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Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

More reasons to be worried about medical marijuana

Legislation


This news from the Christian Science Monitor is stunning:

“Around the country today, hundreds – perhaps thousands – of high schoolers are bringing pot to school, and they’re doing it legally. Not to get stoned, but as part of prescribed medical treatment. And they don’t have to tell school authorities about it. This is putting teachers and principals in a new and challenging position. In many counties and school districts, there are no clear guidelines – for school officials, students, or parents.”

A 17-year old Oregon student is quoted that this is not surprising:

“Some of them (students) have it for medical reasons, but others are just trying to get free weed and sell it, turn it around,” said Wesley Davis.

Outraged parents might be confused, thinking that federal anti-drug laws supercede state laws on medical marijuana. Not anymore. As the Christian Science Monitor reports, “the Obama administration has reversed that position.”

Even California is beginning to see the light and raise eyebrows about marijuana. The Los Angeles Common Council  has
after many years of debate, finally decided to restrict the number of pot dispensaries and restrict where they can be located. The Council took action to curtail the growth of pot stores that have popped up on Los Angeles’ major boulevards by the hundreds.

As Los Angeles is poised to shut down numerous pot stores, the national debate about the legalization of  marijuana rages on. The Los Angeles Times 
in an opinion piece opposed to the legalization of marijuana writes, “Legalization almost certainly would bring with it additional substance abuse in the state, and the long-term public costs associated with that would vastly exceed the relatively modest amount of new revenue legal weed might bring in….. There’s a reason the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug with a high potential for abuse. It is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States, and more teens are in treatment for marijuana addiction than for alcohol or any other drug. Do we really want this habit-forming drug easier to get, particularly as the nation has made significant strides in reducing illegal drug use?”

As a member of the state Senate Committee on Health, I continue to have very serious concerns about proposed medical marijuana legislation in Wisconsin.

Food safety workshop for produce growers

News you can use

The Buy Local Buy Wisconsin Workshop Roadshow will host three workshops during February titled “Food Safety on the Market Farm.” One of the workshops will be conducted in State Senate District 28 in East Troy on February 10, 2010.

The day long workshop will focus on providing produce growers the latest information about ensuring the safety of products delivered to markets.

Here is a news release and brochure from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection with more information.

"Don't hold your breath"

Economy, State budget


If you believe as many economists do that our recession is over, it will be disheartening to know that our recovery is going to take some time. As I wrote during November 2009, 
“’The recession is officially over’ should be a great headline. However, the good news won’t kick in for months, possibly years later.”

State Legislatures magazine in its February edition concurs with even more grim news reporting that high employment and lower revenues will haunt state governments “well into the next decade” despite some recent glimmer of hope.

The stock market rise continues and the third quarter GDP (gross domestic product) showed growth. However, tax revenues are flat or on the decline, unemployment is high, and demand for state government services also remains high.

Donald J. Boyd, a senior fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, says the timetable to real economic recovery is going to grind and grind. Boyd told State Legislatures magazine, “If you look at the last recession from the point at which the GDP began to recover, it was 17 quarters before employment wages got back to where they were when it started. Consumption is typically highly related to people’s incomes. You expect consumer spending to take a little time to recover. There are reasons to believe it will take a long time.”

NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) Executive Director William T. Pound offers analysis I have written about in the past. Pound calls it the “cliff effect,” the sudden end of stimulus funding to the states from Washington D.C.

“The combination of continuing state revenue shortfalls and the decline in federal stimulus funds over the next two years points to a very difficult road ahead for the states,” says Pound.

Rosy proclamations by some economists that the worst is over do not resonate or even matter to the average struggling American. Mitch Bean, director of the House Fiscal Agency in the state of Michigan told State Legislatures magazine, “What’s important to most people is employment. People who are looking for work are not going to recognize the end of a recession because they are either unemployed or underemployed.”

Bean predicts economic conditions will actually get worse before they get better, a sentiment echoed by David Wyss, chief economist at Standard and Poor’s. Wyss says, “Don’t hold your breath. I think we’ve got at least four or five years before we get back to anything approaching normal.”

The time for fiscal restraint is greater now than ever before.

Read more in State Legislatures magazine

The Census is coming, and so are phony Census takers


The process of counting Americans began last week in the Alaskan Eskimo village of Noorvik. A dog sled was used to get to the village.


Most Americans will receive census forms around or after March 1, 2010. According to U.S. Census 2010:

The form package, which will consist of the initial form, a cover letter and a return envelope, will be delivered between March 15 and March 17, 2010, in areas where the United States Postal Service delivers the census forms for the Census Bureau. Census Bureau workers will deliver forms between March 1 and April 30, 2010, in all other areas.


One of the shortest census forms in history, the 2010 Census form asks 10 questions and takes about 10 minutes to complete.

Read more

Cellphone, texting bans have not reduced accidents

Legislation


During the past few months, I have blogged that banning texting while driving is unnecessary 
and that texting bans are essentially ignored.

There is more data shedding doubt on the effectiveness of such laws. In what is being called a shocking report that was highlighted in a front page story in USA TODAY, the Highway Loss Data Institute HLDI) has found that laws banning the use of hand-held devices have not reduced the number of accidents in three states and the nation’s capital.

The HLDI writes, “As state legislators across the United States enact laws that ban phoning and/or texting while driving, a new Highway Loss Data Institute study finds no reductions in crashes after hand-held phone bans take effect.”


"The laws aren't reducing crashes, even though we know that such laws have reduced hand-held phone use, and several studies have established that phoning while driving increases crash risk," says Adrian Lund, president of both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and HLDI. "If crash risk increases with phone use and fewer drivers use phones where it's illegal to do so, we would expect to see a decrease in crashes. But we aren't seeing it. Nor do we see collision claim increases before the phone bans took effect. This is surprising, too, given what we know about the growing use of cellphones and the risk of phoning while driving.”

Lund concludes, “This finding doesn't auger well for any safety payoff from all the new laws that ban phone use and texting while driving."

Read more from the USA TODAY  and the HLDI.

Congratulations BuySeasons!

Good news from Senate District 28


More good news from New Berlin-based BuySeasons,
the largest online retailer of costumes and party supplies.

BuySeasons is adding 125 jobs. 

Congratulations Buy Seasons! I am very proud you are in state Senate District 28!

An incredible traffic safety statistic for Wisconsin


The Wisconsin Department of Transportation
(DOT)
 reports, “
January had the lowest number of traffic deaths in Wisconsin of any month on record, going back to 1937 when the state began compiling monthly fatality figures.”

Congratulations, Wisconsin motorists. Let’s keep this pattern moving throughout the rest of 2010.

Green initiatives create jobs……….outside the U.S.

Legislation


As a member of
the Senate Select Committee on Clean Energy, I have deep concerns about proposed global warming legislation now being reviewed by the Legislature.

One of my chief worries is the potential for the legislation to be a jobs killer.The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute reviewed 13 of the governor’s Global Warming Task Force’s recommendations and finds that if enacted would result in a loss of 31,000 jobs over the next 11 years. Toss in cap and trade provisions and the job loss mounts to 49,000.

Where could so-called “green” jobs created end up? Try China.

Bloomberg reports jobs to manufacture components for clean air technology will be shipped overseas where costs are significantly lower. The report opens with this startling news:

President Barack Obama is spending $2.1 million to help Suntech Power Holdings Co. build a solar- panel plant in Arizona. It will hire 70 Americans to assemble components made by Suntech’s 11,000 Chinese workers.”

Bloomberg also reports, “Last year’s $787 billion economic stimulus package included about $80 billion for energy programs and created 200,000 jobs in construction and clean energy.”

Think about it: $80 billion for 200,000 jobs. Is $400,000 per job a wise use of taxpayer dollars?

The United States is boosting job creation in China in order to develop a supposed “green” economy and clean earth. This is incredibly ironic given that China is the world’s biggest polluter

If these revelations weren’t so scary, they would be funny.

APAM: Abstinence works

Legislation


“Theory-based abstinence-only interventions may have an important role in preventing adolescent sexual involvement.”

That is the conclusion of a new abstinence study released this week in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (APAM).

The purpose of the study was to determine the effectiveness of an abstinence-only intervention in preventing sexual behavior by young adolescents. A random trial was conducted in urban public schools with a total of 662 African American students in grades 6 and 7.

Students were split into four different interventions plus a control group during a 24-month period: An 8-hour abstinence-only intervention targeted reduced sexual intercourse; an 8-hour safer sex–only intervention targeted increased condom use; 8-hour and 12-hour comprehensive interventions targeted sexual intercourse and condom use; and an 8-hour health-promotion control intervention targeted health issues unrelated to sexual behavior.

The study measured self-reporting on the part of the participants about their sexual behavior during that time, including intercourse.

Here is the major finding: The abstinence-only intervention reduced by about 33 percent the percentage of students who reported ever having sexual intercourse by the end of the 24-month study period.

Maggie Gallagher, the president of the National Organization for Marriage summed up the results: “The abstinence-only approach, in this one rigorous study, was the only one that ‘worked’.”

