because it is almost impossible for officers to see teens using hand-held devices or correctly determine a driver’s age.
Concern over the high risk of crashes among teen drivers has prompted legislation to restrict cellphone use. The intent is that young drivers will comply as they do with nighttime restrictions or limits on number of passengers set forth with graduated driver’s licenses or GDL’s. In Wisconsin, for example, the GDL allows novice drivers (ages 15 1/2 to 18) to gain knowledge and experience while under the supervision of an experienced adult as they progress through the learning stages. However, the experience in North Carolina indicates cellphone bans for teen drivers don’t work.
It is almost guaranteed that a bill will be proposed in the next legislative session to ban or limit the use of cell phones in cars. Such a law is unnecessary in Wisconsin. Wisconsin statutes already allow police to cite for inattentive driving, and that would include use of a cell phone. The Wisconsin law is “No person while driving a motor vehicle shall be so engaged or occupied as to interfere with the safe driving of such vehicle.”
States do not completely ban the use of cell phones while driving and with good reason. More substantive information is needed to ensure the creation of sound, reasonable public policy.
Whereas, Derek Jeffery McElroy is a member of Boy Scouts of America Troop 531, and through dedication and commitment, attained the rank of Eagle Scout; and
Whereas, Derek Jeffery McElroy’s Eagle Scout project included designing, obtaining approval, securing over $27,000, and coordinating 550 volunteer hours creating an officially registered Wisconsin Veteran’s Memorial, displaying the American Flag, flanked by six additional flags for each branch of service, and the POW-MIA flag, a granite tribute with the words “Dedicated to Those Who Protect the Power of Our Nation’s Freedom”, two granite benches for reflection, with an overall value of over $50,000; and
Whereas, Derek Jeffery McElroy earned the 2006 Patriotism Award from AMVETS Post 60, The Americanism Award from the Milwaukee County Board of Veterans, and a Certificate of Recognition from the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs; and
Whereas, Derek Jeffery McElroy earned 30 merit badges, was elected to the Order of the Arrow, and served his troop in the leadership positions of Assistant Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, and Den Chief; and
Whereas, Derek Jeffery McElroy, a Junior at Franklin High School, is a member of the Wrestling, Track, and Cross Country Teams, and is Red Cross Wilderness First Aid certified; now
Therefore, the members of the Wisconsin State Senate on the motion of Senator Mary Lazich, commend Derek Jeffery McElroy for outstanding dedication and service to scouting. Derek Jeffery McElroy is further commended for successfully completing the requirements necessary to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honorable rank awarded by the Boy Scouts of America.
Congratulations to the City of Franklin on the great news that the city’s sex offender ordinance has been upheld in court, and that a convicted sex offender on release will now have to abide by Franklin law.
Congratulations go out to Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor, members of the Franklin Common Council, the City Attorney of Franklin, and the Franklin-based Citizens for a Safe Wisconsin that worked so diligently in drafting and adopting an ordinance that sustains a constitutional challenge.
I also commend and thank Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John Franke for issuing the correct judgment in this case. It is very gratifying to represent Franklin, a community that cares passionately about the health and welfare of all children in Wisconsin, and expended amazing amounts of time to craft the ordinance that protects children and the greater community.
Every year, the highly regarded Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) is required by state law to conduct an audit of the Wisconsin Lottery. The financial review is complete and here are the audit’s key findings.
More than 99 percent of the lottery revenue comes from instant and online ticket sales. Total ticket sales increased 13.3 percent during the past five fiscal years, from $435.0 million in 2002-03 to $492.8 million in 2006-07. Sales of scratch-off and pull-tab games increased 13.9 percent during that period, while online game sales increased 12.5 percent. Ticket sales decreased during 2004-05 and 2006-07 due to the timing of large Powerball jackpots that have a sizeable effect on online game ticket sales.
Expenses from game development and production decreased by 14.1 percent over the past five fiscal years. The decreases were the result of the state entering into a seven-year contract with GTECH Corporation in June 2004 to maintain the instant and online gaming system and provide telecommunication services. Other expenses decreased by 16.7 percent over the past five fiscal years. Lottery staff attributes those decreases to strategies implemented to reduce costs.
Under the state Constitution, net proceeds from the Wisconsin Lottery must be used solely for property tax relief to owners of primary residences in Wisconsin and through the farmland tax relief credit to certain farmland owners in Wisconsin. Property tax relief totaled $697.9 million over the past five fiscal years, including $160.0 million in 2006-07.
