June 10, 2010As the old adage goes, there are two seasons in Wisconsin: winter and road construction. Each summer, Wisconsin's roads and highways are dotted with the familiar orange barrels, detour signs, and of course, men and women working the hot summer months making much-needed repairs and improvements. This is a good opportunity to remind motorists of the current rules of the road regarding construction, as well as provide an update of some of the new laws starting this summer.
Whether it's a major infrastructure project or a minor pothole fill, it makes sense to plan ahead by checking on construction, which may alter your travel plans. The Department of Transportation has a Web site dedicated to construction projects near your home or on your travel route. You may visit: www.511wi.gov or simply dial 511 on your phone (airtime free); of course, if your route includes road work areas, you may want to consider either taking an alternate route or allowing for extra time through the construction zone.
While driving in work zones, the DOT has several suggestions for safe and easy travel, including avoiding peak travel hours, watching for special instructions from a flag person or on special electronic message boards, slowing down and merging as early as possible when approaching a work zone, leaving plenty of room for surprise slow-downs of vehicles in front of you, and being alert to narrow lanes and uneven pavement. Remember, the fines for traffic violations in a road work area are doubled, but only when a crew is on site.
June 10, 2010Our kids are our most precious resource. Families work very hard to raise them, pass along values and traditions, educate them and give them every opportunity to achieve their dreams. At the Department of Justice, we also work very hard to protect them. Nowhere is this commitment greater than in our efforts to fight Internet predators.
While the Internet has opened many doors for our children, from education to communication to entertainment, it has also become an active crime scene. Online sex predators use technology to connect with kids, using all the tools they use — instant messaging, picture and video trading, chat rooms, Web cameras, Web microphones, social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook and even online gaming networks like X-Box Live.
Child pornographers have invaded the Internet in many forms. Commercial pornography Web sites, often located abroad, find an endless supply of customers in the U.S., including in Wisconsin. Others use chat rooms to obtain and trade images and movies, while some simply use their own digital cameras, camcorders or cell phones to manufacture images. As for cell phones, have you heard the term "sexting?" It refers to sexually explicit chats and photos through cellular telephones. Often, predators use cell phones after meeting children online.
Recent Legislators at Work
Honoring fallen heroesMay 27, 2010Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday in May, commemorates the men and women of the Armed Services who died while serving our country. While some may view the day as simply the beginning of summer, we must not lose sight of the true meaning and purpose of Memorial Day. In the Legislature, we also honor our military personnel through a “Fallen Solider” ceremony, and it gave me great pride to craft the protocol for this ceremony in 2005, along with the current Senate President. The procedure ensures the State Senate appropriately honors and remembers Wisconsin’s heroes who have fought for our country and made the ultimate sacrifice in a manner that is consistent and dignified for both Legislators and families. It applies to resolutions honoring deceased military personnel, as well as law enforcement officers and firefighters. When the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs notifies the Senate that a member of the Armed Forces has been killed in the line of duty, a Senate resolution honoring their service is drafted. Such resolutions and corresponding ceremonies are offered only if the family of the soldier approves. The Senate notifies the family of the intent to honor the deceased and makes arrangements for them to attend the Wisconsin Fallen Heroes presentation in Madison. During the ceremony, family members are typically escorted to the Senate floor for the reading of the Resolution, which is then followed by all Senators rising for a moment of silence, as the resolution is adopted. If the family is unable or unwilling to attend the ceremony, a citation of the resolution is delivered to the family. The resolutions honoring members of the Armed Forces are forwarded to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum for permanent archiving, where they remain accessible for family and visitors.