In light of this study that Gallgher calls, “the gold standard for intervention research, a bright and shining pinnacle of research design that social science seldom ever reaches,” Gallagher poses the following: “Will President Obama step forward to restore abstinence-only funding?”

Noting that critics of abstinence programs abound, Gallagher writes in the National ReviewSo I would like to propose this as the new minimum standard for government-backed social programs: not one dime unless you can show at least one random-assignment study that demonstrates effectiveness. Oops, there goes Head Start. Oops, there goes, er . . . most of the budget deficit?The standards of science are trotted out only to swat down policies that support sexually conservative ideas. They are almost never applied to progressive ideas. And never to sexually liberal ideas, ever.”

Here in Wisconsin, a state statute I authored about abstinence is in serious jeopardy. Governor Doyle is poised to sign legislation into law making dramatic changes in the way sex education is taught in our public schools. 

Reducing the emphasis on abstinence in our school is inherently risky and will have severe implications for the health and welfare of our youth.

Senate Small Business Committee holds public hearing

Legislation


The state Senate Committee on Small Business, Emergency Preparedness, Technical Colleges, and Consumer Protection that I serve on conducted a public hearing on several bills Wednesday. The legislation considered included soliciting purchases of goods or services using unsolicited checks or money orders and providing a penalty; exempting certain capital expenditures made by a technical college district from the requirement for a referendum; professional employer organizations; and life settlements.


Assembly Bill 261 would prohibit the current practice of companies sending consumers what appears to be a check. The endorsees often fail to notice their signatures obligate them to purchase products or services.

Assembly Bill 509 deals with technical school referenda. Under current law, a technical college school board is required to hold a referendum for a capital expenditure of over $1.5 million. Under this legislation, if the expenditure is financed in part with student housing payments, that portion of the expenditure is subtracted from the total cost for the purpose of deciding whether or not a referendum is needed.


Senate Bill 504 makes changes to regulation of Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs). The changes include the following:

 

  • Explicitly excludes temporary help agencies from the definition of PEO.
  • Changes the name from “limited registration” to “small operations registration” for PEOs located outside Wisconsin.
  • Exempts a PEO located out of state from providing a financial statement to DRL.
  • States that PEO employees will be considered employees of the client for purposes of determining tax credits, etc., offered by local governments.
  • Requires that government-mandated per-employee taxes, benefits, etc., be paid by the client, rather than the PEO, if the employee is doing work for the client.
  • Requires Department of Regulation and Licensing to periodically update its list of PEOs and to make the list available on the internet.

Read more

New record for public health care in America


Here are stunning details about public health care from the Wall Street Journal:

 

  • Government programs next year will account for more than half of all U.S. health-care spending. That is a first for the United States.
  • By 2020, according to the new projections, about one in five dollars spent in the U.S. will go to health care.
  • Medicaid enrollment will increase 5.6 percent this year.
  • Medicaid spending will increase 8.9 percent this year.
  • The number of people with private insurance is dropping.
  • The public portion of health care spending will increase even more because of aging baby boomers.  

Read more

There needs to be an audit of the Medical Assistance program

Audits


Senator Robert Cowles and I have issued the following news release.

Dangerous sex education bill to become law

Legislation


Wisconsin
is poised to gut abstinence education and pave the way for a radical expansion of the kinds of issues that can be discussed in human growth and development classes.

Governor Doyle is prepared to sign approved legislation into law that will require public schools that teach sex education to include instruction about the use of condoms and discussion about sexually transmitted diseases. The new law will be a dramatic departure from current procedures and is sure to anger and upset many parents.

Under current Wisconsin law, local school boards are allowed to determine if and how sex education is taught to students in their school districts. Legislation approved by the state Senate and Assembly that I voted against will eliminate the autonomy local school districts now have to provide the instruction they consider to be the best for their students. School districts will no longer be allowed to teach an abstinence-only curriculum. A wide-ranging sex education curriculum will be established, including non-judgmental instruction on alternative lifestyles and behaviors.

During the 2005 legislative session, I authored legislation that is currently Wisconsin law that requires school boards that choose to provide sex education to present abstinence as the preferred choice of behavior.

I authored the abstinence legislation because there is only one method that is 100 percent effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. It is abstinence. That is indisputable. Health professionals agree that abstinence is the healthiest choice for teens. The abstinence law is a common sense approach to an adolescent health issue

In order to make the choice to be abstinent, teens must have access to abstinence instruction and be equipped with accurate information about the consequences resulting from sexual activity. The legislation Governor Doyle signs will make opportunities for teens to hear this critically important message far less likely.

On behalf of a local school district that requested a positive change in the legislation, I proposed an amendment on the floor of the state Senate that would allow a school district that currently offers a comprehensive sex education curriculum and an abstinence-only curriculum to have the option of choosing an abstinence-only program. The school district asking for the amendment now offers the two options to parents. I found their request to be a reasonable compromise. My amendment was rejected by the state Senate along party lines.

Another troubling provision prohibits school districts from being judgmental or biased against sexually active students. My colleagues and I that oppose the legislation emphasize this is a logical scenario to be judgmental. The emphatic instruction to children is that they should not be having sex, period.

A significant change was made to the legislation under an amendment that requires school boards that provide sex education to instruct students about the criminal penalties for engaging in sexual activities involving a child, and sex offender registration requirements. The amendment passed unanimously and is the only bright spot in a highly risky bill.

The new law will be dangerous because it guts abstinence instruction, mandates the instruction of elements of sex education that will make many parents uncomfortable and angry, and removes local control from local school districts. State government should not be telling local school districts and parents it knows best, especially about an issue as sensitive as sex education.

Deadline coming for nominations to dog sellers advisory committee

News you can use


The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) will begin to enforce new rules governing dog breeders. Large scale dog breeders will be brought under regulation and licensing requirements under the new law that will apply to breeders selling more than 25 dogs a year, along with retail facilities that sell animals.

DATCP must develop specific administrative rules. The department wants nominations for a 12-member advisory committee that will oversee the process. DATCP is accepting nomination for the advisory panel through February 10th. The law will take effect on June 1, 2011.

Read more from DATCP

Time to apply for open enrollment is now

News you can use


Wisconsin
’s open enrollment program is now underway through February 19, 2010.

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) reports, “Parents have an opportunity to apply to send their children to any public school district in the state during Wisconsin’s three-week open enrollment application period for the 2010-11 school year. The open enrollment application period is the only tuition-free opportunity for most parents to apply for their children to attend public school in a school district other than the one in which they live.”

this is very important. The DPI says, “Application deadlines are firm. Early and late applications are not accepted.”

You are encouraged to apply on-line. You can apply and also read more details here.

"Snow means slow"


Every month, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) focuses on a particular traffic law to garner greater public awareness. This month’s featured law is driving too fast for conditions.

The DOT reminds that
driving at speeds that exceed what is appropriate for road conditions could result in a citation costing $213.10 and four demerit points.

Read more details from the DOT

How will school districts respond to new sex ed law?

Legislation


Wisconsin Governor Doyle is expected to sign a bill that will dramatically change the way sex education is taught in our public schools. I called the legislation “dangerous.” 

Physicians for Life, quoting data from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), reports condoms do not prevent most STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), and that there are 15 million new STD cases in the U.S. every year.

It also reports, “An estimated 20 million Americans are currently infected with genital HPV, making it the most common STD. HPV is the cause of nearly all cervical cancer and has also been linked to prostate, anal and oral cancer. While not everyone infected with HPV will develop cancer, every year 15,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed and 5,000 U.S. women die from the disease. Hundreds of thousands of other women will be diagnosed and treated for pre-cancerous conditions which some researchers estimate are about four times more common than invasive cervical cancer.”

The above data is from July 2001. However, given that cases and rates of STDs have risen statewide ever since, the STD crisis has only gotten worse. That is why legislation about be signed into law in Wisconsin is, to say the least, extremely risky.

The Capital Times reports there could be ramifications with school districts refusing to accept the new guidelines. The newspaper reports:

“Opponents of a controversial sex ed bill passed by Wisconsin legislators warn that if Gov. Jim Doyle signs the bill into law as he has promised, some local school districts will stage a revolt against the measure by ignoring it or dropping their human growth and development curriculum entirely.

‘Did the state in its zeal to impose its own way even think about the consequences? Because a lot of districts are just going to just walk,’ predicts Matt Sande, director of legislation at Pro-Life Wisconsin.”

Read the entire article here. 

Obama-itis

Economy, Legislation


Maybe we should call it Obama-itis, an affliction caused by either a desire to inflate or an inability to honestly project job creation numbers.

The president and his administration sold America a bill of goods on jobs supposedly created by the massive stimulus expenditures. 

Obama-itis has trickled down to the state level.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, “Construction of a planned high-speed rail line between Wisconsin's two largest cities will employ a maximum of 4,732 people at its peak in 2012, state figures show, despite earlier claims from Gov. Jim Doyle's administration that the project would create some 13,000 jobs. The difference between the figures is a reflection of how state and federal officials count jobs created with federal stimulus dollars, a process that has drawn criticism for double-counting jobs that continue over time.”