State laws and legislative action impose limitations on four types of lottery expenses. The LAB reports the Wisconsin Lottery is in compliance with each of the limitations:
1) The LAB reports, “At least 50 percent of Wisconsin Lottery sales be returned to players as prize payments. As a percentage of ticket sales, prize expenses have remained generally consistent, although they increased to 59.3 percent during 2006-07. Wisconsin Lottery officials attribute the 1.3 percentage point increase between 2004-05 and 2006-07 to offering higher-priced instant games that include higher prize payout percentages. They also note that the 2006-07 prize payout percentage may be higher because the Wisconsin Lottery paid the $100,000 prize for Supercash! eight times more in 2006-07 than in 2005-06.”
2) The LAB reports that state law “limits certain administrative expenses to no more than 10.0 percent of gross operating revenues. These administrative expenses include all expenses except prize payments and retailer compensation. The Wisconsin Lottery’s administrative expenses have remained within the statutory limit and were 5.9 percent of gross operating revenues during 2006-07.”
3) The LAB reports, “The Wisconsin Constitution prohibits the expenditure of public funds or of revenues derived from lottery operations for promotional advertising. It directs any advertising to provide information about the chances of winning and prize structures. Through legislative action, the Wisconsin Lottery’s product informational advertising expenses have been limited to $4.6 million annually since 1990-91. This expenditure authority was not exceeded in 2006-07. The Legislature has increased the Wisconsin Lottery’s annual product informational advertising budget to $7.5 million beginning with 2007-08. Wisconsin Lottery staff project that increase will produce an additional $15.0 million in annual lottery ticket sales.”
4) The LAB reports state laws “establish maximum compensation rates for basic commissions and performance program payments to retailers who sell lottery tickets. Basic commission rates are 5.5 percent of the retail price for online tickets and 6.25 percent for instant tickets. Performance program payments to eligible retailers may not exceed 1.0 percent of total ticket sales. The Wisconsin Lottery’s retailer performance program payments have remained within the statutory limit for the past five fiscal years and were 0.9 percent of ticket sales during 2006-07.”
The LAB gave the opinion in their audit that the Lottery’s “financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the Wisconsin Lottery.”
Here is the LAB full report of the Wisconsin Lottery audit.
Once again, I commend the LAB for their outstanding and thorough analysis.
This morning, I had the privilege of participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Sendik’s Fine Foods at the Shoppes of Wyndham Village in Franklin.
It was fitting the special ceremony was held under sunshine and gorgeous blue skies, as though the wonderful project was meant to come to Franklin.
I recall the first contact I had about this development when I was asked to lend support in the hope Sendik’s would help Franklin’s tax base. I was pleased to endorse a project that will benefit consumers, taxpayers, and education in Franklin.
Congratulations go out to Mark and Mary Carstensen for making this quality development dream come true along with Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor, the Franklin Common Council and the Franklin Plan Commission for their vision. Franklin is prosperous, one of the most growing communities in all of Wisconsin. I appreciate representing Franklin in state Senate District 28 and I wish Sendik’s, owner Tom Balisteri Jr., and the Shoppes at Wyndham Village the very best.
My office prepared a state citation that I presented to Bryan Rezeski at the special ceremony. It reads:
Whereas, Bryan Rezeski is a member of the Boy Scouts of America and through dedication and commitment, attained the rank of Eagle Scout; and
Whereas, Bryan Rezeski’s Eagle Scout project included constructing over 90 perches for the rehabilitation of birds at the Wildlife In Need Center of Waukesha County; and
Whereas, Bryan Rezeski earned 24 merit badges, and served his troop in the leadership positions of Scribe, Assistant Senior patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Instructor; and
Whereas, Bryan Rezeski, a 2008 graduate of Nathan Hale High School, was a member of the Cross Country Team, Future Business Leaders of America, and a Life Saving Class graduate; and
Whereas, Bryan Rezeski plans to serve his country as a member of the United States Marine Corps; now
Therefore, the members of the Wisconsin State Senate on the motion of Senator Mary Lazich, commend Bryan Rezeski for outstanding dedication and service to scouting. Bryan Rezeski is further commended for successfully completing the requirements necessary to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honorable rank awarded by the Boy Scouts of America.
