NOW:53150:USA01489
http://widgets.journalinteractive.com/cache/JIResponseCacher.ashx?duration=5&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdata.wp.myweather.net%2FeWxII%2F%3Fdata%3D*USA01489
32°
H 54° L 32°
Clear | 0MPH

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.

A wonderful civic resource

News you can use


The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports there is a great source citizens can tap for information about civics: The Internet.

Here are some examples.

My 2010 Wish List


The editors of WaukeshaNOW invited me to submit a 2010 wish list for Waukesha that is idealistic, not necessarily practical. Here is my submission, my 2010 Wish List for Waukesha Residents that I hope for all:



Tax cuts and reduced spending

100% employment

Jobs for every Waukesha graduate

The utmost safety for Waukesha residents serving in our military

Lake Michigan water at a fair price

Far less government intervention

 

Read more

New DMV hours in 2010

News you can use


Operating hours at all Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV)  customer service centers changed
 beginning January 4, 2010.

You can read the changes here.

A new year means new state laws

Legislation


The Appleton Post Crescent has a listing of some of the new state laws taking effect during 2010.

$2.7 BILLION

State budget


Wisconsin
’s fiscal crisis keeps getting worse. In fact, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) reports our economic conditions are the worst they have ever been.

Here are some excerpts from a new WISTAX report.

“According to its just-released financial statements, state government closed its 2008-09

Read more

The top issues states face this year

Legislation


The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has released its annual forecast of the top ten top policy issues states will confront during 2010.

Here they are, starting with Issue #10:



Issue #10 – Expanding Broadband Access

Issue #9 – Examining Sex Offender Registration

Issue #8 – Developing Clean Energy Alternatives

Issue #7 - Balancing and Managing State Government

Issue #6 – Maintaining Transportation and Infrastructure

Issue #5 – Analyzing Sentencing and Corrections Costs

Issue #4 - Affording Higher Education

Issue #3 – Lowering Unemployment Rates

Issue #2 - Managing Health Costs and Coverage

Care to guess what Issue #1 is according to the NCSL?

States, inluding Wisconsin, have their work cut out for them during 2010.

Global warming legislation: You will pay more

Legislation


Former WTMJ meteorologist, state Representative Jim Ott (R-Mequon) has been keeping very close tabs on Governor Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force.  Representative Ott has published a brief list of provisions in proposed legislation by Democrats based on the Task Force’s recommendations.

Here are some that Representative Ott lists:

“Enhanced Renewable Portfolio Standard

Wisconsin will be required to produce 25% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025. This will cause your utility bills to skyrocket because electricity produced from renewable sources is considerably more expensive to produce. Electricity touches every facet of our lives, from food production, to transportation to entertainment. You will pay more!

Read more

Chicago keeps stealing and stealing

Great Lakes


During the debate about the Great Lakes Compact in September 2008, Chicago dumped 99 billion gallons of sewage into Lake Michigan following a strong storm.
I blogged on September 25, 2008:

Chicago’s dumping of vast amounts of sewage into Lake Michigan should come as no surprise. Historically, Chicago has more or less been able to do whatever it wants about Lake Michigan, regardless of the circumstances or consequences.

Take, for instance, Chicago’s diversion of water from the Great Lakes.

The Illinois-Michigan Canal was opened to shipping traffic in 1848, the same year Wisconsin entered the Union. Every day, 64.6 million gallons of water was diverted from Lake Michigan at Chicago through the Chicago and Illinois Rivers to the Mississippi River.

The Windy City’s sewage poured into the Chicago River and then into Lake Michigan, Chicago’s drinking water source. As a result, in 1885, over 10 percent of Chicago’s population, 90,000 people died from cholera.

Since then, the amount of water in the Chicago diversion has grown substantially, even beyond the limit imposed by a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The Chicago diversion was not only in direct defiance of the high court, but is, today, the largest diversion out of the Great Lakes Basin. The other Great Lakes states voiced concern, leading to a battle in federal court.

Illinois agreed to reduce the outtake of water from Lake Michigan to the amount set by previous court decisions. The other states agreed not to take legal action for previous Illinois violations. What a sweet deal Illinois received. At a time when Wisconsin communities are desperate for water, today, millions of northeast Illinois residents that live outside the Great Lakes Basin have access to Lake Michigan water because of the Chicago diversion.

With that history in mind, I am not surprised at Chicago’s recent dumping of sewage into Lake Michigan.”


Writing in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, freelance columnist Mike Nichols has a more blunt assessment. Nichols writes;

Once upon a time, many years ago, Chicago was a cesspool.

It was so polluted in the late 1800s, it has been written, that chickens could run across the scum that formed on top of the rivers.

The smell and the disease were too much even for Chicagoans to bear. So they did something about it.

They stole Lake Michigan.”

Nichols reports that the same canal Chicago built over 160 years ago that has allowed the city to steal water is also responsible for the invasion of Asian carp. Plug that link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi, Nichols contends, and you resolve the carp issue and the water thievery.

You can read Nichols’ column here. 

My views on medical marijuana

Legislation, Mary in the media


You can see and hear them on Fox 6 News Milwaukee and Wisconsin Public Radio.

Here is the Fox 6 News report.

 

Read more

Is latest tax report good news or not?

Taxes


A report from the Wisconsin Taxpayer Alliance (WISTAX) certainly sounds like good news. WISTAX reports, “
Over the past 15 years, Wisconsin’s tax ranking among the 50 states fell from third in 1993 to 14th in 2007.”

A WISTAX headline reads, “State Tax Rank Out of Top 10 for Second Consecutive Year.”

WISTAX provides its usual thorough and comprehensive analysis. However, I would urge caution before any champagne corks are popped.

WISTAX also reports, “The study was based on Census Bureau figures from 1993 to 2007, the most recent year for which data are available.” That means data from 2008, 2009 and the 2009-11 state budget when Wisconsin continued to adopt large tax and spending increases was not included.

My guess is when the fine folks at WISTAX crunch those numbers, kiss the rosy headlines goodbye.

Possible changes in Wisconsin early voting system

Legislation


During May 2008, I blogged about the phenomenon of voting by mail: 

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

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

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

Prior to the November elections, the Associated Press reported that nationwide, about a third of the electorate was expected to vote before Election Day, November 4, 2008. In Wisconsin, the Government Accountability Board (GAB) reports, “Statewide, more than 21 percent cast absentee votes in the November 2008 election, compared to 6 percent in 2000.”

Changes in the popular early voting system are coming to Wisconsin. Responding to pleas from election clerks around the state, the GAB is recommending:

 

Read more

Beware of Haiti relief scams

News you can use


Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection Secretary Rod Nilsestuen have issued the following joint press release.

Business experts pessimistic about jobs outlook

Economy


"I don't really see the private sector hiring much in the next few months.”

Brian Bethune, an economist at Global Insight made that grim statement to CNBC. The reason for this pessimism? Business owners fear they will simply be unable to take on more workers due to a wave of increased taxes and new business regulations.

This comes as little surprise. Last year, Wisconsin businesspeople told lawmakers loudly and clearly that bigger taxes and over-regulation were forcing employers to cut jobs or, in the worst case scenario, close up shop completely. 

High taxes kill jobs. The national Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. writes:

“Taxes matter to business. Business taxes affect business decisions, job creation and retention, plant location, competitiveness, the transparency of the tax system, and the long-term health of a state's economy. Most importantly, taxes diminish profits. If taxes take a larger portion of profits, that cost is passed along to either consumers (through higher prices), workers (through lower wages or fewer jobs), or shareholders (through lower dividends or share value). Thus, a state with lower tax costs will be more attractive to business investment, and more likely to experience economic growth.