The governor’s office is also trying to sell controversial global warming legislation by promising on his web site 
the creation of 15,000 jobs. An economic study by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) found that adopting the governor’s proposed polices would result in more than 43,000 lost jobs statewide.

Place me squarely in the skeptic column. I am very leery of any rosy job creation figures flowing out of Washington or Madison. We need to proceed slowly and cautiously before enacting any legislation that sounds far too good to be true that may cost taxpayers their wallets and their jobs in the future.

Global warming bill could shut off a major source of Wisconsin’s energy

Legislation


Proposed global warming legislation being considered in the state Legislature could affect Wisconsin’s relationship with one of its major sources of foreign oil, Canada. A Canadian government official delivered a friendly, diplomatic message to the Senate Select Committee on Clean Energy that I serve that serious thought be given to legislation that could do harm to the benefits Wisconsin receives from Canadian energy.

Gary Mar, the Minister-Counselor in Washington D.C. for the province of Alberta, Canada provided written testimony to the Select Committee at a public hearing today. Mar could not attend because he was snowbound in Washington D.C.

Gary Mar’s incredibly important testimony should be a wake-up call to the entire state about current climate control legislation, Senate Bill 450.  Mar writes in his testimony to committee members:

“My purpose is to ensure you are aware of the contribution that Alberta makes to your energy supply and your economy.

Section 285.795 of the bill opens the door for the State of Wisconsin to adopt a Low Carbon Fuel Standard -or LCFS- as recommended by the Midwest Governors’ Association.

Alberta recently co-hosted a visit of the Midwest Governors’ Association LCFS advisory group. We discussed with the group the discriminatory nature of the California LCFS, and how similar legislation could further harm international relations, trade and energy security.

In your consideration of this bill we do ask that you seriously consider how any actions you might take could either purposefully or inadvertently do harm to the benefits we both receive from the energy sector and other trade between our two jurisdictions.

The annual value of trade between Alberta and Wisconsin is $1.5 billion. More than 140,000 Wisconsin jobs are supported by Canada-Wisconsin trade.

Alberta currently supplies you with almost 14,000 barrels of oil a day, and 76.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year.

Wisconsin receives much of its refined oil products from Illinois and Minnesota and other mid-western states. It should be no surprise to you that Alberta is the main oil supplier to the United States.

And…Alberta is the safe and reliable energy supplier to the United States.

While it is America’s goal to reduce oil imports, we think it is beneficial to ensure a continued and growing supply from Canada and Alberta.”


Gary Mar concludes with a critical question about the proposed legislation:

“Will this result in Wisconsin becoming more dependent on oil from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Venezuela, because we have cut off supply from our northern neighbors- our friends and allies?”

Indeed, why would we want to shut down our energy pipeline from a great neighbor and damage our relations? The proposed legislation imposes great pressure on Canada that could result in a large increase in the cost of our fuel.

Gary Mar’s testimony was read to the committee by Georges Rioux,
Consul General of Canada. I asked Rioux how much the cost of Wisconsin gasoline would increase if Wisconsin lost its Canadian fuel supply. Rioux did not answer directly. His response was that if Canada was unable to supply fuel to Wisconsin, it would and could simply sell it somewhere else.

David Podratz of Murphy Oil USA in Superior, Wisconsin also mentioned Canada in his testimony saying the legislation has unintended consequences.

Podratz testified that Canadian oil makes some of the best asphalt in the world:

“Heavy Canadian crude oil is used to manufacture paving asphalt. Over a third of the crude oil processed at Superior is done so specifically for asphalt production. The Superior Refinery produces a significant amount of the Midwest region’s asphalt. If fuel derived from heavy oil (being processed to produce asphalt) is unable to meet the undefined and unknown LCFS, then Superior would not be able to produce asphalt, jeopardizing the continued operation of the refinery, which would lead to supply problems in the Midwest.

Canada is a friendly neighbor. Canadian oil is plentiful and secure. The infrastructure to bring Canadian oil to market is already in place in Wisconsin and the Midwest. Forcing the region to use other sources of oil (e.g. Mideast, Venezuela, Russia) is not good policy.”

Today’s testimony about the severe ramifications of global warming legislation on international relations, trade, energy and our state economy is the biggest red flag thus far. Canada’s friendly but firm warning needs to be taken very seriously.

Audit: Virtual Schools

Audits

 

The Legislative Audit Bureau Tuesday released its audit of Wisconsin's Virtual School program.  Some highlights:

Read more

Wisconsin should avoid rush to pass global warming legislation

Legislation


The state Senate Select Committee on Clean Energy conducted its third and final public hearing at the state Capitol today. Overall, the committee heard 22 hours of public testimony about proposed global warming legislation.

Following the completion of today’s testimony, I concurred with my colleague, state Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) in requesting that the committee delay its work for another year.

I told committee members it is unsettling that the committee has submitted many questions that have gone unanswered. Requests have been made to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and to state agencies for specific information about, for example, job creation projections. Committee members have not been given information requested.

Last week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, “
The four-county region that includes Milwaukee and Waukesha posted the third-biggest percentage decrease in employment among the nation's 38 biggest metropolitan areas last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of people employed in non-farm labor in metro Milwaukee fell 48,200, or 5.7%, to 793,600 in the 12 months through December. The only other areas with a steeper percentage decrease were metro Las Vegas, which fell 7.4% to 833,000; and metro Detroit, which fell 6.2% to 1.74 million.” 

Constituents in my district struggling with the difficult economy cannot afford any more job losses or energy cost increases that would result from the proposed legislation.

Delaying the work of the committee for one year would allow members to compile more critical information. Currently, the proposed legislation is not in the best interests of Wisconsin. Lawmakers lack adequate information to justify approving the radical changes contained in the legislation.

Be aware: That government-mandated booster seat could be unsafe

News you can use


During the 2005 legislative session, I was quite vocal in my opposition about a booster seat mandate bill that eventually became law. 

I wrote, “Everyone supports child safety, but the state goes too far in this instance with bureaucratic formulas. Rather than forcing parents to abide by a law that may be outdated by the time the ink is dry, allow parents to take advantage of the best safety for their family.”

Sure enough, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports not all booster seats are safe.

Here is an NBC report:


 

Read more

The fastest growing welfare program


Have any idea what it could be?

The answer comes in a FOXNews.com article that stunningly reports, “If you own a phone, you're paying for the fastest growing welfare program in the U.S.: free cell phones for low-income Americans.”

Residents in twenty states including Wisconsin that qualify receive discounts on monthly cell phone. One provider, SafeLink Wireless offers free cellular service, a free cell phone and a promise published on its website that “you will get no bills and no contracts EVER!” The company plans to expand in 29 other states.

Telephone owners pay a tax that goes to the Universal Service Fund (USF) that is used to provide free cell phones to low-income Americans. The cell phone giveaway is extremely costly. According to the Heritage Foundation that examined figures from the Federal Communications Commission, the USF is expected to exceed $1 billion this year.

Free cell phones for low-income individuals?  This is the kind of horror story that led to major welfare reform in Wisconsin under Governor Tommy Thompson.

Before your blood comes to a boil, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) informs that state dollars are not being appropriated to the USF to provide free or discounted cell phones.

That is the simple explanation. There is, however, more to the story. Follow along carefully.

According to the General Accounting Office (GAO) in Washington D.C. there are federal USF and state USF programs. Federal USF programs are funded by mandatory contributions made by telecommunications carriers. The amount of the carriers’ contributions is a percentage, approved by the FCC, of their interstate and international telecommunications revenues. State USF programs supplement the federal programs. Both federal and state programs can also be funded with fees that are invariably passed on to consumers.

Programs provide telephone service to schools, libraries, rural health care providers and low-income individuals.

The free cell phones can be included in both federal and state USF programs. For the federal and state USF programs, the state of Wisconsin currently certifies eligible individuals and the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) has certified TracFone as the provider of free cell phones for the federal USF program. Again, state tax dollars are not used to provide free cell phones.

Individuals that qualify for state or federal welfare such as food stamps or Medicaid, and have an income at or below 135% of the poverty level, are eligible.

Generally, the recipient of a free cell phone is allowed a range of 60-68 minutes per month. The consumer pays any cost beyond the allowable minutes. The number of free minutes permitted in Wisconsin is 64 per month.

The number of Wisconsinites receiving free cell phones is unknown because currently the administration of the program is coming from the federal government.

According to LFB, the 2009-2011 state budget extended USF assessments to cell phone providers. Could a cell phone provider in the future make a request to PSC for state involvement in a free cell phone program for income eligible recipients?  So far, it has yet to happen. However, if a provider does come forward with such a request, it opens a huge can of worms including a great potential for fraud.

FOXNews.com reports, “The program is supposed to be ‘self-verifying’ -- that is, as long as a person claims they qualify for the subsidy, no government agency is auditing or enforcing the subscriber rolls.”

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation told FoxNews.com, “One major problem with this type of program is that it doesn’t create any incentive for additional work or for moving toward self sufficiency.” One of the providers of the cell phones goes so far as to claim that “cell phone ownership is a right.” I disagree.