My office prepared a state citation that I presented to Christopher Gonzalez at the special ceremony. It reads:
Whereas, Christopher Gonzalez is a member of the Boy Scouts of America and through dedication and commitment, attained the rank of Eagle Scout; and
Whereas, Christopher Gonzalez’s Eagle Scout project included landscaping Hoover Elementary School; and
Whereas, Christopher Gonzalez earned 28 merit badges, and served his troop in the leadership positions of Scribe, Assistant Senior patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Instructor; and
Whereas, Christopher Gonzalez, a 2008 graduate of Nathan Hale High School, was a member of Track Team performing shot put, Future Business Leaders of America, and a Life Saving Class graduate; and
Whereas, Christopher Gonzalez plans to attend Fox Valley Technical College to study Diesel Mechanics; now
Therefore, the members of the Wisconsin State Senate on the motion of Senator Mary Lazich, commend Christopher Gonzalez for outstanding dedication and service to scouting. Christopher Gonzalez is further commended for successfully completing the requirements necessary to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honorable rank awarded by the Boy Scouts of America.
Voters in Georgia go to the polls today to choose candidates in primaries for Congress, the General Assembly and other state and local offices. Before they can vote, Georgians must provide a Georgia driver's license, a valid government-issued photo ID, a U.S. passport, a military photo ID, a valid picture ID showing membership in a native American tribe, or a photo ID issued by a county registrar.
Last Friday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Tom Campbell tossed out a challenge against the photo ID requirement. Georgia’s state Democrat Party was seeking a temporary restraining order to block the use of photo ID in today’s Georgia primaries.
During a hearing last week, Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel testified there would be "mass chaos" at Georgia’s 3,000 precincts if the judge were to grant the Democrat party's request. In a statement following the judge’s ruling, Handel said, "Photo ID has been implemented without incident in eight elections, including the presidential preference primary that featured record voter turnout."
Georgia has also taken a step that I proposed with legislation in Wisconsin that literally removes one of the key arguments of photo ID opponents. In Georgia, according to the Secretary of State’s website, “If you do not have one of these acceptable forms of photo identification, the State of Georgia offers a FREE Voter Identification Card. An identification card can be issued at any county registrar's office or Department of Driver Services office FREE of charge.”
During the 2005 legislative session, I authored Senate Bill 119 that would have issued identification cards without charge. Senate Bill 119 passed the state Senate 25-8, but did not get to the Assembly floor for a vote. Here are details on Senate Bill 119.
Democrats in Georgia pledge to continue to fight to have that state’s photo ID thrown out before the November elections. Just as here in Wisconsin, Democrats object to the common sense policy of having voters show proof that they are who they say they are. Wisconsin needs to adopt a photo ID requirement. Approving photo ID should be one of the Legislature’s top priorities when it reconvenes in January 2009.
The news media gives little attention to Tax Freedom Day, the day the average American has earned enough money to pay this year's tax obligations at the federal, state and local levels. It reports even less on the Cost of Government Day.
Cost of Government Day is the date of the calendar year on which the average American worker has earned enough gross income to pay off his or her share of spending and regulatory burdens imposed by all levels of government, federal, state and local. According to the Americans for Tax Reform, Cost of Government Day is far worse than Tax Freedom Day.
This year, the national Cost of Government Day fell on July 16. Wisconsin’s Cost of Government Day, the 37th latest in the country, is today. July 17.
Americans for Tax Reform in its 2008 report on Cost of Government Day (COGD) writes:
“Working people must toil on average 197 days out of the year just to meet all costs imposed by government. In other words, the cost of government consumes 53.9 percent of national income.
Cost of Government Day falls four days later in 2008 than last year’s revised date of July 12. In 2008, the average American will have to work an additional 17 days out of the year to pay off his or her cost of government compared to 2000, when the COGD was June 29.
In fact, since 1977, COGD has fallen later than July 16 in only four of those 32 years -in 1982 and 1983, and in 1992 and 1993. The driving factor for this development is the fact that all components of the cost of government – federal spending, state and local spending, and regulation – are now increasing faster than national income.
This increase in the cost of government stands in sharp contrast to at least two periods in the past thirty years: COGD fell sharply from a high of July 20 in 1992 to June 29 in 1999 and 2000. In addition, COGD declined from a record high of July 23 in 1982 to July 3 in 1989. Both of these declines resulted from a combination of restraining the growth of federal spending while the economy was booming and rapidly increasing national income.”
The key is taxing and spending. The burden on taxpayers is reduced when restraints are placed on spending. In Wisconsin, taxing and spending levels remain too high, meaning Wisconsin taxpayers have to work over half a year just to earn enough income to pay off their commitments to all levels of government.
You can read more about the Cost of Government and Cost of Government Day here.
I have signed a pledge issued by Americans for Tax Reform that I oppose tax increases.
Cost of Government Day is finally here. Its arrival is little reason to celebrate.