States do not enact tax changes (increase or cuts) in a vacuum. Every tax law will in some way change a state's competitive position relative to its immediate neighbors, its geographic region, and even globally. Ultimately it will affect the state's national standing as a place to live and to do business. Entrepreneurial states can take advantage of the tax increases of their neighbors to lure businesses out of high-tax states.

The ideal tax system, whether at the local, state or federal level, is simple, transparent, stable, neutral to business activity, and pro-growth. In such an ideal system, individuals and businesses would spend a minimum amount of resources to comply with the tax system, understand the true cost of the tax system, base their economic decisions solely on the merits of the transactions, without regard to tax implications, and not have the tax system impede their growth and prosperity.”


Businesspeople are anything but confident. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in its Small Business Economic Trends, January 2010 writes:

“The ‘job generating machine’ remains in reverse, jobs are being lost and new hiring is very weak. Ten percent of the owners increased employment, but 22 percent reduced employment (seasonally adjusted). While the trend for increased employment is going in the right direction, there is no indication that job growth will be strong enough to dramatically reduce the unemployment rate. Ten percent (seasonally adjusted) reported unfilled job openings, up two points from November, a good sign. Over the next three months, 15 percent plan to reduce employment (down two points), and eight percent plan to create new jobs (up one point), yielding a seasonally adjusted net negative two percent of owners planning to create new jobs, a one point improvement from November.”

The NFIB concludes, “There is little hope and the change that is being delivered is far from encouraging. Washington is offering nothing but higher taxes and fines and fees and more regulation. Congress is passing bills with thousands of pages of hidden bombs that will go off as the legislation is passed and implemented. Federal spending has soared amazingly, yet been ineffective except at pushing the federal deficit to incomprehensible heights, promising to double our national debt in just a few years. The interest burden this will place on average Americans is
astounding. Uncertainty is the enemy of economic growth and investment, and Washington, D.C., the usual source of uncertainty, is delivering plenty of it. Confidence in our political leadership has tanked.”

It is high time we start to listen and adhere to the expertise of the people who create the jobs that drive our nation’s economy, and do it fast.

Read more from CNBC

Hotline headaches continue for the unemployed


Over four months ago, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that 86 percent of phone calls to a special Department of Workforce Development hotline designed to handle inquiries about unemployment compensation were dropped.

Problems persist months later as evidenced by this Fox 6 News investigation. 

 

 


Perhaps the well-respected Legislative Audit Bureau needs to begin a thorough review of what’s wrong with this user-unfriendly service.

Protecting children

Legislation


Few stories have shocked us over the past year as those involving Wisconsin child care scams.

First was the story about rampant fraud in the taxpayer subsidized Wisconsin Shares program. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter toiled over 2,500 records and documents and uncovered, “a trail of phony companies, fake reports and shoddy oversight,” finding a system that could be scammed without difficulty and lacking accountability by parents and child-care providers, “capitalizing on children for public cash.”

With limited access to child care cases, Journal Sentinel reporters still pinpointed $750,000 in suspicious child-care disbursements.

A December 14, 2009, Journal Sentinel article reveals that the same Journal Sentinel reporter, Raquel Rutledge, found that drug dealing and other criminal links with child care providers are common. Raquel Rutledge wrote:

"More than a dozen Wisconsin child-care centers that reaped millions of dollars in state subsidies have had close ties to drug-dealing operations, including big-time crime bosses, a Journal Sentinel investigation has found.

The newspaper identified 16 child-care centers with recent connections to drug operations, and the number is likely much higher. Those 16 alone have collected more than $8.5 million in public subsidies since 2006.

Records show many of those centers have been used to stash and transport drugs, launder dirty cash and provide fake employment for criminals - at taxpayers' expense."

Read more

Governor, stop the early release of felons now

Corrections


I am one of 45 state legislators to sign a letter to Governor Doyle requesting that he immediately stop his early release of felons. Our letter to Governor Doyle reads in part:

“In the interest of public safety and in light of the suspension of a similar program in Illinois, we are respectfully asking you to consider an immediate repeal of the early release program.

Chief among our concerns is the threat this program poses for compromising public safety. Out of the 21 offenders who were released this week, many of them have a history of serious felony convictions. Most could be classified as career criminals who have been in and out of the corrections system their entire life.

Furthermore, the fact that this program does not rely on judges, prosecutors, or law enforcement to determine whether these inmates are safe for release makes it even more likely that new crimes will be committed.

Read more

UPDATE: Voting rights for felons


A three-judge panel in Washington State has ruled that felony prisoners there must be allowed to vote. The case could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

During July 2009, I wrote about my opposition to efforts by legislative Democrats to expand felon voting rights in Wisconsin.

The Racine Journal Times Editorial Board has also weighed in on the subject:

Handing all of them (felons)  the keys to the nation’s greatest privilege removes one of the stains from their records.

Freedom and voting are a package deal, and committing a major offense costs you both.”

You can read the editorial here. 

State Senate Calendar for Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Here is the calendar for the state Senate floor session scheduled for Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 11:00 a.m.:

First Order.                  Call of Roll.

Second Order.             
Chief clerk's entries.

Third Order.                 Introduction, first reading and reference of proposals.

Fourth Order.               Report of committees.

Fifth Order.                  Petitions and communications.

Sixth Order.                 Referrals and receipt of committee reports concerning proposed administrative rules.

Seventh Order.             Advice and consent of the Senate

QUESTION:            Shall the appointment be confirmed?

Degenhardt, Dennis, of West Bend, as a member of the Credit Union Review Board, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2014. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Veterans and Military Affairs, Biotechnology, and Financial Institutions, Ayes 5, Noes 0

E
berle, Joseph, of Waukesha, as a member of the Examining Board of Architects, Landscape Architects, Professional Engineers, Designers and Land Surveyors, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2013. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Economic Development, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Greenheck, Ann, of Lone Rock, as a member of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2015. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Small Business, Emergency Preparedness, Technical Colleges, and Consumer Protection, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Hanson, Stephanie, of Madison, as a member of the Professional Standards Council for Teachers, to serve for the term ending June 30, 2011. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Education, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Lee, Mark, of Middleton, as a member of the Wisconsin Aerospace Authority, to serve for the term ending June 30, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Economic Development, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Lins, Debra, of Sauk City, as a member of the Banking Review Board, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2014. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Veterans and Military Affairs, Biotechnology, and Financial Institutions, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Main, Edward, of Madison, as a member of the Deferred Compensation Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Veterans and Military Affairs, Biotechnology, and Financial Institutions, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

McCabe, Jeff, of Kaukauna, as a member of the Professional Standards Council for Teachers, to serve for the term ending June 30, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Education, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Moessner, Jeffrey, of Eau Claire, as a member of the Council on Domestic Abuse, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2011. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 4, Noes 1)

Nelson, John, of Middleton, as a member of the Deferred Compensation Board, to serve for the term ending July  1, 2013. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Veterans and Military Affairs, Biotechnology, and Financial Institutions, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Potter, Edward, of Mt. Pleasant, as a member of the Real Estate Appraisers Board, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Redhail, Gene, of Oneida, as a member of the Council on Domestic Abuse, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Sweeney, Gary "Joe"
, of Milwaukee, as a member of the Bradley Center Sports and Entertainment Corporation, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2016. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Economic Development, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Tweed, Steven, of Monona, as a member of the Examining Board of Architects, Landscape Architects, Professional Engineers, Designers and Land Surveyors, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2013. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Economic Development, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Wall, Edward, of Windsor, as Administrator of Wisconsin Emergency Management, to serve for the term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Small Business, Emergency Preparedness, Technical Colleges, and Consumer Protection, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Eighth Order.               Messages from the Assembly.

