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Legislators at Work

The Time is Now to Help

Reaching a goal to help

November 04, 2010
I am very happy to announce we have met the S.M. Fall 2010 $10,000 Matching Grant for a total of $20,000. Thank you for your generosity and compassion for your fellow Americans in desperate need. Next week we will show where every penny of the $20,000 was spent. I would like to share with you a story of how one family's life was affected by The Time Is Now To Help. We have been helping our fellow creations for more than 20 years. In these years we have helped numerous people living in poverty, struggling with disabilities or illness. We do not often know the positive impact we have had on these individuals over the long term. The following story is a long lasting positive impact we helped make. A young mother was struggling through a difficult pregnancy. The responsibility of this child was too much for the father. He left with no regard for the mother or unborn child. The doctors told the mother, she would not carry the child to full term, there were too many complications. They told her the baby would most likely die during delivery or immediately after. If the baby did not die he would most likely have multiple disabilities. She was already full of love for the child that grew within her. The mother told the doctor and nurses, who were discouraging, that she was praying constantly for God's intervention.

Throw train under the bus

November 04, 2010
In this day and age, whether we like it or not, the automobile is king. There are more than 3.7 million licensed drivers in Wisconsin, each who enjoy the convenience, ease of travel, and freedom provided by their vehicle. While owning a vehicle is perhaps considered a liability due the cost associated with it, the ability to move freely and at your own will is certainly an asset. Over the last year, a great deal of attention has been paid to Wisconsin's transportation wants and needs, at all levels of government. Most notably, the discussion — and potential construction — of a commuter rail line between Madison and Milwaukee. For years, supporters of such a rail line have spoken at great length about the benefits of a rail system, while at the same time, chided those who believe a single-line, medium speed train will never replace the automobile. This debate has culminated into an agreement between the Jim Doyle and Barack Obama administrations to build a rail line regardless of cost, and irrespective of public opinion.