Deadlines are fast approaching to file for disaster unemployment assistance in Wisconsin. If you were unable to work because of the severe flooding last month, you can apply for assistance, but time is running out.
Here are the deadlines for counties I represent in state Senate District 28:
Waukesha County: July 19, 2008
Walworth County: July 25, 2008
Here is more information in a press release from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
Every county in state Senate District 28 that I represent has been declared a disaster area following the horrendous June floods. The Internal Revenue Service has announced the deadline for tax relief for flood victims has been extended.
Details are contained in this press release from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
Having written a dozen blogs on ethanol, my record on the issue is clear. Too many question marks along with the dramatic impact on the world food supply make me more than skeptical about the value of ethanol. My constituents have also informed me of their strong opposition.
In America, members of Congress and the food industry are calling for an end to ethanol mandates. The nationwide corn-based ethanol mandate requires blending 9 billion gallons of ethanol into America’s fuel supply this year. Midwest flooding during June devastated several million acres of corn and soybeans fields, pushing the price of corn to record highs that have, in turn, severely hurt livestock producers.
The British also understand the ramifications of the ethanol craze. Christopher Booker and Richard North recently published Scared To Death: From BSE to Global Warming, How Scares Are Costing Us The Earth. They have written a column in the Daily Telegraph, chronicling the historical rise and speedy fall of biofuels.
Booker and North write, “Rarely in political history can there have been such a rapid and dramatic reversal of a received wisdom as we have seen in the past 18 months over biofuels.” Prior to the change in heart over biofuels, Booker and North document what they call “mankind’s love affair with biofuels,” a process that developed in five stages going back decades.
Stage One-The internal combustion engine is born. Henry Ford wanted his autos to run on ethanol made from corn and hemp. The petroleum business boomed during the 1920’s, and ethanol got placed on the back burner.
Stage Two- During the 1970’s, skyrocketing oil prices put the focus back on biofuels. The United Nations, after holding a conference on the issue in 1981 adopted a program in 1987 emphasizing biofuels.
Stage Three- Two key developments occurred during the 1990’s: 1) After the first Gulf War, the United States, staring at a spike in oil prices, viewed surplus crops as the answer to dependence on foreign oil, and 2) The United Nations considered biofuels a solution to global warming.
Stage Four- Between 2004 and 2007, hysteria over global warming grew. In an attempt to show leadership on global warming, the European Union (EU) set a required target of 10 percent of all EU transport fuel to come from biofuels by 2020. A United Nations report during 2006 indicated that in order to meet the EU goal of 10 percent, 70 per cent of dry land would have to be taken out of food production. Despite the UN report, the EU today refuses to alter its 10 percent target.
Stage Five- The ethanol backlash exploded, coming from some unpredictable sources. Environmental groups, once chief biofuel proponents, now had serious doubts, spurred by the effects in the Third World and rainforests. Worldwide food shortages had critics pointing the finger squarely at the biofuel craze.
Booker and North quote a United Nations official who says biofuels can only bring "more hunger to the poor people of the world, "and that biofuels are a "crime against humanity".
The world needs to get over its ethanol hangover and dramatically cut back on ramming food into fuel tanks. Here is Booker and North’s column in the Daily Telegraph.
A ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in favor of Menasha Corporation of Neenah will result in a huge hole in the state budget. The high court ruled that the state was wrong to collect sales taxes on customized computer software sales from Menasha and other firms in Wisconsin. The sales tax money collected will now have to be returned and the Legislature must address the $265 million gap.
Here are details from the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel.
As I did with the 2007-09 state budget and the state budget repair bill, I will oppose any solution to this latest budget problem that includes a tax increase.
The Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) has released its annual audit of the financial statements for the Wisconsin State Fair Park for fiscal year 2006-07. Here are the audit’s key findings.
For the first time since fiscal year 1998-99, State Fair Park annual revenue exceeded expenditures, by $1.3 million. Race track related expenditures declined by $3.8 million. As of June 30, 2007, State Fair Park’s accumulated cash deficit was $9.9 million. The deficit is a concern because less funding is available for other state programs and the deficit prohibits State Fair Park income from turning into investments.
State Fair Park made a license agreement in December 2005 with Milwaukee Mile Holdings to manage racing events at the Fair Park. The agreement was for 18 years and included a license fee of $246,000 the first year increasing to $1.8 million annually thereafter. There have been some amendments to the agreement since, the latest coming in a renegotiation in February of this year that reduced the annual license fee to $1 million beginning in 2008.