Ninth Order.                 Special Orders.

Tenth Order.                 Consideration of motions, resolutions, and joint resolutions not requiring a third reading.

QUESTION:            Shall the joint resolution be concurred in?

Assembly Joint Resolution 67. Relating to: commending MAG Giddings and Lewis on its sesquicentennial.  

Assembly Joint Resolution 83. Relating to: the life and public service of Tommy T. Tradewell.  

Assembly Joint Resolution 84. Relating to: the life and public service of Velma Hamilton.  

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

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

Senate Bill 43. Relating to: the scope of regulated activity under the campaign finance law.  (Report adoption of Senate Substitute Amendment 1, Ayes 4, Noes 1, passage as amended recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 3, Noes 2) Senate Substitute Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 168. Relating to: supervision of barber or cosmetologist apprentices. (Report passage recommended by committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 203. Relating to: claims for loss of society and companionship in medical malpractice cases.  (Report passage recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 3, Noes 2)

Senate Bill 274. Relating to: requiring landlords to change locks.  (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 5, Noes 0, adoption of Senate Amendment 2, Ayes 5, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0) Senate Amendments 1and 2 pending

Senate Bill 308. Relating to: a requirement that an employer permit an employee who is a volunteer fire fighter, emergency medical technician, first responder, or ambulance driver for a volunteer fire department or fire company, a public agency, or a nonprofit corporation to be late for or absent from work if the lateness or absence is due to the employee responding to an emergency that begins before the employee is required to report to work.  (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 2, Ayes 5, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Small Business, Emergency Preparedness, Technical Colleges, and Consumer Protection, Ayes 4, Noes 1) Senate Amendment 2 pending

Senate Bill 321. Relating to: operation of neighborhood electric vehicles. (Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 325. Relating to: notification to a parent before chaperoning a sex offender.  (Report passage recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0) Senate Substitute Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 332. Relating to: submitting custody study reports to the parties and offering custody study reports in accordance with the rules of evidence. (Report passage recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 375. Relating to: the exchange of electronic records contained in the Consolidated Court Automation Program and in the Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System between the director of state courts and the Department of Children and Families and providing a penalty. (Report adoption of Senate Substitute Amendment 1, Ayes 4, Noes 1, passage as amended recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0) Senate Substitute Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 424. Relating to: regulating certain sport shooting ranges.(Report passage as amended, Ayes 5, Noes 0, introduction and adoption of Senate Substitute Amendment 1 recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0) Senate Substitute Amendment 1 pending

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

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

Assembly Bill 142. Relating to: requiring a license to engage in the practice of landscape architecture.  (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs, Ayes 3, Noes 2)

Assembly Bill 177. Relating to: operating a motor vehicle while suspended, revoked, or disqualified. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 4, Noes 3)

Assembly Bill 178. Relating to: motor vehicle operating privileges, seizures by courts or law enforcement officers of operator's licenses, and reinstatement of canceled identification cards. 
(Report concurrence recommended by joint committee on Finance, Ayes 12, Noes 4)


Assembly Bill 202
. Relating to: bulk transfers of inventory. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Veterans and Military Affairs, Biotechnology, and Financial Institutions, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 323. Relating to: information provided by a person required to register as a sex offender.  (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 376. Relating to: restitution for misappropriation from a cemetery of certain objects that relate to a veteran.  (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

A
ssembly Bill 411. Relating to: the prohibition against making, reproducing, or possessing a nude depiction of a person without the person's consent and the sex offender registry. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 5, Noes 0, concurrence as amended recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0) Senate Amendment 1 pending

Thirteenth Order.          Third reading of joint resolutions and bills.

Fourteenth Order.         Motions may be offered.

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

Sixteenth Order.           Adjournment.

More state issues to watch during 2010


The National Conference of State Legislatures believes state budgets and taxes will be the most pressing issues for states to confront during 2010. 


Governing magazine is also out with 2010’s Top 10 Legislative Issues to Watch. Topping the list: budgets.

I agree with the magazine that state legislatures will “consider painful service cuts and tax increases.” However, I disagree that tax increases are the solution, not when practically every state is still reeling from the recession.

Undeniably as Governing emphasizes, states have massive budget gaps to fill. In Wisconsin, the hole is over $2 billion. 

The Legislature will almost certainly have to convene to adopt a budget repair bill that I will not support if it contains tax increases.

Governing magazine reports, “There's still a clear partisan divide on the subject of taxes. In every state that raised personal income taxes last year, Democrats control both houses of the legislature. Resistance from Republican lawmakers remains strong. Resistance from voters remains strong, too. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine was booted from office in November in large measure because of his inability to combat sky-high property tax rates.”

Even so, the magazine is unfortunately correct when it surmises that tax increases will be considered by cash-strapped states. Here in Wisconsin the concept is almost a given. My Republican colleagues and I will be ready to fight this short-sighted approach.

Read more from Governing magazine. 

Democrats want more unelected taxing RTAs

Taxes, Legislation


The 2009-11 state budget signed into law by Governor Doyle that was crafted exclusively by Democrats and primarily behind closed doors authorized the creation of several new regional transit authorities (RTAs).

An RTA managed by members that are unelected and unaccountable to the taxpaying public enjoys wide powers. An RTA may operate a transportation system or provide for its operation by contracting with a public or private organization; impose, by its board of directors adopting a resolution, a sales and use tax in the RTA’s jurisdictional area at a rate not exceeding 0.5 percent; acquire property by condemnation; and issue tax-exempt revenue bonds.

RTAs would administer bus systems and commuter rail lines and be funded via local sales tax. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has reported that a half-cent sales tax increase to fund RTA's would cost about $172 per household a year.

During May 2009, I wrote in a column d
uring state budget deliberations that approved RTAs in the wee hours of the morning:

“Hang on to your wallets, there goes millions of dollars. I vehemently oppose these new taxes and Regional Authorities. Our taxes are high enough, and in our darkest hours while we were asleep, the Grim Reaper swiped our credit cards, big time. Boards and authorities with appointed members having taxing power should end, and new ones should not be created.  This is taxation without representation.  The power to tax should only come from elected representation.”

High speed rail systems costing billions of dollars have been discussed and light rail could be on the horizon. Commuter or light rail systems are too expensive, fail to attract new riders, and fail to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.

Against this backdrop, Democrat legislators in Madison want to go even further. Legislation will soon be introduced to create a new type of RTA called the Interim Regional Transit Authority or IRTA. Under the bill, the governing body of a municipality or county within the area comprising the counties of Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine, and Waukesha may, by resolution, create an IRTA.

Supporters of the legislation point out that it allows, but does not mandate, the inclusion of Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington Counties as part of the Southeastern RTA (SERTA).  SERTA consists of Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties and was created in the 2009-11 state budget.  This is not reassuring because the legislation opens the door to Waukesha County, for example of  creating an RTA of its own or joining SERTA.  Once government gets its nose under the flap of the tent, historically government fails to pull back.  Given the opportunity to create or join an RTA, a municipality could very well take that action, resulting in new taxes and expensive transit systems that won’t garner enough users to pay for the cost.