Instead I concur with the Heritage Foundation that writes, “This is just another example of the ever-expanding welfare state and the increasing entitlement mentality. At the very least, policymakers should require greater monitoring of the program to prevent misuse. Furthermore, if the purpose of the cell phones is truly to give lower-income people more access to potential employers, participants should be required to account for their job search activities. A welfare program that does not require personal responsibility will only encourage dependency and diminish human dignity.”

Best of luck to Alyson Dudek!

Good news from Senate District 28


The Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver start tonight with the opening ceremonies. Actual competition begins Saturday.

I am very proud that one of my constituents, speedskater Alyson Dudek of Hales Corner is representing the United States. Her quest for gold begins with her first event Saturday


I wish Alyson Dudek and all her teammates the best of luck in Vancouver!


UPDATE from Sunday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Alyson Dudek of Hales Corners, Wis., couldn't have asked for much more in her Olympic debut.

Dudek got through her heat in the 500 meters and advanced to the quarterfinals. She also helped the U.S. women's 3,000-meter relay team advance to the finals.

Read more

Yet another new unaffordable state health care program

Government health care, Legislation


The state Senate Health Committee that I serve on conducted a public hearing Thursday and an executive session vote Friday on Senate Bill 484 that creates yet another public health insurance program in Wisconsin.  This time, the program would help with the overflow of the BadgerCare Plus Core plan – created in the budget to cover childless adults with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty line.

 

Read more

Powerful committee to consider spending stimulus money on rail


More than $822 million to establish a high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison and to improve the line between Milwaukee and Chicago will be up for a vote Tuesday before the Joint Finance Committee (JFC).

Approval from the JFC would clear the way for work to start on the project, with a goal of a January 2013 completion date. 

Conservatives, including the GOP's leading gubernatorial candidates and Republican legislative leaders, have questioned the massive federal rail spending.

A Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo notes that upon completion, state funding will be required to cover at least a portion of the cost to operate the system:

“Although Amtrak has developed a preliminary estimate of this subsidy ($7.5 million, in addition to the current subsidy for the current Hiawatha service), the amount of the subsidies is unknown and would depend upon various factors, such as ticket prices and the development of other train service from the Chicago hub.”

The state award of $810 million for the Milwaukee-Madison line is about $7.6 million below what the state requested for the project. The Department of Transportation has indicated that the unfunded portion could be paid for with rail development bonds, which would also be subject to JFC approval, the memo notes.

Denial of the request would kill the project and the money would likely go to rail projects in other states, the LFB notes.

Tuesday's meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in room 412 EAST of the state Capitol.

See the LFB memos on the request.

Guns: MJS makes dramatic shift in editorial position

Legislation


I will bet that many Milwaukee Journal Sentinel readers did a double-take when they saw this editorial headline:

It's time to reconsider concealed-carry law

Wow! Now this, I told myself, I have to read.

A longtime, vociferous opponent of conceal-carry, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial Board has amazingly done a near about-face writing:

“The state should have this law if it is truly part of a larger package that includes closing the gun show loophole, making it a felony to act as a straw buyer and also a felony to carry a concealed handgun without a permit.

Law enforcement officials feel that their hands are tied. While it's illegal to carry a concealed weapon in Wisconsin, the penalties for doing so are among the weakest in the country.

(Milwaukee Police Chief Edward)  Flynn told the Editorial Board that his frustration mounts after his department arrests someone carrying a gun, but the person is punished with a relative slap on the wrist.

We all should be willing to live with concealed carry if it is part of comprehensive firearm reform and if prosecutors are given the ability to severely punish those illegally carrying guns.”

I am pleased to see that the newspaper has finally come onboard relating to the straw buyer issue. I wonder, however, what took them so long since one of my Assembly representatives, Scott Gunderson has been pushing tougher straw buyer legislation for years.

As a supporter of conceal-carry, I would want to analyze the details of any comprehensive firearm reform package. However, the newspaper’s shift in opinion is significant. I hope my colleagues in Madison took notice.

If it looks like a tax increase and sounds like a tax increase...

Taxes


Every state in America is suffering economically and I have written many blogs about their troubles and the long road to recovery each state will experience, even after the recession is finally over.

State governments have options to deal with huge deficits. My preferred route is to cut spending and avoid all tax increases.

Possibly comprehending the anger of taxpayers nationwide, some state officials around the country are attempting to increase revenue without boosting taxes. However, the Washington Times reports they are trying to do so in a sneaky way. They simply call the tax increases something else, even though they are tax increases.

Fee hike?  It is a tax increase.

Hunting license increase?  Tax increase.

Increased fines? They are tax increases.

A tax exemption that is eliminated? That, too, is a tax increase.

The Washington Times writes, “A report issued in December by the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) and the National Governors Association found that states raised taxes and fees by $23.9 billion in fiscal 2010, nearly tripling the $8.1 billion in such increases implemented the previous year. More increases are likely in the coming year.”

Popular tactics by tax-increasers according to the Times include raising taxes on high-earners and implementing so-called sin taxes.

The trick is then to call the increase anything but a tax. The ploy is called doublespeak that I wrote about during 2007 when Governor Doyle wanted to impose what amounted to a gas tax increase.

Governor Doyle called the tax increase, “an assessment on oil companies,” a prime example of doublespeak
since any tax increase on oil companies found to be constitutional would merely be passed on to consumers at the gasoline pump.

A tax is a tax is a tax, no matter the disguise.

Read more in the Washington Times. 

State Senate Calendar for Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Here is the calendar for the state Senate floor session scheduled for Tuesday, February 16, 2010 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.

Assembly 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. (Received from Assembly, Senate amendment 1 nonconcurred in) Senate 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 127. Relating to: notification to the state and certain public agencies regarding a medical malpractice claim and limits on liability (Report adoption of Senate Substitute 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 Substitute Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 268. Relating to: the location of facilities in which rendering, animal food processing, or grease processing is conducted. (Report introduction and adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 5, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Agriculture and Higher Education, Ayes 5, Noes 0) Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 293. Relating to: directing the governor to annually proclaim March 25 as Medal of Honor Day.   (Report passage recommended by committee on Veterans and Military Affairs, Biotechnology, and Financial Institutions, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 348. Relating to: declarations creating marina condominiums and technical corrections to the laws governing marina condominiums.   (Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 6, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 396
. Relating to: fishing and trolling in boats with electric motors. ((Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 6, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 403. Relating to: authorizing the release of certain personal identifying information collected by the Department of Regulation and Licensing. (Report passage recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 410. Relating to: designating and marking a portion of I 43 in the city of Milwaukee as the Jeannetta Simpson-Robinson Memorial Highway. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 6, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 5, Noes 1)Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 419. Relating to: requiring the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to establish standards for products sold as honey, prohibiting the labeling as Wisconsin certified honey of a product that has not been determined to meet the standards, prohibiting the labeling as honey of a product that does not meet the standards, and requiring the exercise of rule-making authority. (Report passage recommended by committee on Agriculture and Higher Education, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 427. Relating to: expanding the types of governmental units that may participate in a joint local governmental self-insured health insurance plan. (Report passage recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 455. Relating to: the wholesale distribution of prescription drugs. (Report passage recommended by committee on Public Health, Senior Issues, Long-Term Care, and Job Creation, 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 57. Relating to: permitting a mother to breast-feed in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Public Health, Senior Issues, Long-Term Care, and Job Creation, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 186
. Relating to: salvinorin A and providing a penalty.  (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Public Health, Senior Issues, Long-Term Care, and Job Creation, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 419. Relating to: rape shield provisions in civil proceedings, discovery and inspection of victims and witnesses, and victims rights. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 591. Relating to: authorizing certain optometrists to dispense contact lenses that deliver a therapeutic pharmaceutical agent. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, 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.

Beware, hot air balloon operators, the taxman is after you

Taxes


Cash-strapped states are looking for ways to increase revenue, i.e., increase taxes.

The Wall Street Journal reports the target is the service sector by expanding sales taxes to all kinds of providers  like
plumbers, lawyers and hot-air balloon operators.

States seemingly have abandoned hiking actual sales tax rates, so the tactic now is to apply the sales tax and spread it over as many services as possible.  The approach is one that I would oppose.

Read more in the Wall Street Journal.

JFC wastes little time approving $810-million rail line

Legislation, Taxes


I am extremely disappointed that the legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee (JFC) voted along party lines to approve spending over $800-million in federal stimulus money to construct a high-speed rail line between Madison and Milwaukee. Some of the money will also be used to update existing track that connects Milwaukee to Chicago.

The cost of the rail line is equivalent to two Miller Parks. You may recall the contentious debate about Miller Park took several months. Yet in less than one half-hour, the JFC debated and voted to approve a likely huge boondoggle.

Because the federal allotment for the rail line is nearly $8-million short of expenses, there is a deficit to the project. The state must find a way to fund nearly $8-million every year for operating expenses.

Subsidizing this massive project will jeopardize current and future Wisconsin projects across the state that have been put on hold due to the state Transportation Fund deficit that is exacerbated by Governor Doyle’s numerous Transportation Fund raids.