Organ donation: The gift of lifeMay 27, 2010Each day, about 77 people in the United States receive organ transplants. During the same time frame, 18 people die waiting for transplants that cannot take place because of the shortage of donated organs. Despite continuing advances in medicine and technology, the demand for organs is vastly greater than the number of donors. That is why I urge you to consider becoming a potential organ donor, as April is “Donate Life” Month. As a registered organ donor myself, signing up is easy to do, and soon, it will be even easier. Beginning April 1, the State of Wisconsin is making an on-line organ donor registry available. Those interested can sign up at: www.YesIWillWisconsin.com. This is the first step to moving away from registering donors intentions with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to an easy to use on-line registry. The online registry is absolutely secure, conforms to federal health care privacy laws, and can only be accessed by health care security codes. It will be easy to update, allowing registrants to add or remove themselves at any time and will eventually replace the orange sticker on driver’s licenses. Registration does not override the surviving family’s wishes, but may help some families make the tough decision if necessary.
Wisconsin stands up to bulliesMay 20, 2010You may be familiar with the adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” The truth is, though, words can be hurtful, especially to children. By all accounts, school bullying is more prevalent and severe than ever. It is no longer just childish taunts or pushing and shoving; rather, it has evolved into threats and acts of violence, intimidating e-mails, libelous text messages, and even sophisticated Web sites created with the sole purpose of tormenting vulnerable students. Schools should be a place for education and learning, not intimidation and physical, verbal, or psychological abuse. That is why for the last six years I have promoted school bullying legislation to establish a framework with the hopes of reducing such incidents. Previous efforts were approved by the Senate with broad bipartisan support, but failed to advance in the Assembly. However, a comprehensive school safety bill was offered this session, which included the school bullying bill. I am pleased to report the bill — Senate Bill 154 — passed the Legislature and was signed into law on May 12.
Honoring men, women of the blue lineMay 13, 2010In 1962, President Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15 as ‘Peace Officers Memorial Day’ and the week in which that date falls as “Police Week.” Twenty years after the declaration, the first official memorial service took place on Capitol Hill’s Senate Park in Washington, D.C. Only 125 people attended to honor 91 law enforcement officers. Today, Police Week is celebrated in ceremonies across the country, and National Police Week is observed from May 9 to 15. In 1994, Congress adopted and President Clinton enacted a law requiring the American flag be lowered to half-staff on May 15 as a special tribute to law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. In 1996, final approval was given to build a Law Enforcement Memorial here at the Wisconsin State Capitol, which is now located on the Capitol grounds on the North Hamilton approach. It is made of the same bethel granite from which the state Capitol was constructed, circular in nature, and includes the names of all Wisconsin Law Enforcement officers that have died in the line of duty.Wisconsin’s fallen officers are remembered and honored during the annual Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony, and this year marks the 20th Anniversary of the observance. During this years’ ceremony, hundreds of law enforcement officers from across the state convene on the square of the State Capitol to pay tribute to their comrades who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their state and community.
Almost time to redraw mapMay 06, 2010Every 10 years, the political landscape in Wisconsin gets a makeover. This is otherwise known as redistricting or reapportionment, is the process by which senate, assembly and congressional legislative districts are geographically adjusted and boundary lines redrawn in order to maintain equal representation throughout the state. The law requires redistricting to occur every ten years and coincides with the U.S. Census, which you may have already received. The U.S. Census Bureau requests information of the number of individuals residing within your home and uses that information to determine the amount of federal aid each state receives, the number of U.S. Representative that will represent each state and the manner in which state redistricting will be done. How Americans are counted has become as important as how many are counted. With demographics changing, the stakes are high, as the control of Congress and statehouses are in play. In Wisconsin, responsibility for redrawing legislative and congressional district lines rests with the state Legislature, although Congress has the right to regulate and modify state plans. The Courts may also weigh if the Legislature can not agree to a new map, as was the case in the last three decades.
Tax freedom day finally arrivesApril 15, 2010Tax Freedom Day in Wisconsin will come one day earlier this year, as April 12, marks the day that Wisconsin taxpayers will have finally finished paying their taxes to local, state and federal government. It is the first day of the year in which all of your earnings are yours. For every day you worked from Jan. 1 to April 12 — 102 days — you have been working just to pay your taxes. Last year, that benchmark came on April 13 and I am hopeful the trend continues toward an even earlier day next year.