Under the proposed legislation, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau, “an IRTA may generate revenue by imposing a local motor vehicle registration fee, levying a room tax of up to eight percent on the privilege of furnishing hotel and motel rooms to transients, similar to the current law room tax that a municipality may impose, imposing, by the adoption of a resolution by the IRTA’s board of directors, a sales and use tax if approved in a referendum in the IRTA’s jurisdictional area; or charging a membership fee to the participating political subdivisions of the IRTA. “

Because this legislation is problematic for so many reasons, I am in strong opposition.

State Senate Calendar for Thursday, January 21, 2010


H
ere is the calendar for the state Senate floor session scheduled for Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 11:00 a.m.:

First Order.                  Call of Roll.

Second Order.             Chief clerk's entries.

Third Order.                 Introduction, first reading and reference of proposals.

Fourth Order.               Report of committees.

Fifth Order.                  Petitions and communications.

Sixth Order.                 Referrals and receipt of committee reports concerning proposed administrative rules.

Seventh Order.             Advice and consent of the Senate

QUESTION:            Shall the appointment be confirmed?

Adamski, Paul, of Stevens Point, as a member of the College Savings Program Board, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2013. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Agriculture and Higher Education, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Basting, Thomas, of Madison, as a member of the UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority and Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2014. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 6, Noes 1)

Cates, Richard, of Spring Green, as a member of the Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2015. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Agriculture and Higher Education, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Chwala, Thomas, of Lake Mills, as a member of the Snowmobile Recreational Council, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Dummer, Michael, of Holmen, as a member of the Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2015. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Agriculture and Higher Education, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Franklin, LaMarr, of Milwaukee, as a member of the Medical Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Joseph, Maria, of Madison, as a member of the Board of Nursing, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2013. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Keintz, Richard, of Madison, as a member of the Wisconsin Health and Educational Facilities Authority, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2016. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Klimowicz, Jason, of Madison, as a member of the Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan Authority, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2011. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Lowe, Gretchen, of Madison, as a member of the Board of Nursing, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2013. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Rice, William, of Milwaukee, as a member of the Veterinary Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2013. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Agriculture and Higher Education, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Spencer, Robert R., of La Crosse, as a member of the Veterinary Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2013. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Agriculture and Higher Education, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Steimel, Richard, of Dane, as a member of the Snowmobile Recreational Council, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Vasquez, Jose, of Milwaukee, as a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2016. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Agriculture and Higher Education, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

W
alker-Crawford, Jason, of Stoughton, as a member of the Pharmacy Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2013. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Wasserman, Sheldon
, of Milwaukee, as a member of the Medical Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2013. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 6, Noes 1)

Westendorf, Melissa, of South Milwaukee, as a member of the Psychology Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2013. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Eighth Order.    Messages from the Assembly.

Ninth Order.      Special Orders.

Tenth Order.      Consideration of motions, resolutions, and joint resolutions not requiring a third reading.

QUESTION:            Shall the joint resolution be adopted?

Senate Joint Resolution 55. Relating to: declaring 2010 as the Year of John Muir. 

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

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

Senate Bill 116. Relating to: the method by which the Department of Revenue makes certain calculations regarding tax incremental financing district number 4 in the village of Elmwood. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 7, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0) Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 267. Relating to: the definition of plumbing and classifying plumbers to do certain work. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 7, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail, Ayes 7, Noes 0) Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 409. Relating to: a postsecondary education tax credit for businesses; increasing annual limits on angel investment tax credits; awarding grants to the WiSys Technology Foundation, Inc.; business plan competitions and an emerging technology center in the University of Wisconsin System; rural outsourcing grants; requiring the Department of Commerce to award grants to a high-technology business development corporation and grants for converting manufacturing facilities; increasing funding for certain economic development programs; a pilot program providing microloans for the creation of new businesses; increasing funding for certain technical college training program grants; providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures; granting rule-making authority; and making appropriations. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1 to Senate Substitute Amendment 1, Ayes 13, Noes 0, adoption of Senate Substitute Amendment 1, Ayes 13, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by joint committee on Finance, Ayes 13, Noes 0) Senate Amendment 1 to Senate Substitute Amendment 1, and Senate Substitute Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 413. Relating to: receivership for abatement of residential nuisances. (Report passage recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

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

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

Assembly Bill 2. Relating to: state procurement of contractual services. (Report introduction of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 5, Noes 0, concurrence recommended by committee on Small Business, Emergency Preparedness, Technical Colleges, and Consumer Protection, Ayes 3, Noes 2) Senate Amendment 1 pending

Assembly Bill 83. Relating to: issuing annual fishing licenses to certain resident disabled veterans. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 229. Relating to: the sale of home-canned food. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 5, Noes 0, concurrence as amended recommended by committee on Agriculture and Higher Education, Ayes 5, Noes 0) Senate Amendment 1 pending

Assembly Bill 325. Relating to: notice of proposed vacation of certain highways. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 364. Relating to: Council on Offender Reentry. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 418. Relating to: a county fair coordinator. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Agriculture and Higher Education, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Thirteenth Order.           Third reading of joint resolutions and bills.

Fourteenth Order.          Motions may be offered.

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

Sixteenth Order.            Adjournment.

Legalize marijuana?

Legislation


I have many concerns about medical marijuana. 


One of my colleagues was criticized for suggesting that proponents of medical marijuana are motivated by a desire to legalize marijuana, period.

Oh, no, members of the Senate and Assembly Health Committees were told by audience members at last month’s public hearing. That is simply untrue!

Really?

Look at what’s happening in California. 

Think there aren’t similar sentiments in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin needs to act now on Roth IRA conversions

Economy, Legislation


A possibly lucrative retirement account conversion went into effect January 1, 2010. Under a new federal rule, people earning more than $100,000 may convert their assets from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Previously, only people earning less than $100,000 could make the switch without penalties.

The beauty of the conversion is that Roth withdrawals are tax-free.

However, there is a big problem.

Wisconsin residents are unable to take full advantage of the Roth conversions because the state Legislature has failed to take action to approve the tax changes in compliance with the new federal rule. Adding insult to injury are reports that Wisconsin could be the only state in the country that is not in line with the new federal tax changes.

How did that happen?

The all-important decision by the Legislature to adopt changes so conversions to Roth IRA’s could take place penalty-free should have and could have been made during last year’s 2009-11 state budget process. However, Democrats that control the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee balked.

What does that mean for holders of traditional IRA accounts that want to convert to Roth IRA’s?

Until Wisconsin adopts the new federal tax rules, account holders that make conversions from traditional IRA to Roth accounts could, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “pay initial penalties of as much as 5.3% of the money they transfer, and 2% a year from there on.”

The Journal Sentinel also wrote about a November 12, 2009, report by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s Rick Olin:

“If Wisconsin went along with federal rules, the state would pull in $1 million of tax revenue in fiscal 2011 and $1.5 million in fiscal 2012 because it would collect taxes on the money converted, the report says. That would turn around in fiscal 2013, when the state would potentially lose $1.7 million of tax collections because the Roth withdrawals would be tax-free, it says. The state Revenue Department estimates that 2013 loss at $1.3 million.”

State coffers aren’t the big losers. That distinction belongs to innocent Wisconsin citizens that are being penalized for being unaware of the changes in federal tax laws and the state’s inaction on the matter.

Another effect of the Legislature’s failure to adopt the new tax rule changes is that financial experts spend extra time and money in their tax preparations. The tax laws are complex enough without accountants in Wisconsin having to deal with laws that differ from those issued by the federal government.

The state Legislature needs to adopt the necessary changes quickly so that Wisconsin residents can begin to consider whether converting to Roth IRA’s is beneficial. One financial expert told the Journal Sentinel such a move by the state should be a layup. Unfortunately, nothing supposedly this simple comes easy in Madison.