Job creation claims made by proponents are dubious. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 
reports, “
Only 55 permanent jobs would be created to operate and maintain the trains, tracks and stations, starting in 2013, the application says.”

An amendment to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the project was rejected along party lines.

According to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo, “Approval of the Governor’s request for $810 million for the Milwaukee to Madison high-speed rail project would allow the Department to proceed with work on the project, with the goal of initiating service in January, 2013.”

The rush to judgment on rail will cost the state heavily at a time it can least afford.

Wisconsin closer to allowing Roth IRA conversions

Economy, Legislation, Taxes

Last month I wrote that the Legislature needed to act immediately to approve tax changes that would comply with a new federal rule allowing conversion of assets from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. 

Under the 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. Roth withdrawals are tax-free.

Wisconsin residents have been unable to take advantage of the Roth conversions because the Legislature failed to pass legislation to comply with the new federal rule.

Today, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee approved the necessary changes and the state Senate voted unanimously in favor. The state Assembly must also approve the changes before the legislation is sent to Governor Doyle for his review.

State IT systems fail a lot; however they can work


Revamping and updating state government information technology (IT) systems are quite expensive. The flip side is that the massive overhauls can save money in efficiency. However, when IT systems fail, the costs can be even greater than the savings IT systems were predicted to generate.

Stateline.org examined IT system problems in five states, including Wisconsin that Stateline reports “suffered significant difficulties and delays with six large IT contracts before it revamped its procedures three years ago.” Stateline continues, “Each of these states experienced its own unique set of problems, but in general, major state IT contracts are notoriously difficult to pull off. That’s partly because state governments don’t operate the same way as private companies, and most state managers aren’t trained to direct major IT projects.”

The ramifications are severe with 85 percent of government IT projects failing to come in on-time, on-budget or both according to Stateline. Problems run from bad contractors to faulty systems to cost-overruns.

Communication also poses a problem. Most state employees lack the expertise or background in IT lingo, making it difficult to express exact needs.

What is the answer? Stay the course, since tough fiscal times predicate that states try to attain the savings that can be derived from pairing with private companies for large IT contracts.

States must make the decision whether to upgrade their systems using the knowledge of their own technology staff or contract with private companies. When the latter is the choice, consolidation is an idea goal: shared success along with shared responsibility for problems incurred. Companies are extremely reluctant to enter into agreements with states calling for unlimited liability or performance bonds. Even so, some states require damage clauses that are more than double the contract price, citing high costs upon contract failures.

Another key to avoiding IT failure is consistent and constant contract management. Texas, one of the states reviewed by Stateline, suffered lost data and security breaches after some state agencies refused to allow their best employees to collaborate with IBM.

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REMINDER: Time to apply for open enrollment is now


The deadline is today.

Congratulations Raquel Rutledge


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Raquel Rutledge has won the coveted Polk Award for her outstanding work exposing fraud in the Wisconsin Shares program. Rutledge’s high-quality investigative reports led to an audit of the state’s child care program that uncovered even more problems the state Legislature is now addressing.

Congratulations to Raquel Rutledge for her journalistic efforts that are a testament to her profession and a great benefit to Wisconsin taxpayers.

No global warming from 1995-2010

Legislation


The above claim is made by Professor Phil Jones who is at the heart of the Climategate scandal, having resigned as director of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. Jones stepped down after e-mails were leaked that showed global warming advocates had been manipulating data.

The London Daily Mail reports, “Professor Jones told the BBC there was truth in the observations of colleagues that he lacked organizational skills, that his office was swamped with piles of paper and that his record keeping is ‘not as good as it should be’. He further admitted that in the last 15 years there had been no ‘statistically significant’ warming.”

Jones’ admission comes as state lawmakers are considering dramatic global warming legislation. His concession is yet another reason the state should proceed very slowly and cautiously on any global warming bill.

Senate Health Committee holds hearing about HSAs

Legislation


The state Senate Health Committee that I serve on conducted a public hearing this week about Senate Bill 425 (SB 425) that would create an income tax credit for certain holders of health savings accounts (HSAs).

Federal law allows individuals to make tax-deductible contributions to HSAs and take money out tax-free to cover routine and preventive medical care.

According to the Legislative Reference Bureau, SB 425 allows individual contributors to HSAs to claim a nonrefundable income tax credit for 6.5 percent of the allowable amount that the individual claims as a federal tax deduction or 6.5 percent of the federal tax−exempt earnings relating to an HSA, or both.

The following are not eligible for the credit: Single individuals, heads of household, a married person that files a separate return whose Wisconsin adjusted gross income exceeds 500 percent of the federal poverty level, or a married couple that files Wisconsin adjusted gross income in excess of 500 percent of the federal poverty level.

Democrat authors of the bill testified that this would make Wisconsin the first state in the country to limit availability of HSAs based on income. The income cap raises the distinct possibility that many businesses would be unable to participate.

I expressed concern at the hearing to state Senator Pat Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls) and state Representative Kristen Dexter (D-Eau Claire) the authors of SB 425 about the provision discriminating against those earning beyond 500 percent of the poverty level. The limit creates a scenario where an employer that has varying pay levels would not be able to provide the full enhanced benefit to some employees. Only certain workers would be able to take advantage.  
 
Senator Kreitlow responded that 500 percent of the poverty level for a family of four amounts to over $100,000. Senator Kreitlow believes individuals at that level will not be concerned about the loss of the tax credit. However, I point out that Senator Kreitlow’s testimony came one day after all Democrats in the state Senate voted to allow conversions of traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs without income limits. There seems to be an inconsistency in that line of thinking.

Representatives of the Wisconsin Independent Businesses (WIB) and the Wisconsin chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), while supportive of the concept of SB 425, testified the bill is too limited and that Wisconsin should make HSAs tax-deductible for everyone. I agree with that position.

Republicans have been promoting the concept of HSAs for quite some time. While it is a bit encouraging to see some on the other side of the aisle embrace HSAs, it is an idea that should be administered properly and afforded to all that wish to participate.

Taxes go up, the wealthy move out

Taxes


During December 2007, I blogged “Taxes Go Up, People Move Out.” It read, in part:

Wisconsin’s high level of taxation is forcing too many residents to pack up and leave. New data indicates the disturbing trend continues, having a damaging effect on our ability to compete.
During the five years prior to the 2000 census, almost 669,000 people either moved to or out of Wisconsin. However, the net in-migration into Wisconsin was a meager 7,282.

Individuals with college or advanced degrees were more likely to leave, while those with less education tended to come. Individuals with household incomes above $75,000 left Wisconsin. Those with incomes of $200,000 or more had the highest rates of leaving.

The huge exodus of wealthy Wisconsinites leaving the state caused a loss of an estimated $4.72 billion in net worth and a loss of $455 million in income over the five years of this study. That means far fewer in-state bank deposits, less stock in Wisconsin firms, less investment capital for in-state ventures, and less money given to local charities.

We are losing our best and brightest at a very young age, and we're experiencing retiree flight.”

There is new evidence that taxes are a serious factor considered by the affluent in choosing where to live. Using data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey on Consumer Finances, the Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service. the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College found that wealthy residents I New Jersey were leaving the high-taxed state for places like Florida, Pennsylvania, and new York. New York also has high taxes, however their levies are not as high as those in New Jersey.

Here are some of the study’s key findings:

 

Read more

This report has good news for Wisconsin


First, the bad news from the Pew Center for the States:

"There was a $1 trillion gap at the end of fiscal year 2008 between the $2.35 trillion states had set aside to pay for employees' retirement benefits and the $3.35 trillion price tag of those promises, according to a new report released by the Pew Center on the States.  The shortfall, which will have to be paid over the next 30 years by state and local governments, amounts to more than $8,800 for every household in the United States.”

Now, the good news. Wisconsin is one of the few states that entered the current recession with fully funded pensions. Wisconsin was rated by Pew as one of the top pension performers.

Other states, like Illinois that rank at the bottom of Pew’s rankings are facing benefit cuts, increased taxes, or both.

Read more from the Pew Center for the States.

Why are fewer sex offenders committed for treatment?

Mary in the media


I was interviewed by WKOW-TV in Madison about the decline in the number of sex offenders committed for mental health treatment.

You can see the WKOW-TV website article here. 

Here is the WKOW-TV video:


State Senate Calendar for Tuesday, February 23, 2010


H
ere is the calendar for the state Senate floor session scheduled for Tuesday, February 23, 2010 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?

Barland, Judge Thomas, of Eau Claire, as a member of the Government Accountability Board, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2015. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Ethics Reform and Government Operations, 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 adopted?

Senate Joint Resolution 60. Relating to: proclaiming that the ancient Macedonians were Hellenes and that the inhabitants of the northern province of Greece, Macedonia, are their Hellenic descendants. 