The original agreement December 2005 agreement was intended to have the license fee be sufficient to cover annual debt service at State Fair Park. Under the new agreement, the LAB estimates that, “State Fair Park’s financial responsibility for the Milwaukee Mile will increase to nearly $1.2 million in 2008,” meaning more revenue sources must be found. Some possibilities that had been considered review are the development of 5.75 acres at State Fair Park adjacent to I-94 and the construction of a billboard on the grounds. Because of I-94 construction, those options have been postponed.
The audit also examined concerns pertaining to livestock contests at the Wisconsin State Fair. The concerns include the role of the Agriculture Director consulting with advisory committees in establishing contest rules for junior division livestock shows, the responsibility of the Agriculture Director in choosing junior division judges, and changes in the payout procedures for the premier livestock competition of the State Fair, the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Livestock Auction.
The LAB also reports, “Several conflict of interest allegations have also been raised related to the Agriculture Director’s responsibilities to State Fair Park and his participation in an outside business that buys and sells show cattle. For example, the Agriculture Director maintained a financial interest in animals that were exhibited and won championships at the 2005 and 2006 state fairs. State Fair Park officials were aware of this potential conflict but did not reassign the Agriculture Director’s responsibilities because he was not a direct participant in the competitions and was not the sole person responsible for selecting judges. The Agriculture Director has indicated he is transitioning away from his outside business, but we found that he continued to participate as recently as March 2008.”
Here is the way the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel reported the issue.
The LAB recommends the State Fair Park Board consult with the state’s Government Accountability Board to examine if the Agriculture Director’s outside business interests constitute a conflict of interest with his duties at the State Fair Park.
The LAB also recommends the State Fair Park get more financial information from the company managing racing activities, report back to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee by March 31, 2009 on both the revenue shortfall in the new license agreement with Milwaukee Mile Holdings and the cash deficit, reevaluate the selection of judges for junior livestock competitions, and that the State Fair Park Board’s Agriculture Committee approves competition rules for livestock shows annually.
Here is the entire LAB audit report.
I commend the LAB for their consistently excellent reviews.
Residents of southeast Wisconsin are quite familiar with the federal agency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The EPA has determined the quality of air in our area is hampered by auto emissions. According to the Wisconsin Vehicle Inspection Program (WVIP) Annual Report for 2005-2006, “The U.S. EPA implemented a more stringent ozone standard, the so-called 8-hour ozone standard. In April 2004, several southeastern and eastern Wisconsin counties were designated non-attainment areas under this standard. The WVIP will play an important, ongoing role in the state’s efforts to comply with the standard.”
That means the auto emission program continues in southeast Wisconsin, although there was a change implemented in the program over two weeks ago. As of July 1, 2008, cars and trucks built before 1996 are exempt from undergoing emissions testing.
This seems odd given that the conventional wisdom is older cars produce dirtier emissions and that newer, cleaner running automobiles that have replaced older cars are cleaner and stay cleaner much longer than their predecessors. If any vehicles should be exempt, it should be the newer and not the older models.
Motorists in southeast Wisconsin are also required to pump and use reformulated gas (RFG) that during the summertime costs much more than gasoline in counties outside our region. How effective is RFG in improving the quality of our air? The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel recently posed that question to the EPA. The EPA had to admit that it didn’t know.
From jsonline.com, June 30, 2008:
“The Public Investigator Team asked the Environmental Protection Agency exactly how the gas benefits air quality today. The answer: ‘That's the data we don't know now,’ said Paul Machiele, director of the EPA's Fuels Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.”
During May of this year, I signed a letter with other lawmakers asking the EPA to eliminate the RFG requirement. The EPA says it's preparing a response. Remember, southeast Wisconsin consumers have complained mightily about the effect of RFG, wreaking havoc on automobiles and small engines.
That leads to the latest EPA folly. Nick Loris of the Heritage Foundation reports the EPA is considering a rule that would allow the agency to regulate the emissions of your lawnmower.
Loris writes, “This would require the agency to create different regulations and units of emissions requirements for each gadget that pollutes.”
Loris then quotes from the proposed EPA rule:
“[E]ach application could require a different unit of measure tied to the machine’s mission or output– such as grams per kilogram of cuttings from a “standard” lawn for lawnmowers and grams per kilogram-meter of load lift for forklifts.”
Needless to say, these regulations would be far-reaching, cumbersome, and costly.
Here is Loris’ piece.
The EPA is accepting public comment on the proposed rule. You can e-mail your comments to: a-and-rDocket@epa.gov, fax them to 202-566-9744, or mail them to Air and Radiation Docket and Information Center, Environmental Protection Agency, Mailcode: 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.,Washington, DC 20460.