I voted against restrictions on issue ads

Legislation


The state Senate Tuesday approved a bill that creates new requirements for groups that broadcast or publish issue ads within 60 days of an election. One state Senator said on the floor of the state Senate Tuesday that the legislation does not suppress speech. Ironically, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the legislation would “sharply limit
anonymously funded ads.”

I voted against Senate Bill 43 (SB 43) because I have serious concerns about any infringement of the First Amendment, including fears that this bill and future campaign finance legislation could result in some ads being banned altogether.  When government stifles speech during elections, that is the fox guarding the hen house.  

Here is what is most troublesome. A senior staff attorney with the Wisconsin Legislative Council informs that under current
state statutes, corporations are unable to use corporate money for campaigns. If a union is incorporated, the union would likewise face the same prohibition. However, if the union is not incorporated, state statutes would not apply to that union.

SB 43 fails to correct what I believe is a stunning disparity that treats businesses and unions differently. Why should unions have an advantage in political campaigning?

While the state Senate’s action on SB 43 is potentially unconstitutional, the vote was premature. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled two days later to strike down government restrictions on independent political expenditures by corporations during elections. Fewer restrictions mean greater participation in the electoral process with more voices being heard. Yes, those messages can be nasty and negative. However, government should not be inflicting controls on speech.  The voters must sort out the numerous messages coming their way around election time.   Government should not and must not take on the role of controlling election messages. 

As I stated about my opposition to having state Supreme Court judges appointed rather than elected by the voters, “Let the noisy elections and public vetting be thorough and plentiful!”

Global warming legislation has too many red flags

Legislation, Taxes


The Wisconsin Legislative Council provided a briefing Wednesday about global warming legislation to the Senate Select Committee on Clean Energy that I serve and  the Assembly Special Committee on Clean Energy Jobs.

My role as a member of the Senate Select Committee is to analyze the complex legislation, gather information, ask questions, and consider the cost and benefits to determine whether the legislation is beneficial to my constituents and to the state of Wisconsin.

Several components of the legislation are troubling.

“Fees and assessments” will fund programs. You and I know those are code words for taxes.

There will be a new standard for the percentage of electricity sales that must be from renewable sources. The current standard for electricity sales from 2010 to 2014 is six percent must be from renewable sources and10 percent for 2015 and thereafter. Under the proposed global warming bill,
Wisconsin will be required to produce 25% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025. The result will be much higher utility bills since electricity from renewable sources is costlier to produce.

Economists from Suffolk University analyzed the new standard for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI). They determined the total net costs of the 25 percent renewable mandate would exceed $16 billion through 2025.

Why Wisconsin would attempt to emulate California is beyond me. The legislation would apply California vehicle emissions standards. Whenever California adjusts standards, Wisconsin will have to follow suit. New vehicles will have to meet California standards meaning they will be more expensive. The WPRI reports, “Mandating California emission standards would increase the cost of each new car sold in Wisconsin by $968, for an annual economic hit of $353 million to Wisconsin consumers.”

California bureaucrats essentially would be handed the power to decide what kind of vehicles we could and could not drive in Wisconsin.

The legislation would prohibit freight truck drivers after January 1, 2011 from idling their engines for more than five minutes during any 60-minute period that the temperature is above 10 degrees Fahrenheit and below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Prisoners in Wisconsin are treated kinder than truckers earning an honest living.

A model parking ordinance would be adopted meaning certain vehicles would be given priority parking spaces.

New efficiency requirements for consumer electronics will result in more expensive TVs, DVDs and iPods.

A Low Carbon Fuel Standard will cause the price at the pump to increase.

The Department of Natural Resources will be given greater authority to create new government programs, rules and regulations.

This massive bill refers to costs and benefits. However, at Wednesday’s briefing, I asked Legislative Council attorneys whether the legislation specifically and clearly defines the meaning of costs and benefits. The legislation does not.

The WPRI reports, “The policies (of the legislation) would cause the state to shed 43,093 private-sector jobs. Annual wages would drop $1.6 billion, with disposable income falling by $1,012 per capita.”

This legislation grants the Wisconsin Public Service Commission a blank check, increases taxes, over-regulates, and costs Wisconsin jobs and businesses during a recession.

You can see the Wednesday power point presentation here. 

Zoo Interchange Update: January 25- January 31

News you can use


Here is an update from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) for the
Zoo Interchange emergency bridge replacement project:

Zoo Interchange emergency bridge replacement project
Construction update Jan. 25 - Jan. 31

Traffic alert:

The first full weekend closure of one system connection in the Zoo Interchange is rescheduled for the weekend of Jan. 29 - Feb. 1, announced the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). The following movements will be closed Friday, Jan. 29 at 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 1

I-894/US 45 northbound system connector ramp to I-94 westbound: During this closure, traffic will be detoured onto eastbound I-94 and will exit to 84th Street to turn around and head back onto westbound I-94 

 

Read more

The recession ends, our fiscal collapse continues

Economy, State budget


Pummeled in the press daily for its massive fiscal dilemma, the state suffered from a host of economic setbacks: loss of state revenues, huge budget gaps, increasing unemployment, high rates of foreclosures, and questionable fiscal management policies.

 

Read more

State Senate Calendar for Tuesday, January 26, 2010

News you can use


Here is the calendar for the state Senate floor session scheduled for Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 11:00 a.m.:

First Order.                  Call of Roll.

Second Order.              Chief clerk's entries.

Third Order.                 Introduction, first reading and reference of proposals.

Fourth Order.               Report of committees.

Fifth Order.                  Petitions and communications.

Sixth Order.                 Referrals and receipt of committee reports concerning proposed administrative rules.

Seventh Order.             Advice and consent of the Senate

Eighth Order.               Messages from the Assembly.

Ninth Order.                 Special Orders.

Tenth Order.                 Consideration of motions, resolutions, and joint resolutions not requiring a third reading.

QUESTION:            Shall the resolution be adopted?

Senate Resolution 9. Relating to: calling on the Wisconsin congressional delegation to take action to grandfather preexisting highway weight limits upon the designation of USH 41 as part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower system of interstate and defense highways. 

Senate Joint Resolution 56. Relating to: proclaiming February 7 to 14, 2010, as Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week. 

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

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

Senate Bill 271. Relating to: prohibiting the manufacture and sale at wholesale of certain baby bottles and cups for children that contain bisphenol A, creating labeling requirements, making an appropriation, and providing penalties. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1 to Senate Substitute Amendment 1, Ayes 5, Noes 0, adoption of Senate Substitute Amendment 1, Ayes 5, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Small Business, Emergency Preparedness, Technical Colleges, and Consumer Protection, Ayes 5, Noes 0) Senate Amendment 1 to Senate Substitute Amendment 1, and Senate Substitute Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 365. Relating to: the Uniform Unsworn Foreign Declarations Act and providing a penalty. (Report passage recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

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

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

Assembly Bill 165. Relating to: expanding the types of property that may be specially assessed by a neighborhood improvement district. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs, Ayes 3, Noes 2)

Assembly Bill 198. Relating to: highway maps published by the Department of Transportation.  (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 6, Noes 1)

Assembly Bill 248. Relating to: the possession and consumption of alcohol beverages on retail licensed premises in a park in a 1st class city. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 332
. Relating to: authorizing the use of airguns and crossbows under certain hunting licenses. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 348. Relating to: the applicability of rules of the road to private roads located in manufactured and mobile home communities.(Report concurrence as amended recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 362. Relating to: designating and marking the bridge on USH 41 across the Peshtigo River in the city of Peshtigo as the Steven Drees Memorial Bridge(Report concurrence recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 382. Relating to: fishing licenses issued to disabled veterans. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Thirteenth Order.          Third reading of joint resolutions and bills.