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 114. Relating to: the use of pesticides by veterinarians and veterinary technicians. (Report passage recommended by committee on Agriculture and Higher Education, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 222. Relating to: group deer hunting requirements and restrictions on placing, possessing, or transporting a firearm, bow, or crossbow in or on a vehicle. (Report adoption of Senate Substitute Amendment 2, Ayes 7, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 6, Noes 1)   Senate Substitute Amendment 2 pending

Senate Bill 227. Relating to: interim successors for legislators, meetings of the legislature and legislative committees, and temporary seat of government for the legislature. (Report passage recommended by committee on Small Business, Emergency Preparedness, Technical Colleges, and Consumer Protection, Ayes 3, Noes 2) Senate Amendments 1, 2 and 3 pending

Senate Bill 287. Relating to: transferring ownership and jurisdiction of a municipality's highways to an American Indian tribe or agency of the United States government.  (Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 6, Noes 1)

Senate Bill 301. Relating to: the application of shoreland zoning ordinances to certain unincorporated areas. (Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 389. Relating to: licensing sign language interpreters, creating an evidentiary privilege for communications with those interpreters, creating a Sign Language Interpreter Council, granting rule-making authority, and providing a penalty. (Report passage recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 392
. Relating to: registration of former military vehicles. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 5, Noes 1, introduction and adoption of Senate Amendment 2, Ayes 5, Noes 1, passage as amended recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 6, Noes 0) Senate Amendments 1, 2 and 3 pending

Senate Bill 400. Relating to: operation of all-terrain vehicles to remove snow. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 6, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 6, Noes 0)
Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 404. Relating to: registration of former military vehicles. (Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 6, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 408. Relating to: the exception to the assessment of withdrawal taxes and fees against a landowner who transfers ownership of managed forest land for siting a public safety communications tower. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 16, Noes 0, adoption of Senate Amendment 2, Ayes 16, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by joint committee on Finance, Ayes 16, Noes 0) Senate Amendments 1 and 2 pending

Senate Bill 448. Relating to: a utility terrain vehicle pilot program and making an appropriation. (Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 6, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 460. Relating to: prescriptions for antimicrobial drugs for treatment of chlamydial infections, gonorrhea, or trichomoniasis. (Report passage recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 4, Noes 3)

Senate Bill 465
. Relating to: the safe-ride grant program administered by the Department of Transportation. (Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 475. Relating to: reimbursement of counties and Indian tribes for unexpected or unusually high-cost out-of-home care placements of Indian juveniles who have been adjudicated delinquent by tribal courts and making an appropriation. (Report passage recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 482. Relating to: the practice of athletic trainers and granting rule-making authority.  (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 484. Relating to: the BadgerCare Plus Basic Plan, Benchmark Plan benefits, and making an appropriation. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 16, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by joint committee on Finance, Ayes 12, Noes 4)      Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 504. Relating to: professional employer organizations.  (Report passage recommended by committee on Small Business, Emergency Preparedness, Technical Colleges, and Consumer Protection, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 506. Relating to: vehicle towing and storage liens. (Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 513. Relating to: life settlements, granting rule-making authority, and providing a penalty. (Report passage recommended by committee on Small Business, Emergency Preparedness, Technical Colleges, and Consumer Protection, 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 275. Relating to: the Physical Therapists Affiliated Credentialing Board. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 415. Relating to: designating and marking a portion of USH 12 in the city of Whitewater as the Stephen Ambrose Memorial Highway. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 570. Relating to: amending and revising various provisions of the statutes for the purpose of correcting errors and eliminating defects, anachronisms, conflicts, and ambiguities (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Ethics Reform and Government Operations, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 571. Relating to: renumbering, amending, and revising various provisions of the statutes for the purpose of correcting and clarifying references and reconciling conflicts (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Ethics Reform and Government Operations, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 572. Relating to: repealing, consolidating, renumbering, amending, and revising various provisions of the statutes for the purpose of correcting errors, supplying omissions, correcting and clarifying references, eliminating defects, anachronisms, conflicts, ambiguities, and obsolete provisions, reconciling conflicts, and repelling unintended repeals (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Ethics Reform and Government Operations, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 573. Relating to: repealing, consolidating, renumbering, amending, and revising various provisions of the statutes for the purpose of correcting errors, supplying omissions, correcting and clarifying references, eliminating defects, anachronisms, conflicts, ambiguities, and obsolete provisions, reconciling conflicts, and repelling unintended repeals (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Ethics Reform and Government Operations, 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.

Planned Parenthood goes beyond preposterous

Legislation


As a staunch supporter of abstinence education,  I was stunned to learn of a FoxNews.com article 
that “Planned Parenthood Federation is advocating that children as young as 10 be given extensive sex education, including an awareness of sex's pleasures.” Given the source of the outrageous report is International Planned Parenthood  Federation (IPPF), I guess I should not be all that surprised.

The IPPF report is entitled, “Stand & Deliver: Sex, Health and Young People in the 21st Century.”  Bert Koenders, minister for Development Cooperation for the Netherlands government, writes in the foreword, “Young people have the right to be fully informed about sexuality and to have access to contraceptives and other services.”

IPPF also states in the report, “Currently, many religious teachings deny the pleasurable and positive aspects of sex…..The reality is, young people are sexual beings.”

The report calls for access to sexual education “free of administrative restrictions and obstacles.” IPPF prefers that parental or spousal consent prior to handing out contraceptives be prohibited.  Another recommendation is that governments make sexuality instructions mandatory in school.

Keep in mind that the services Planned Parenthood claims adolescents have a right to are provided by…….Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood’s report follows another controversial report issued during August 2009 by the United Nations that suggested masturbation be taught to children as young as five years old.

Reaction to IPPF’s appalling recommendations has been fast and quite critical.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights said, “The goal of IPPF is to sexually engineer society, and one way to accomplish this feat is to smear religious conservatives, especially Catholics. This new report makes it clear that Planned Parenthood wants to bring its irresponsible ideas to bear on kids. IPPF says that, ‘The taboo on youth sexuality is one of the key forces driving the AIDS epidemic and high rates of teenage pregnancy and maternal mortality.’ Nonsense. In the 1950s, there was no sex education in the schools, the pill was not commercially available and AIDS didn’t exist. Yet the out-of-wedlock birth rate was comparatively miniscule and sexually transmitted diseases were relatively rare. All because of taboos.”

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council agrees with Donohue saying, “If you look at what’s happened in the big picture in the 50 years since the introduction of the birth control pill for example, we have not seen a reduction in out of wedlock pregnancies, we’ve seen a vast increase. So, the effect of ready availability of contraception is not as effective in reducing unwanted pregnancies as it is effective in communicating, ‘Hey, it’s okay for you to have sex, go and do it.’”


Carol Platt Liebau, author of “Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (and America, Too!)," says “Normal, sensible people know that it's entirely possible to teach the facts about sex, but also to make it clear that, though wonderful at the right time with the right person, sex is only something only for those mature enough to handle its potential consequences (namely, those in a committed relationship, preferably marriage).”

Summing it up best is Marybeth Hicks, the author of “Bringing up Geeks: How to Protect Your Kid’s Childhood in a Grow-up-too-fast World.”  Hicks says,This report is secular-progressive free-sex propaganda and anti-religious bigotry disguised as public health whitepaper, and most of us will read about this report and simply think, ‘This is nuts.’ But it’s not nearly as crazy as the stuff these folks want taught in your child’s fifth grade classroom, and right now, they have the ear of the US Department of Education. Don’t say you weren’t warned.”

I concur wholeheartedly with all of these reactions to the IPPF report that is beyond preposterous. The sensitive subject of graphic and extensive sex education being taught to children as young as 10 is a decision that should be left up to parents and not our schools.

If the IPPF report sets off alarms, remember the state of Wisconsin is poised to make dramatic changes in sex education.

State Senate Calendar for Thursday, February 25, 2010


Here is the calendar for the state Senate floor session scheduled for Thursday, February 25, 2010 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.

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

Special Order at 12:05 P.M.

Senate Bill 484. Relating to: the BadgerCare Plus Basic Plan, Benchmark Plan benefits, and making an appropriation.  (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 16, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by joint committee on Finance, Ayes 12, Noes 4) Senate Amendments 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 pending