Women are coerced to have abortions more often than you think. One of the most egregious cases occurred in Georgia. A parent forged a signature on a parental consent form for her son's pregnant girlfriend. The parent, Cindi Cook was recently sentenced.
ABC News has the story. Note the headline. Normally the news media would use the clinical term, fetus. ABC editors, to their credit, used the word baby to headline their story.
The Appleton Post-Crescent is reporting the state wants to add information about some of Wisconsin’s most dangerous sex offenders to a website by the end of summer. These are offenders who have failed to comply with state registration requirements and are still at large. When found, they face fines, jail, or prison time.
Here’s the Post-Crescent article and the website for Wisconsin’s Most Wanted Noncompliant Registered Sex Offenders.
Since 2001, more than 80,000 people have called 1-800-QUIT-NOW, the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line. The assistance they have received has helped reduce their risk of premature death and has saved the state millions of dollars in health care-related costs.
Services at the Tobacco Quit Line expanded on January 1, 2008. Dr. Michael Fiore, Director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention has informed me that the hotline continues to be successful with more people taking advantage of its lifesaving services than ever before. Dr. Fiore writes:
“In the first six months of this expansion (1/1/08 - 7/1/08), more than 21,000 state residents contacted the Quit Line. It provides confidential, personalized and free coaching and medication for those who want to break their tobacco dependence. It also helps smokers locate quitting resources and programs in their own communities.
2008 Quit Line service rates shatter all previous records. In a typical year, the Wisconsin quit line helps about 9,000 state residents. By and large, this unprecedented interest is a response to the increased cigarette state excise tax, which went into effect on Jan. 1 combined with the expanded Quit Line services. Here is a more detailed breakdown of Quit Line callers:
● 90 percent are tobacco users. The remaining 10 percent are healthcare providers, and people concerned about friends and family.
● 90 percent have requested further assistance from the Quit Line, including science-based coaching to help them quit. More than 12,300 two-week starter kits of nicotine medications have been mailed out.
● Among those who requested these starter kits, 62 percent chose to receive stop-smoking nicotine patches. The remaining 38 percent chose either nicotine gum or lozenges.
● 40 percent have identified themselves as Medicaid enrollees or uninsured.
The Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line is funded by the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services and administered by the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention. It was established in 2001.
Wisconsin Researchers Lead National Effort to Establish New Federal Guidelines on Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence
As the chair of a federal panel convened by the U.S. Public Health Service, I was proud to participate in a May event to release an updated guideline of care for clinicians and healthcare systems to address tobacco dependence and treatment. The event culminated two year’s worth of work that examined more than 8,700 scientific studies. It was hosted by the American Medical Association and featured Dr. C. Everett Koop as a speaker. More than 58 national and international organizations have endorsed the guideline, representing more than 1.2 million clinicians.
The guideline recommends a combination of coaching, counseling and medication to more successfully treat what is a chronic disease - tobacco dependence. We are now working with state and national partners to ensure that every Wisconsin smoker visiting a healthcare setting receives evidence-based assistance in quitting.
Wisconsin Researchers Break the “Kid-Smoking” Genetic Code
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention (UW-CTRI), along with colleagues at the University of Utah published findings that pinpoint the genetic risk of nicotine dependence in children. That risk is mitigated if children don’t smoke on a daily basis prior to age 17. If they do smoke daily prior to turning 17, their risk of addiction increases and it’s likely to be an even more severe addiction than for those who don’t have the genetic predisposition.
This groundbreaking finding is based on a study of 398 participants who came to UW-CTRI clinics in Milwaukee and Madison. Participants from Utah and an extensive national study rounded out the sample.
In Wisconsin, 19.9 percent of high school students and 5.8 percent of middle school students are tobacco users. This new genetic research emphasizes the importance of prevention programs, and specifically prevention programs aimed at youth who are genetically at risk for nicotine dependence.”
Here is the website for the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line, information on what to expect when you call, and testimonials from callers about their experience with the hotline
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) is reporting that according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), over 77,000 Wisconsin residents will not get their economic stimulus check from the federal government because they have not filed the appropriate paperwork. The IRS says 68 percent of those who haven’t filed yet are over age 65 and 84 percent are over age 50.
The DOR has launched a summer campaign to attempt to reach Wisconsinites who are still eligible for an economic stimulus check. Here are the details.