Fourteenth Order.         Motions may be offered.

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

Sixteenth Order.           Adjournment.

It is time for Governor Doyle to be brutally honest

State budget, Taxes, Economy


According to the website Stateline.org, 37 governors are delivering State of the State messages knowing they face voters this November. The best advice for the incumbents given dire economic straits is to play it safe and refrain from any bold overtures.


Stateline.org has reviewed the 27 State of the State speeches given thus far finding that “the recession — which many economists believe ended late last year — has not yet turned the corner into a quick recovery for most states. Governors are using their annual speeches to brace state lawmakers and voters alike for another year of deep budget cuts, which will be made all the more difficult because the ‘easy cuts,’ as they like to say, have already been made.”

Governor Doyle is not up for re-election. Therefore, the governor has a golden opportunity to be brutally honest about our true status during his last State of the State speech Tuesday night.

Here are ten items Governor Doyle should openly discuss in a candid, frank manner with the Wisconsin people Tuesday night:

1) Some experts might be suggesting the recession is over. However, in Wisconsin, we are still reeling and the worst may yet to come.

2) The latest figures show state unemployment around nine percent. Wisconsin’s jobless should be ingrained on our minds during every fiscal and policy decision we make.

3) Our deficit is worse than it has ever been in our state’s history. Undoubtedly, the legislature will have to work this year on a budget repair bill. Given our rocky economy, we must act accordingly.

4) The stimulus is gone. The pot that we thought contained magical gold is now empty. It didn’t work. We will not have a similar reserve to fall back on.

5) We cannot afford any new spending programs. The time to make fancy promises that are simply unaffordable is over.

6) We need to cut spending. Families across Wisconsin are making painful yet prudent decisions everyday. So can and should state government.  During his January 18, 2010 State of the State speech, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (R) told legislators, “I urge you to be prudent and conservative…to err on the side of less spending, lest you make next year even worse.” That is a key message we need to hear from our governor Tuesday night.

7)  Eliminate recent tax increases.  While people are losing jobs and taking salary cuts, where is new tax money supposed to come from? May I remind everyone of Governor Doyle’s statement during his 2003 State of the State address: "We should not, we must not and I will not raise taxes." In the past, the governor liked to trot out the bullet point that he didn’t raise state income or sales taxes. That’s impossible Tuesday night. Of the many tax increases contained in the 2009-11 state budget, the largest was individual income taxes totaling $529.8 million according to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

8) Every fiscal or policy decision should be examined, analyzed, and then be decided upon with the taxpayer, job creation, and the dramatic improvement of our business climate in mind as our top priorities.

9) We must examine ways to shrink the size of government. Stateline.org reports, “Almost every governor’s speech to date has contained references to the need for a smaller and more efficient state government. Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D), for example, said she would seek to eliminate 78 boards and commissions and close 10 state institutions, including five prison facilities. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver (D) called on lawmakers to approve efficiencies he said would save taxpayers $200 million a year.”

10) We cannot budget on a wish and a prayer. Stop making fiscal policies based on wild hopes that Washington will pump more money into Madison and rescue us from our fiscal crises. A certain special election in Massachusetts should have started turning the spending spigot in the nation’s capital toward the off position.

Refrain from comparing Wisconsin to other states. There is a temptation to assert that Wisconsin is better off than some states like California, Illinois and Michigan. That is a message that will not resonate and will be of little or no consolation to struggling Wisconsinites. Besides, it is arguably untrue.
The Pew Center for the States released a report, "Beyond California: States in Fiscal Peril" that outlines 10 states, including Wisconsin that are experiencing the same kinds of problems that drove California into disaster. While Wisconsin doesn't have the magnitude of the problems California is facing, our state has similar problems.

Governor Doyle could be more forthright with the Wisconsin public. Tuesday night is his last major opportunity to come clean and tell it like it is. If he is truly honest, his speech will address the themes I have outlined.

Read more from Stateline.

Doyle has no solution for WI economy, Scott Walker does

Economy, State budget, Taxes


The State of the State is historically a speech that is upbeat and optimistic. There’s little positive to say about the state’s current fiscal climate and our immediate future.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is just under nine percent, and yet we continue to tax and spend at very high levels. All reports indicate every state in the country will take a long time to recover from the recession. Our stimulus money has all been spent without creating the jobs promised.

The governor should have been brutally honest about the economic problems that still lie ahead and the measures we need to take to climb out of our deficit, the largest in the state’s history.
We cannot afford any new spending programs. We need to cut spending and eliminate recent tax increases.

The governor claimed job creation will be his top priority. That is too little too late. The governor should have emphasized job creation in his first State of the State speech, not his last.

The governor bragged about job creation, a slap in the face to the many that are unemployed.

A new health care program was proposed when the state cannot operate existing health care programs without scandal or appropriate oversight.

The governor called global warming legislation a jobs bill when a recent study demonstrated the bill will result in lost jobs and increased taxes and energy costs. A Pew Research Center poll on issues of most concern to Americans during 2010 ranked global warming dead last.

The governor tried to pass himself off as a champion of the property taxpayer at a time that Wisconsin property taxes are some of the highest in the nation. During his tenure, the governor has proposed and signed into law huge tax and spending increases that have gotten the state into our current fiscal crisis.

Overall, the governor’s speech did little to build the optimism of Wisconsin job seekers and taxpayers that our economic strength will be restored.

I stood in support of Scott Walker with my Republican legislative colleagues today during his speech in the Capitol rotunda. Scott Walker is correct that tax cuts are an essential component of a successful plan to restore Wisconsin’s economic strength. If Scott Walker’s comments today are a preview of his approach as governor, that is exactly what Wisconsin’s economy needs.

State Senate Calendar for Thursday, January 28, 2010


Here is the calendar for the state Senate floor session scheduled for Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 11:00 a.m.:

First Order.                  Call of Roll.

Second Order.             Chief clerk's entries.

Third Order.                 Introduction, first reading and reference of proposals.

Fourth Order.               Report of committees.

Fifth Order.                  Petitions and communications.

Sixth Order.                 Referrals and receipt of committee reports concerning proposed administrative rules.

Seventh Order.             Advice and consent of the Senate

Eighth Order.               Messages from the Assembly.

QUESTION:            Shall the Assembly amendment be concurred in?

Senate Bill 191. Relating to: podiatrist-patient privilege, immunity exemption for podiatrists providing emergency care at athletic events, allowing podiatrists to determine an illness or injury and complete forms for the purpose of granting assistance to needy veterans, allowing podiatrists to determine disability for the purpose of issuing certain hunting permits, cooperatives organized to provide sickness care, the Podiatrists Affiliated Credentialing Board, allowing podiatrists to certify driver school instructors' physical fitness, allowing Medical Assistance recipients to freely choose among podiatrists, and giving equal weight to certifications of disability by podiatrists for insurance purposes.  By Senators Lehman, Taylor, Plale, Schultz, Wirch, and Holperin; cosponsored by Representatives Barca, Zigmunt, Benedict, Turner, Kerkman, Steinbrink, Friske, Mason, Townsend, Zepnick, Ballweg, Berceau, and Petrowski. Assembly Amendment 1 pending

Ninth Order.                 Special Orders.