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 96. Relating to: diversions under a community integration program of Medical Assistance-eligible persons from imminent entry into nursing homes. (Report passage recommended by committee on Public Health, Senior Issues, Long-Term Care, and Job Creation, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 374. Relating to: creating a commercial driver license exception for law enforcement officers operating commercial motor vehicles.  (Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 6, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 457
. Relating to: the placement of advertising signs in highway rights-of-way and providing a penalty. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 7, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 5, Noes 2) Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 463. Relating to: extending the expenditure period of Tax Incremental District Number 6 in the city of Sheboygan and requiring the Department of Revenue to certify the tax base of Tax Incremental Financing District Number 18 in the city of Waukesha.(Report passage recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 467. Relating to:  using an electronic signature on a criminal complaint. (Report passage recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 471. Relating to: health care plans operated by cooperative associations. (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 473. Relating to: modifications to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. (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 478. Relating to: orders to commit state prison inmates to a mental health facility. . (Report passage recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 485. Relating to: displaying the empty weight on the side of certain motor vehicles (suggested as remedial legislation by the Department of Transportation).  (Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 486. Relating to: the liability release exception to the requirement that proof of financial responsibility be provided after a motor vehicle accident (suggested as remedial legislation by the Department of Transportation).   (Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 487. Relating to: motor vehicle occupational licenses issued by the Department of Transportation (suggested as remedial legislation by the Department of Transportation). (Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 488. Relating to: policies and bonds issued by out-of-state insurers offered as proof of financial responsibility after a motor vehicle accident (suggested as remedial legislation by the Department of Transportation).   (Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 489. Relating to: the requirement that a nonresident provide proof of financial responsibility for the operation of a motor vehicle to reinstate a suspended operating privilege or vehicle registration (suggested as remedial legislation by the Department of Transportation).(Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 490. Relating to: registration plates for vehicles leased to persons with a disability that limits the ability to walk (suggested as remedial legislation by the Department of Transportation).  (Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 492. Relating to: restoration to competency of a defendant (suggested as remedial legislation by the Department of Health Services).  (Report passage recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 507. Relating to: changing the fees collected by a register of deeds, the redaction of social security numbers from electronic documents, and changes to the land information program.  (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 5, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Ethics Reform and Government Operations, Ayes 5, Noes 0) Senate 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 261. Relating to: soliciting purchases of goods or services using unsolicited checks or money orders and providing a penalty. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Small Business, Emergency Preparedness, Technical Colleges, and Consumer Protection, Ayes 4, Noes 1)

Assembly Bill 375. Relating to: a property tax exemption for certain nonprofit community theaters. (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 6, Noes 1)

Assembly Bill 471. Relating to: mortgage broker duties and agency relationships.(Report concurrence recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 562. Relating to: the master logger certification scholarship grant program (suggested as remedial legislation by the Department of Natural Resources).  (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 568. Relating to: revising various provisions of the statutes for the purpose of correcting errors, supplying omissions, and eliminating defects (Correction Bill). (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Assembly Bill 569. Relating to: revising various provisions of the statutes for the purpose of supplying omissions and eliminating defects (Correction Bill).  (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, 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.

Congratulations Alyson Dudek, Olympic medalist!

Good news from Senate District 28


Alyson Dudek of Hales Corners, one of my constituents, and her teammates, Allison Baver, Lana Gehring, and Katherine Reutter skated to a bronze medal Wednesday night in the women’s 3000 meter relay speed skating event at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.

China won the gold medal with a time of 4:06.610, Canada took the silver medal at 4:09.137, and the United States team won the bronze medal at 4:14.081.

All of America is proud of you, Alyson Dudek! Congratulations for your great achievement and for your outstanding representation of your country!



Lana Gehring (from left), Alyson Dudek, Allison Baver and Katherine Reutter take a victory lap. Photo: MCT

Read more

State Senate ok’s another government health care program without idea how to pay

Government health care, Legislation


The state Senate approved Senate Bill 484 (SB 484) creating another new, unaffordable state government health care plan without a method to pay for the program. It is called BadgerCare Plus Basic to address the overflow that evolved from the BadgerCare Plus Core plan that was adopted during the 2009-2011 state budget. BadgerCare Plus Core covers childless adults with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.

Interest was so great in BadgerCare Plus Core that the program immediately filled and a huge waiting list was created. Originally, the program was expected to have 24,900 participants during 2009-10. As of January 8, 2010, the number grew to 63,644, more than double capacity.

SB 484 rolls out BadgerCare Plus Basic that is similar to the Core plan, and is sold as fully funded by fees paid by enrollees. The Department of Health Services (DHS) estimates that a minimum of 5,000 people on the 25,000 Core plan waiting list will sign up for the Basic plan.  Based on that assumption, DHS says a monthly premium of $130 will cover the program’s costs. The bill does not include a limit on pre-existing conditions, and there is not a requirement that an enrollee remain in the program for a specific length of time. 

Who will be willing to pay $130 a month?  Those with high health care costs. 

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) explains BadgerCare Plus Core would not prohibit an individual that knows he/she needs a service covered under the plan from enrolling, paying a short term premum, and terminating enrollment after receiving service.

The LFB says the plan could encourage enrollment by having a deductible that would apply to hospital visits only after the first inpatient stay or the fifth non-emergency outpatient visit. Ten physician visits per year would also be allowed.

An eligible person will sign up as soon as he/she becomes aware of a medical problem.  Once those problems are taken care of, they will bail out of the program and eliminate that pressure on their personal budgets. This adverse selection effect is likely to make the program far more expensive than its proponents are saying. 

Our state is currently mired in a horrific fiscal mess. BadgerCare Plus Basic makes our economic crisis even worse.

The state Senate needed to send SB 484 back to committee for further study, including answers about payment for BadgerCare Plus Basic and completion of an audit. A motion to refer SB 484 to committee failed.

As a member of the Legislative Joint Audit Committee, I have called for an audit of the state’s massive Medical Assistance (MA) program that totals $5 billion. An amendment to conduct an audit of BadgerCare Plus Core was approved by the state Senate.

The membership numbers for BadgerCare Plus Core that exploded from 24,900 to 63,644 clearly cry out for an MA audit. The program surely has problems that the highly respected nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) would snuff out. Like the audit of Wisconsin Shares, an MA audit is of critical importance to the state that has an obligation to taxpayers to determine the depth of problems. Despite the call for an MA audit, the Democrat chairs of the Audit Committee have thus far refused to schedule a review. Instead, by and large we have been using the LAB’s valuable time to audit programs in the $400 thousand ballpark.

I voted against SB 484 that was approved 17-16. SB 484 now goes to the state Assembly.

Global warming lessons from Spain to Wisconsin

Legislation


The state Senate Select Committee on Clean Energy that I serve on has completed its schedule of four public hearings about proposed global warming legislation that would make dramatic and problematic changes to  Wisconsin energy policy. Committee members heard 22 hours of testimony, none more damaging than that of Paula Quinn of Hartland. 

Paula Quinn is not an elected official, government bureaucrat, or member of any special interest.  Paula Quinn is a taxpaying, PTA attending mother of three. Citing a study by the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Paula Quinn told the committee that the controversial policies being considered in Wisconsin were instituted in Spain during 1997 and called the country an example of actual history.

Spain is the model being pushed in America. Speaking at a wind turbine plant in Bedford heights, Ohio 
January 16th, 2009, then president-elect Barack Obama said that renewable energy “can create millions of additional jobs and entire new industries.” Obama added, “Think of what’s happening in countries like Spain, where they’re making real investments in renewable energy. They’re surging ahead of us.”

More than any other country, Spain has supported renewable energy concepts. The Spanish “Study of the effects on employments of public aid to renewable energy sources” released during March 2009 says the claims made about “green jobs” in Spain and throughout Europe are the same being waged in the United States today. The study bluntly asserts these policies are “terribly economically counterproductive” and that the “green jobs” agenda “in fact kills jobs.”

Here is the most damning point of the study: Spain’s experience pinpointed as a model by President Obama can be expected to result in a loss of 2.2 jobs for every job created, or nearly 9 jobs lost for every four created. Gabriel Calzada, an economics professor at the
Universidad Rey Juan Carlos and author of the study reports the premiums paid for solar, biomass, wave and wind power that  are charged to consumers in their bills amounted to a $774,000 cost for each Spanish “green job” created since 2000.

Spain created a low number of jobs from renewable energy policies, two-thirds in construction, fabrication, and installation, and one-quarter in administrative, marketing, and engineering positions. Only one out of 10 jobs was created to permanently operate and maintain the renewable sources of energy.

Programs creating these jobs caused the loss of 110,500 jobs in other sectors of the economy like metallurgy, non-metallic mining, food processing, beverage and tobacco industries due to the subsequent increase in the cost of electricity.

The total subsidy Spain spent on renewable energy sources was $36 billion. In order to repay Spain’s historic debt caused by the subsidies to renewables, the study concludes electric rates would have to be increased 31 percent. Study researchers say the U.S., like Spain, would have to cope with higher energy costs or higher taxes by following Spain’s lead.

What’s more, the high cost of energy drives businesses away. Take Spain-based Acerinox, the world’s second-largest manufacturer of stainless steel. According to the study, the CEO of Acerinox during 2002, Victoriano Muñoz cautioned at that time that the price of electricity for consumers had increased 10.6 percent since the beginning of the decade, and that service had been interrupted dozens of times. Two years later, Acerinox decided to expand, not in Spain, but at plants in Kentucky (USA) and Columbia (South Africa). Hundreds of jobs were exported out of Spain.

In short, the study that can be viewed here reveals Spain’s energy regulator must decide whether residents and businesses need expensive and inefficient energy, or opt instead for affordable energy to get the country through its economic crisis. The same can be said for Wisconsin.

The study’s author writes that when it comes to the Spanish model the U.S. wishes to replicate, “the reality is far from what has typically been presented, and that such schemes also offer considerable employment consequences and implications for emerging from the economic crisis.”  The study’s evaluation should be regarded as, the author says, a note of caution.

Given the devastating ramifications that could result with Wisconsin adopting proposed global warming legislation, calling the advice from the Spanish researchers a note of caution is an understatement.