‘Motor Voter’ bill shifts into high gearApril 08, 2010As the Legislature heads into its final days, many might be breathing a sigh of relief that a session fraught with overtaxing, spending, and regulation will soon come to a close. However, legislative Democrats making up the majority party have other ideas, as they plan to rush a number of significant pieces of legislation through the legislative process that are either controversial or costly. One such bill, which falls into both categories, makes sweeping changes to Wisconsin’s election laws. The bill, Senate Bill 640, hits on a number of areas under the law as it relates to voting and registration procedures. The centerpiece of this bill is a provision to automatically register voters when applying for a driver’s license or state identification card, regardless of their eligibility or intent to vote. Commonly referred to as the “motor voter” bill, if enacted into law, Wisconsin would be the first state in the nation to do so. The great irony is that if this bill is enacted into law, a person could register to vote at the DMV while getting their photo ID or driver’s license, but then not be required to show that ID at the polling place on Election Day.Currently, voters in Wisconsin are responsible to register themselves. It is a simple process which currently includes providing: name, age, proof of residency and citizenship. Registration can be done at the polls on the day of the election and no photo identification is required. However, this bill would place the responsibility for voter registration in the hands of state government, specifically the Department of Transportation. Once an individual’s information is in the system, it could be shared with other state agencies, such as the Department of Revenue, the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Health, among others. It is unclear why those agencies would need to know if you are a registered voter or not.
Wisconsin must protect citizens from ObamacareApril 01, 2010When President Barack Obama signed a massive and costly government-run health care program into law, it set off a tidal wave of events across the nation and state. As Democrats rejoice in this takeover of the health care industry by the federal government, Republicans and independent-minded voters recognize this new act will dramatically increase the intrusion of the federal government into their lives and cause taxes to skyrocket to cover the costs. Typically, as a member of the state Legislature, I refrain from commenting on matters before the U.S. Congress. However, this “entitlement reform” law will adversely impact Wisconsin citizens, who are now demanding action by the state to intervene and object.
You’re invited: Conservation CongressMarch 25, 2010Each spring, delegates to the Conservation Congress along with the general public, meet in each of the 72 counties of the state to discuss natural resources and environmental issues. Since its creation in 1934, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress has provided Wisconsin citizens a local avenue for input and exchange concerning conversation issues.The Conservation Congress consists of citizens like you. The 360 elected delegates come from all corners of the state and every walk of life, and are instrumental in bringing innovation and common sense to natural resource management. The meetings focus on hunting, fishing, trapping, and a myriad of environmental issues facing the state.Every year the Conservation Congress meeting is held jointly with the Department of Natural Resources spring hearings. These hearings are your chance to voice your opinion about proposed hunting and fishing revisions and changes you would like to see. Those interested in fish and wildlife management issues should plan on attending the DNR Spring Fisheries & Wildlife Rules Hearing and Conservation Congress County Meeting. The 2010 meetings will be held in every county of the state on Monday, April 12, beginning at 7 p.m., and are open to the public. In our area, meetings will be held at the following locations:
Raising the bar on Natural Resources BoardMarch 11, 2010Most people can name Wisconsin’s governor. Many can name the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. But most likely, very few could name a single member of the Natural Resource Board, who are selected by the governor and control the policies of one of Wisconsin’s most influential state agencies.In 1967, the Conservation Department and the Department of Resource Development combined to become the Department of Natural Resources. During that time, the legislature created the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board to provide guidance to the department on various conservation and environmental issues. While there were boards and commissions advising on related policies before then, the present-day board now controls all such matters. The board is made up of seven individuals who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate to serve staggered, six-year terms. While members typically have some familiarity or background in natural resources matters, there are no specific requirements codified in state law, other than three members reside in the northern half of the state and three reside in the southern half of the state. One member serves at-large.