Tenth Order.                 Consideration of motions, resolutions, and joint resolutions not requiring a third reading.

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

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

Senate Bill 146. Relating to: providing benefits and protections to tribal schools and tribal school pupils and staff similar to those provided to private schools and private school pupils and staff and making an appropriation.  By Joint Legislative Council. (Report passage recommended by committee on Education, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 263. Relating to: criteria for determining indigency for purposes of representation by the State Public Defender and requiring the exercise of rule-making authority. (FE)  By Senators Coggs, Risser, Sullivan, Miller, Olsen, Vinehout, Wirch, Robson, Lassa, Erpenbach, Lehman, Plale, Hansen, Taylor, and Schultz; cosponsored by Representatives Sherman, Hebl, Grigsby, Hintz, Bies, Berceau, Colon, Dexter, Fields, Jorgensen, Kessler, Mason, Molepske Jr., A. Ott, Parisi, Pasch, Petrowski, Pope-Roberts, Richards, Roys, Seidel, Shilling, Smith, Soletski, Spanbauer, Staskunas, Tauchen, Turner, Van Akkeren, Van Roy, A. Williams, and Young. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 14, Noes 0, adoption of Senate Amendment 2, Ayes 14, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by joint committee on Finance, Ayes 13, Noes 1) Senate Amendments 1 and 2 pending

Senate Bill 303. Relating to: requesting a person who operates a vehicle that is involved in an accident that causes death or injury to submit to a test for intoxication. (FE)  By Senators Grothman, Risser, Lehman, Olsen, Taylor, and Darling; cosponsored by Representatives LeMahieu, Mason, Mursau, Townsend, Brooks, Vos, Knodl, Petersen, Spanbauer, A. Ott, Lothian, Gunderson, Nass, Bies, Ziegelbauer, and Ballweg. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 5, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0) Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 362. Relating to: health insurance coverage of nervous and mental disorders, alcoholism, and other drug abuse problems. (FE)  By Senators Hansen, Wirch, Taylor, Robson, Lehman, Coggs, Vinehout, Carpenter, Lassa, Miller, Risser, and Erpenbach; cosponsored by Representatives Pasch, Richards, Benedict, Soletski, Black, Parisi, Milroy, Fields, Pope-Roberts, Hixson, Smith, Zepnick, Roys, Pocan, A. Ott, Berceau, Sinicki, Molepske Jr., Grigsby, Kaufert, Young, Turner, Hebl, Sherman, Jorgensen, Hilgenberg, Hintz, and Toles. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1 to Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 7, Noes 0, adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 7, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 5, Noes 2)      Senate Amendment 1 to Senate Amendment 1, and Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 383. Relating to: municipal court elections, judges, and procedure, and providing penalties. (FE)  By Senators Taylor, Risser, Erpenbach, and Wirch; cosponsored by Representatives Seidel, Parisi, Pope-Roberts, Turner, Tauchen, Pasch, Staskunas, Lothian, Berceau, Danou, and Townsend. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 5, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0) Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 415. Relating to: requiring carbon monoxide detectors in buildings containing one or two dwelling units. (FE)  By Senators Hansen, Sullivan, and Erpenbach; cosponsored by Representatives Hintz, Mason, Dexter, and Zepnick. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 5, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0) Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 440. Relating to: waiving certain federal bond limitations allocated to cities and counties and requiring the Department of Commerce to develop a system for reallocating the bond limitations to other state and local units of government. (FE)  By Senators Lassa, Vinehout, Lehman, and Darling; cosponsored by Representatives Molepske Jr., Schneider, Barca, Zigmunt, Friske, Berceau, and Zepnick. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1 to Senate Amendment 2, Ayes 7, Noes 0, adoption of Senate Amendment 2, Ayes 7, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Economic Development, Ayes 7, Noes 0)Senate Amendment 1 to Senate Amendment 2, and Senate Amendment 2 pending

Senate Bill 498. Relating to:  technical changes to 2009 Wisconsin Act 100.  By Senator Sullivan; cosponsored by Representative Staskunas.

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

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

Assembly Bill 47. Relating to: prohibiting persons convicted of certain felonies from providing martial arts instruction to minors. (FE)  By Representative Schneider; cosponsored by Senators Olsen and Plale. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 5, Noes 0, concurrence as amended recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0) Senate Amendment 1 pending

Assembly Bill 236. Relating to: requiring that certain high school agriculture courses be counted as science credits.  By Representatives Radcliffe, Danou, Berceau, Pope-Roberts, Davis, Hilgenberg, Ripp, A. Ott, Nerison, Lothian, Tauchen, Spanbauer, Molepske Jr., Jorgensen, Gunderson, Hixson, and Vruwink; cosponsored by Senators Vinehout, Taylor, Olsen, Hansen, and Kedzie. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Education, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 456
. Relating to: self-authentication by electronic certification of certain Department of Transportation records. (FE)  By Representatives Steinbrink, Turner, Soletski, and A. Ott; cosponsored by Senators Holperin and Taylor. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 458
. Relating to: providing instruction in human growth and development. (FE)  By Representatives Grigsby, Roys, Shilling, Berceau, Black, Kessler, Pasch, Fields, Vruwink, Turner, Soletski, Benedict, Pope-Roberts, Richards, Seidel, Danou, Pocan, Sinicki, Hintz, Smith, Bernard Schaber, Dexter, Hraychuck, Molepske Jr., Zepnick, and Toles; cosponsored by Senators Taylor, Lehman, Sullivan, Plale, Miller, Risser, Robson, and Erpenbach. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Education, Ayes 4, Noes 3)

Thirteenth Order.          Third reading of joint resolutions and bills.

Fourteenth Order.         Motions may be offered.

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

Sixteenth Order.           Adjournment.

 

"Bring Our Missing Children Home"

Wisconsin schools will partake in a national contest to design a poster to commemorate National Amber Alert Awareness Day. The winning poster will be unveiled at the annual National Missing Children’s Day Ceremony in Washington, D.C.  The theme of the contest is, ““Bring Our Missing Children Home.”

Here are more details from the office of Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. On a warm Saturday afternoon in Texas during January 1996, niine-year-old Amber Hagerman was riding her bicycle when a neighbor heard Amber scream.  The neighbor saw a man pull Amber off her bike, throw her into the front seat of his pickup truck, and speed away.

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

Read more

"The dumbest bill of the session"

Legislation


My colleague, state Representative Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) calls it the “dumbest bill of the session.” Representative Nass just might be right.

He is referring to Assembly Bill 578 (AB 578) that would mandate cleaning methods in public buildings.

An examination of the details of the bill demonstrates legislative Democrats' continued aggression for greater government control.

AB 578 requires the creation of the Council on Healthy and Environmentally Sensitive Cleaning  I kid you not.  

The Department of Health Services (DHS) would adopt, according to an analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau, “rules requiring cleaning that minimizes adverse effects on human health and the environment (healthy and environmentally sensitive cleaning) in school buildings, buildings on University of Wisconsin campuses, other buildings owned by this state, buildings owned by a technical college district board, and buildings owned by a city, village, town, or county.

DHS must consult with the Council on Healthy and Environmentally Sensitive Cleaning about promulgating the rules.

Who would make up the Council on Healthy and Environmentally Sensitive Cleaning?

1. The superintendent of public instruction or the superintendent’s designee.

2. The secretary of natural resources or the secretary’s designee.

3. A representative of a producer of cleaning products in this state.

4. A representative of a labor union that represents workers who use cleaning products  

5. A representative of the organization Wisconsin Association of School Nurses or a similar organization.

6. Two parents of school students.

7. One school student.

8. One school principal.

9. One school teacher.

10. One school district administrator.

11. One health professional with expertise in public health.

The Secretary of DHS would appoint above members 3-11 for three-year terms.