Wal-Mart to the rescue….in Wisconsin

Legislation


One of my very first blogs on Conservatively Speaking during February 2007 was titled, “Wal-Mart to the rescue.”  I wrote, in part:

“The best solution to provide top-notch health care at affordable prices is not going to come out of city halls, statehouses, or Washington D.C. Any talk of fixing health care in America should have Wal-Mart and other private sector executives at the discussion table.

Wal-Mart is revolutionizing access to prescription drugs. During September 2006, Wal-Mart made over 300 generic prescriptions available to customers and their employees, referred to as associates, in 65 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club pharmacies in the Tampa, Florida area. The cost per prescription was an incredible $4. The program is also open to the uninsured.

Needless to say, Wal-Mart’s $4 prescription drug program became so immensely popular in Tampa that Wal-Mart expanded it statewide in Florida during October 2006, four months ahead of schedule. Medications for everything from allergies to diabetes and Parkinson’s disease are available. Discount drugs are available at Wal-Marts in 15 states, including neighboring Illinois and Indiana.

Customers are thrilled. Kelius Guzman of Chicago said, ‘Four bucks for a prescription is just amazing.’ Another Chicago resident, Clyde Branch who is now saving $120 per month said it’s a great program, ‘especially for seniors, because we have a rough time trying to keep up with the price of prescription drugs’.”

You can read my blog here. 

Interestingly, the state Assembly Thursday approved legislation that would allow big-box retailers like Wal-Mart to offer more prescription drugs at the incredible price of $4/ month.

Read more in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

High speed rail fallout is starting

Legislation


Maybe the planners of the $800 million-plus high speed rail project from Milwaukee to Madison should have given it more thought.

The Daily Reporter writes that the rail will literally split Waterloo in half, creating a disparity in property values Alderwoman Laura Cotting is not pleased, going so far as to say the state should “admit that the current plan is not acceptable.”

Cotting is also suggesting that the state spend millions more on improvements to, as
the newspaper writes
“offset the negatives” of cutting through Waterloo.

T
his is just the beginning. Watch as the price tag of this project continues to increase far more than projected.

Audit: WHEFA Executive Director’s compensation

Audits


Once again, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) has done an outstanding job uncovering questionable practices in state government, this time following a limited-scope review of the Wisconsin Health and Educational Facilities Authority (WHEFA).

Started during 1979, WHEFA’s primary function is to assist tax-exempt healthcare and certain educational institutions finance capital projects. Revenue bonds are issued on their behalf. 


WHEFA does not have taxing authority and does not receive state appropriations.  Governed by a seven-member board, WHEFA has four full-time employees that receive salaries and fringe benefits, funded by annual fees paid by borrowing institutions.

The LAB expressed concerns about the compensation of WHEFA’S Executive Director. State law restricts the salaries of its employees to specific executive salary groups that are outlined in state statutes. Under statutory limits, the Executive Director’s salary may not exceed the maximum for salary group 4 that is currently $116,001. The salaries of the three other WHEFA employees may not exceed the maximum for salary group 3 that is currently $107,407.

The Executive Director and other WHEFA employees are allowed to use unused vacation and sick leave by carrying the leave forward, receiving a cash payment for a portion of it, or depositing its cash value into the Wisconsin Deferred Compensation Program. While employees have opted to receive cash payment for unused leave, the LAB reports the cash value of the Executive Director’s unused leave has been deposited into his Wisconsin Deferred Compensation Program account.

The LAB discovered that during 2008, WHEFA deposited $19,600 in Executive Director Larry Nines’ deferred compensation account. That represents the cash value of an estimated 44 days of unused leave. Nines’ total compensation reported to the Wisconsin Retirement System was $135,612, an amount that is 16.9 percent greater than the salary limit for his position specified by state law.  Over the past 10 years, the LAB calculates that approximately $162,300 in payments for unused leave have been deposited into the Executive Director’s deferred compensation account.


Upon questioning the policy, The LAB was told by the WHEFA Board Chair that he believes the Executive Director’s compensation package complies with state law because WHEFA’s legal counsel advises the statutory limit addresses only salary, not overall compensation. The Board Chair also asserts that Nines’ compensation package was adopted in order to retain the expertise of staff.

The LAB counters, “However, the Board’s actions have had the effect of circumventing the statutory salary limit” and offers choices the Legislature may wish to contemplate about this issue.

The LAB writes, “If it agrees that the special expertise and experience of the Executive Director warrant a higher salary level, it could amend the Wisconsin statutes and assign the salary of the Executive Director to a higher-paying salary group. However, if it believes the current salary limit is reasonable in light of WHEFA’s staff size and responsibilities, it could direct the WHEFA Board to comply with the executive salary limit established” under state statutes.

I commend the LAB for another outstanding analysis that is of great benefit to lawmakers and the taxpayers they represent.

State Senate approves the Interpreter Licensure Bill

Legislation


The state Senate Tuesday approved Senate Bill 389 (SB 389) that I co-authored that relates to licensing of sign language interpreters.

SB 389 stipulates that no person may provide, for compensation, sign language interpretation services for a deaf or hard of hearing client unless the person holds a license granted by the Department of Regulation and Licensing (DRL). Exemptions are made for the following: 1) a person interpreting in a court proceeding, if the person is certified by the Wisconsin Supreme Court; 2) a person interpreting at a school or school−sponsored event, if the person is certified by the Department of Public Instruction; 3) a person interpreting at a religious service or religious function; 4) a support service provider facilitating communication between an interpreter and an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing; and 5) a person interpreting in the course of employment during an emergency, for up to 24 hours.

A nine member Sign Language Interpreter Council is created that will advise DRL about the practice of sign language interpreters. The council may grant a temporary exemption from the licensure requirement, and must make recommendations to DRL regarding a code of ethics for interpreters. The bill requires DRL to promulgate rules establishing a code of ethics for interpreters and authorizes DRL to conduct disciplinary proceedings against interpreters.

Under SB 389, a licensed interpreter may not disclose any aspect of confidential communication facilitated by the interpreter, unless all parties to the communication consent and a court determines that disclosure is necessary for the proper administration of justice.

An amendment to SB 389 was offered that would have allowed interpreters trained by DPI to provide service in educational settings to also practice outside the classroom. On the floor of the state Senate, I spoke against the amendment, expressing concern that while DPI-trained educational interpreters do an outstanding job in our schools, there are serious ramifications in areas like courtrooms or medical communities if education-trained interpreters make miscommunications.

The amendment was defeated, 27-5 and SB 389, greatly supported by deaf and hard of hearing groups was approved by the state Senate. SB 389 now goes to the state Assembly for its consideration.

UPDATE: Roth IRA conversions

Legislation


This is very good news.

Last week, I issued a news release 
urging the state Assembly to take quick action on legislation (Senate Bill 439) to approve tax changes that would comply with a new federal rule allowing conversion of assets from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.  The Senate had approved the bill, 33-0. 

I am pleased the state Assembly voted 93-0 Thursday in support of Senate Bill 439. 

G
overnor Doyle needs to sign this legislation into law as soon as possible so that those interested can take advantage of Roth IRA conversions.

Here is more background on the issue.

Deadline approaches for No-Call List

News you can use


The Wisconsin
Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection reminds that the deadline for the next no-call list that goes into effect April 1, 2010 is this Sunday, February 28, 2010. If you sign up after the deadline, you will be added to the list on July 1, 2001.

Here are more details.

Wisconsin must stop the early release of dangerous inmates now

Corrections, Legislation


Legislation will soon be introduced at the state Capitol to immediately repeal the early release privileges for convicted felons, a provision that was included in the 2009-2011 state budget. I will be a co-sponsor of the legislation to end this dangerous policy.

During last year’s state budget deliberations, I blogged, “Suggestions to save the state over $2 billion and ease prison overcrowding involve locking up fewer criminals and releasing many from custody early. The Council of State Governments Justice Center has made a series of recommendations to the state Legislature. They include alternatives that result in reduced incarceration. That is a recipe for even greater costs and harm to society. Wisconsin cannot afford this open door policy for criminals.”

I added the following:

“Why is the prison population growing? The Capital Times also examined the Council of State Governments Justice Center report, writing that, ‘A majority of inmates are incarcerated because they re-offend or violate the terms of their release. In 2007, 55 percent of prison inmates had violated terms of their parole, probation or extended supervision or were re-offenders who had committed a new crime.’

And we want to release more of them earlier? Certainly, inmates inside prison cost the state. Do not forget all the costs of criminals to society.”

I was also 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.


Also, communities are not being notified when these felons are being released.”

You can read the entire letter
here.

Our letter was ignored by Governor Doyle.

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute did an independent analysis of the criminal backgrounds of the first 22 offenders released early and reports, “The 22 inmates together have been convicted of at least 150 crimes and that, in nearly 70% of the cases, judges earlier denied their requests for early release.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last week, “
A review of court records for (Derrick) Parnell and other offenders from Milwaukee who have been released early this year shows that several of the men - convicted of a range of felonies including drug dealing and identity theft - have extensive criminal records and a history of returning to crime during previous stints on the streets.”

The incredibly risky procedure of releasing dangerous prisoners must end immediately before an innocent citizen is victimized by a freed inmate that should have been behind bars.

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