To be eligible, you must file a 2007 income tax return, have a valid Social Security Number (SSN), can't be claimed as a dependent on a tax return and have either an income tax liability or "qualifying income" of at least $3,000. The economic stimulus payment is not taxable, and it will not reduce your 2007 or 2008 refund or increase the amount you owe when you file your 2008 return.
However, individuals with at least $3,000 in qualifying income who don’t normally file a tax return must fill out other paperwork with the IRS to get an economic stimulus check.
The deadline to file in order to receive a check is October 15, 2008.
Here are complete details on the economic stimulus payments from the IRS.
Be aware of one of the biggest tax scams of the year according to the Internal Revenue Service.
Scams Related to the Economic Stimulus Payment
Some scam artists are trying to trick individuals into revealing personal financial information that can be used to access their financial accounts by making promises relating to the economic stimulus payment, often called a “rebate.” To obtain the payment, eligible individuals in most cases will not have to do anything more than file a 2007 federal tax return. But some criminals posing as IRS representatives are trying to trick taxpayers into revealing their personal financial information by falsely telling them they must provide information to get a payment. For instance, a potential victim is told by phone or e-mail that he or she is eligible for a rebate but must provide a bank account number (or similar information) to get the payment. If the target is unwilling, the victim is then told that he cannot receive the rebate unless the information is provided. Individuals should remember that the only way to get a stimulus payment is to file a 2007 tax return. The IRS urges taxpayers to be extra-vigilant. The IRS will not contact taxpayers by phone or e-mail about their stimulus payment.
I have blogged extensively about my opposition to government run health care. The state Legislature was successful in keeping the Senate Democrats’ $15.2 billion government health care plan out of the 2007-09 state budget. Senate Democrats promise they will re-introduce the proposal in the next legislative session, despite its exorbitant cost.
The Green Bay Press Gazette editorializes against government health care, citing the high cost of popular programs, and the inefficiencies for veterans’ care.
The newspaper writes, “We know that participants in such government programs as Medicare and BadgerCare are generally satisfied with the care they receive through those programs. But we also know that the costs for both taxpayers and participants is enormous. And we know that the nation's Veterans Affairs health care system is not all that it could be or should be”
The editorial reaches the following conclusion:
“Our instincts tell us the answer lies more in the direction of competition and the innovation of free enterprise, not in the direction of government control and centralization. We urge healthy skepticism toward politicians who advocate a government-run single-payer system.”
Here’s the entire editorial.
The non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) says it is assessments.
In a nutshell, WISTAX says, “A rising (or falling) assessment does not necessarily mean higher (or lower) property taxes.”
WISTAX goes into more detail in this report.
I have written extensively about my opposition to the Senate Democrats’ $15.2 billion government health care proposal. Thus far, the program has been rejected, but Senate Democrats vow to bring it back for legislative consideration.
The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) has a new report that the plan, known as Healthy Wisconsin, would bust the state budget.
WPRI says, “Healthy Wisconsin would turn every aspect of the health care system over to state government. Government involvement in health care would not only be likely, it would be required. As with every other aspect of the state budget, the Legislature will have to set the level of payroll tax that supports the plan and establish a global budget for the plan. Further, given that the tax will be by far the largest levied by state government, and that spending on Healthy Wisconsin will exceed the entirety of the state’s general fund budget, it is inevitable that health care finance and spending will be prominent political and campaign issues.”
The report also states that government involvement in the program will not cases once it’s up and running, the Legislature will be faced with an increase in the payroll tax that supports the program, and that if the plan can’t bring the growth in health care costs closer to the rate of the growth in wages, it will face a shortfall of between $4.79 billion and $10 billion by 2017.
Finally, WPRI points out the disturbing trend in Wisconsin budgeting of raiding funds, noting the $15.2 billion government health care program would be a prime target for raiding.
Here is the complete report.
More bad news for Wisconsin’s fiscal situation. The non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) reports, “Wisconsin state and local governments devoted a larger share of state personal income to debt service in 2006 than all but nine other states.”
WISTAX came to its conclusion using new U.S. Census figures. “State government ranked 13th in the amount of personal income spent on debt service (0.53% vs. 0.37%, U.S. average), while all local governments combined ranked 21st (0.40% of income), almost 14% below the national norm (0.47%).”
Here’s the WISTAX news release.
If information is power, then pregnant women should see an ultrasound before they ultimately decide on having an abortion.
Under Wisconsin law, “at least 24 hours before the abortion is to be performed or induced, the physician who is to perform or induce the abortion or any other qualified physician” is required to, in person, inform the woman “that fetal ultrasound imaging and auscultation of fetal heart tone services are available that enable a pregnant woman to view the image or hear the heartbeat of her unborn child. In so informing the woman and describing these services, the physician shall advise the woman as to how she may obtain these services if she desires to do so.”