Under AB 578, Healthy and environmentally sensitive cleaning is defined as cleaning that minimizes adverse impacts on human health and the environment. That is pretty open-ended.

Certain products approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be required to be used under AB 578 including restroom cleaners, general purpose cleaners, hand soap, toilet paper and paper towels, vacuum cleaners, and carpet extractors.

An Internet site would be established to show the political subdivisions, school districts and institutions that abide by the healthy and environmentally sensitive cleaning rules.

An exemption would be made for a political subdivision, school district, or institution that could substantiate the new rules would increase costs. The exemption would be for one year only.

AB 578 sounds like bureaucracy run amok.

Democrats control the Governor’s office, the state Senate, and the state Assembly and thus, set the agenda.  Where are the proposals of critical importance to reduce taxing and spending, fix our state budget responsibly, improve Wisconsin’s business climate, and create more jobs to reduce our unemployment rate?

I voted against a health insurance mandate

Legislation


The state Senate approved legislation, Senate Bill 362 (SB 362) that continues the requirement that group health insurance plans provide for the treatment of mental health and substance abuse problems. SB 362 also removes the specified minimum amounts of coverage that a group health insurance policy must provide for the treatment of mental health and substance abuse problems but retains the requirements with respect to providing the coverage.  The bill specifically applies the requirements to all types of group health benefit plans, including defined network plans, insurance plans offered by the state, and governmental self-insured health plans of the state and municipalities.

This insurance mandate will have a huge negative impact on small employers and their workers.

The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) reports SB 362 will disproportionately affect small business owners by increasing health insurance costs and premiums.

OCI produced a pie chart showing Wisconsinites health care coverage. During 2006, 29 percent of Wisconsin residents got their health care from private insurers, 36 percent from self-insured employers, 30 percent had public coverage, and five percent were uninsured.

The trend in Wisconsin since 1998 has been a decline in the number of residents covered by commercial providers while public coverage, self insured, and uninsured increased. The flow from commercial to public coverage is astounding.

More mandates like SB 362 result in further erosion of private insurance options for health care consumers. Approving legislation that will increase health insurance costs and premiums and force commercial providers to drop their coverage will not boost our struggling economy.


The legislation is also misleading, giving false hope to residents assumming they are covered.  As history indicates, small employers decide to discontinue employee health care benefits due to the rising costs.  Hard data and facts demonstrate this mandate will impose a horrible burden on our small employers resulting in more expensive health care or, in many cases, workers losing their coverage altogether.   Large employers have been able to avoid the mandates by self-insuring.  Employer's that self-insure may pick and choose benefits, and as the statistics reveal many large employers have escaped the government mandates.  Federal law is beginning to require mandates on self-insured and it will be interesting to observe the reaction of the employer's that took the self-insured route. 

I oppose onerous health care mandates on the engines of our economy, small business.  More importantly, I oppose the increase costs to workers and the further loss of health care coverage for the workers of small employers. I voted against SB 362.

Mentored hunting's first season is safe and successful


This is fantastic news. Wisconsin’s new mentored hunting law is a resounding success.


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, “Mentored hunters were not involved in any shooting incidents” during its first season. That is an amazing statistic given the Journal Sentinel reports “10,564 10- and 11-year-olds were introduced to hunting last fall in Wisconsin, according to DNR statistics, and 13,271 mentored hunting licenses were sold overall.”

During the summer of 2009, I pledged support, writing that the program “
will create more opportunities for families to hunt together safely and carry on a rich Wisconsin heritage.”

Audit Committee hears more problems about Wisconsin Shares

Audits


The more the state delves into the rampant fraud associated with Wisconsin Shares, the state child care program, the more problems we discover that beg serious questions.

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee that I serve as a member conducted another public hearing this week about the Legislative Audit Bureau's findings about Wisconsin Shares.  The Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) has done its usual outstanding work in uncovering important information that can and should serve to fix Wisconsin Shares and make the program successful.

Kate Wade of the LAB presented a litany of data about Wisconsin Shares at today’s hearing that continues to raise questions.

Caseloads per specialists have ranged from a low of 23 to a high of 170.  The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends a caseload of 75 per specialist.

The pattern is that the vast majority of child care applications for licensed and certified providers are approved. During fiscal year 2009, 706 out of 753 licensed providers were approved and 915 of 922 certified providers were approved.

There were 6300 routine visits made to provider facilities during fiscal year 2009, 1300 complaint investigations, and another 1300 visits to see if violations were being addressed appropriately.

In Milwaukee County, 168 licensed facilities had five or more unsuccessful visit attempts during a five-year period as opposed to 13 in the rest of the state. There were 102 unsuccessful visit attempts during a five-year period at certified facilities in Milwaukee County with 118 unsuccessful visit attempts at all other certified facilities in the state. An unsuccessful visit means access to the facility could not be attained. Many times the door isn’t answered. State statutes do not specifically outline a required frequency of visits.

Wade told the committee 617 facilities were overdue for visits.

N
o distinction is made about the severity of citations made during regulatory visits. A startling statistic Wade told the committee that 30 regulatory visits during a three-year period yielded 40 or more citations. There are huge regional variations. Most of the violations occur in southeastern Wisconsin.

Not all observed violations were reported, recorded, or cited. There were many cases of failure to cite payment errors.

The total number of sanctions has increased over the past five years from 475-976. Sanctions are noted under broad categories as opposed to specific administrative code violations. Licenses are normally revoked for record-keeping errors.

The LAB found eight matches of felons working at facilities with another 317 individuals that had convictions that needed to be reviewed to determine if the individuals posed a danger.

Many facilities are overdue for background checks.

The LAB recommends a severity index be developed, greater documentation be made of unsuccessful regulatory visits, and that tribal facilities fulfill their child care obligations.

Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Reggie Bicha then addressed the committee with a lengthy presentation claiming the department has made “sweeping reforms” and great progress. Secretary Bicha admits he’s not satisfied and should not be.

For example, Secretary Bicha said there have been 124 calls to a special fraud hotline. One of the calls was from a worker at a facility that wanted to know why that particular facility wasn’t suspended since she was the only person working there. I asked Secretary Bicha what his agency did about the hotline call. He said an investigation is still underway and he could not comment further and I understand.

Secretary Bicha said payments have been suspended to 137 providers. Overpayments of $3.5 million have been identified during the past year. Criminal charges have been pursued in two cases during that time.

During my questioning of Secretary Bicha, I noted that the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) ranks Wisconsin #6 in the nation for rules and regulations and #41 for oversight. He disputed the ranking for oversight of rules and regulations saying NACCRRA miscalculated.

I also asked Secretary Bicha what he considers a serious number of violations. He replied it depends on the type of violation, the severity, remember, there is not a severity index as recommended by the LAB, the amount of violations over time, and the measures taken by the provider to fix the violations.

How could the department have missed so many problems and what was being done to address those issues? Secretary Bicha said those decisions are judgment calls on the part of licensers. The actions taken range from a written reprimand to an immediate suspension.


I suggested that weighting the citations would provide valuable information to parents seeking child care. Resources should be focused on pinpointing the severity of violations.

Clearly more problems are bubbling to the surface meaning Wisconsin Shares needs further scrutiny and possibly more remedies from the state Legislature.

DCF is scheduled to provide a report about the status of Wisconsin Shares this June.

Page Tools