Wisconsin statute 253.10(3)(c)1(g)
Wisconsin is one of 15 states to require medical officials to give pregnant women the option of seeing an ultrasound before an abortion.
This year, Oklahoma became the first state in the nation making it mandatory that a woman see an ultrasound at least one hour before an abortion is scheduled.
State legislatures around the country took up 30 ultrasound-related bills in 17 states. Similar legislation is expected to be reviewed next year.
The author of Oklahoma’s new ultrasound law, state Senator Todd Lamb (R), told Stateline.org the purpose of the law is to “ensure 100 percent informed consent. We’re short-changing these moms if they’re not receiving an ultrasound so they can see how their child is being formed.”
Here’s the story from stateline.org.
With only a few exceptions, most state parks and trails are open in Wisconsin. High water levels on southern lakes and rivers are dropping while water levels in the north are low. Fishing conditions are normal.
Fawns are active so the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says be alert of fawns following does along roadways. White-tailed bucks are showing antler development. . Black bear sows with as many as three cubs in tow have been seen as well as red fox kits.
Here are full details from the latest DNR Outdoor Report.
Located at the corner of Central Avenue and Second Street, the New Berlin Lions Club Corn Roast Stand sells well over 100-thousand ears of corn each year, and goes through a ton of butter and over 25 pounds of salt.
Money raised from the sales of corn goes to dozens of charities.
Here is a pictorial history of our stand.
Please stop by the stand, buy an ear of corn, and say hello!
I must admit I was taken aback when I read the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel that Milwaukee is negotiating with New Berlin to sell Milwaukee water. The price tag would be hefty $1.5 million one time fee in addition to actual costs.
During the lengthy deliberations about the Great Lakes Compact, I made it clear that despite my reservations, I supported an effective document that was good for the Great Lakes, the state of Wisconsin, and would preserve our greatest natural resource.
Time and time again, I heard Compact proponents make the case that the Compact would address the water needs of New Berlin. The conventional wisdom was that the Compact needed to be approved quickly, and if it was, New Berlin’s water woes would be taken care of. Making those arguments were city of Milwaukee officials from Mayor Tom Barrett on down. They claimed the city of Milwaukee would no longer have issues with New Berlin getting water if Wisconsin would simply okay the Compact.
It seems that isn’t the case. Wisconsin has approved the Compact, but for the city of Milwaukee, on this critical public health issue, it’s still business as usual, imposing a hefty price tag for a community in desperate need of water. For the city of Milwaukee, it was never about the Compact. It was and remains a question of money and control over a suburb to the west.
Governor Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force has completed work and issued a final report. After 16 months, the Task Force has submitted dozens of recommendations for mandates and regulations. Unfortunately, the mandates and regulations are likely to have high costs and are not likely to result in any change to our weather or climate and will only hurt Wisconsin residents and the state’s economy.
Here are highlights from the Task Force’s final report from the Department of Natural Resources website.
State Representative Jim Ott (R-Mequon), a former WTMJ-TV meteorologist has studied this issue extensively and has an outstanding news release critical of the Task Force’s recommendations. You can read Representative Ott’s release here.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) has a website that will tell you where lane closures and constructions projects are located before you leave the house on a long trip. Just visit the new website at: http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/travel/road/laneclosures/closures.htm.
Here are more details form the DOT.
American motorists may have finally hit the tipping point when it comes to high gas prices affecting their driving habits. The Wall Street Journal says a report out today by the U.S. Transportation Department shows that during the past seven months, Americans have slashed their driving by more than 40 billion miles.
The biggest decline in miles driven came in the North Central part of the country including Wisconsin. During May 2008, motorists in this region drove 57. 2 billion miles, a reduction of 4.5 percent from the previous year.
Dramatically fewer miles driven means less federal gas tax revenue, setting up a debate in Congress about how to address the shortfall. Some of the ideas that could be considered in Washington include more toll roads and mass transit programs, delaying numerous projects, and a potential increase in the federal gas tax, though such a move would be very unpopular given the current price of gas.
Here are more details from the Wall Street Journal.
Every county in Senate District 28 that I represent has been declared a state of disaster by Governor Jim Doyle. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is offering assistance to individuals in our area experiencing flood damage. The deadline to apply for assistance has been extended to September 15, 2008. The deadline had been August 13, 2008.
You can apply for assistance at the FEMA website here.
The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel has more information.