Recent Legislators at Work
Maybe they didn’t get the memo
October 14, 2010
Even though the next governor will not unveil his proposed state budget until sometime in February, budget and finance officials in every state agency have already begun submitting their budget wish list. Keep in mind, Wisconsin will have a new governor in January, and certainly, whoever ends up in the Executive office will have their own ideas and perspective of the size and scope of state spending. Unfortunately, as Gov. Jim Doyle leaves office, he also leaves the state with yet another multibillion dollar budget deficit, which must be dealt with by the next governor and Legislature. I believe the upcoming budget cycle may be one of the most challenging, as these runaway deficits must come to an end. That means additional cuts will be in order, and very few — if any — state programs or agencies will be spared from the budget chopping block. Earlier this summer, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau issued a dire memo to lawmakers regarding the state’s current and projected financial status, one which members on both sides of the aisle should take to heart. The Bureau anticipates a budget deficit of $2.5 billion on day one next year, with the potential for that number to go higher, depending on consumer spending and other economic trends. No matter how it’s read, the news is not good. But looking at the recent budget requests made by a number of state agencies, I don’t believe they got that memo.
Fire prevention: The life you save could be your own
October 07, 2010
As a former volunteer firefighter, I have seen homes, businesses, memories, and dreams go up in smoke. Each year, thousands of people die in fires across the nation — more than all natural disasters combined. Most of those deaths, 83 percent in fact, occur at home.But there are strategies you can use in your home to keep your families safe. Some of those tips are highlighted in National Fire Safety Week observances nationwide.This year, Oct. 3 through 9 is National Fire Prevention Week. Fire Prevention week was established to commemorate the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire and the Peshtigo Fire, both of which occurred on Oct. 9, 1871. Although the Chicago Fire is the most famous fire on that day, the Peshtigo Fire was larger and more devastating. That blaze roared through Northeast Wisconsin, burning 16 towns, killing 1,152 people, and scorching 1.2 million acres before it was done.
How’s your economic recovery going?
September 30, 2010
For some time now, many Wisconsin residents have found themselves in a precarious position of trying to keep their head above water in what has been one of the most turbulent of economic times. Since the collapse of the financial and housing markets, people of all income levels have had to reevaluate and reprioritize both their spending habits and their varied sources of income. Unfortunately, state and federal government has not done likewise, only creating more anxiety for businesses and families.Recently, a report was issued by economists with the National Association for Business Economics which stated the recession — which began in December 2007 — ended approximately 14 months ago, and the expansion has already begun. While technically the figures offered in the report may be accurate, the fact remains many individuals are not feeling any relief from that news. The unemployment rate in Wisconsin is holding steady for now, but is still hovering at about 8 percent. Two years ago, that number was about half what it is now. Consumer spending is stagnate and household incomes are relatively flat, though a slight increase may be occurring.The bottom line is that Wisconsin, like most other states, continues to scratch and claw its way out of this economic hole, but the pace is much slower than most can afford. The projections, at this point in time, are that recovery will pick up in 2011 through 2013, but it may be difficult for some to hold on and actually realize any new resurgence. These are tense times and much of those predictions may or may not factor in the impact of more taxes and spending from state government.
Environmental education key to protection
September 23, 2010
Wisconsin is home to 11,188 square miles of water, 99 state parks and 42 state recreational trails which total more than 1,700 miles. It is easy to see why people flock to our state during their vacations to enjoy the nature that surrounds us. Knowledge about those resources is key to preserving the health and vitality of our natural surroundings. It is also important this knowledge be passed along to future generations in order to maintain our strong environmental consciousness. To that end, the Legislature created the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board, or WEEB, in 1990 to foster environmental education. As a member of the Board for more than 11 years, I share that intent and goal to offer such educational opportunities to citizens young and old. The Board defines environmental education as “a lifelong learning process.” It is important this process start at an early age and continues throughout our lives.
It’s harvest time in Wisconsin
September 16, 2010
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. If this is true, Wisconsinites have plenty of opportunities to avoid the doctor this fall. Fall is harvest season and everywhere you look there is an orchard with a stand selling everything from fresh produce to homemade pies. Apples are just one of the many agricultural crops Wisconsin specializes in. Corn, soybeans, potatoes and cranberries also rank in Wisconsin’s top 10 commodities. In our area of the state, agriculture continues to be an integral part of the landscape, both figuratively and literally. There are more than 3,100 farms in the counties of Jefferson, Kenosha, Walworth and Waukesha — counties making up the 11th Senate District.
End of summer, not end of things to do
September 02, 2010
When the calendar page is turned to September, I often feel as though summer has passed too quickly. If you are lamenting the fact that you have not had much vacation time this summer, there are still many fun, exciting and inexpensive places to explore during the autumn months. Tourism in Wisconsin is big business, generating more than $12 billion in revenue last year, with nearly $3 billion coming in during the Fall. Our area of the state consistently ranks as one of the top destination stops for visitors from near and far, and I would like to offer just a few ideas of things to do and places to see right in your own backyard for your “stay-cation.”A must see on Geneva Lake is the U.S. Mailboat Tour, which provides a scenic tour of one of Wisconsin’s most beautiful lakes. It is one of the few places left in America where mail is still delivered by boat on a daily basis from June 15 through Sept. 5. Marine mail tradition began on the lake in 1870. The Walworth, departs promptly for mail delivery at 10 a.m. every day of the week, including Sunday when they deliver the newspaper, to about 60 homes around the lake.
Wisconsin’s ‘No Call’ list includes cell phones
August 19, 2010
Enjoying the absence of unwanted phone calls during dinner time? Be sure to re-register before Sept. 1, to continue the silence. Those not yet on Wisconsin’s “no call list” can join the growing number of people across the state that have experienced a decrease in unwanted telemarketer calls since it went into effect Jan. 1, 2003. Since June 6, 2008, cell phone numbers are also eligible for the list. The Wisconsin “No Call” list is a catalog of telephone numbers of Wisconsin residents who do not want to receive calls from telemarketers. There are currently more than 2.1 million households registered in Wisconsin, and approximately 43 percent are cell phone numbers. Residents can call or sign up on line, prohibiting telemarketers from calling their phone numbers that have been added to the list, with some exceptions. Charities and survey or polling calls are exempt from the law, although if a charity or survey caller tries to sell a product, they are in violation of the law and a complaint should be filed. Also exempt are calls from companies with whom you currently do business, such as banks, phone companies, and credit card companies, though those companies may not call to sell you new products or services. Calls made in response to your written or verbal request or permission are also exempt.
Wisconsin trails: Pathway to the great outdoors
August 12, 2010
Take a hike.Wisconsin has always been known as a getaway destination due to its abundance of pristine lakes, rivers, parks and nature trails. Trails in Wisconsin offer something for every outdoor enthusiast in all seasons, and my favorite is hiking. Hiking can incorporate all of your family at all fitness levels. It is also good exercise while enjoying the natural beauty Wisconsin has to offer. Whether it be hiking, biking, running or riding, Wisconsin’s 42 trails, totaling more than 3,060 miles will lead you to recreation and relaxation in the great outdoors.In 2007, Wisconsin Act 35 was created, which named the Wisconsin State Trail System the “Aldo Leopold Legacy Trail System” after the renowned scientist, author and former conservation professor at the University of Wisconsin. It gave me great pride to co-author the Act, as it will preserve Leopold’s legacy by allowing hikers, bikers and skiers to experience Wisconsin’s vast natural resources and understand his message of conservation and land ethic.
Wisconsin’s Purple Heart Day
August 05, 2010
The Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration in the world in current use and the first American award made available to the common soldier. It was initially created 228 years ago, as the “Badge of Military Merit” by one of the world’s most celebrated heroes — Gen. George Washington. It originally was a purple cloth heart edged in silver braid, and was to be worn over the left breast of the uniform. The award was revived as a purple medal with George Washington’s likeness as the center piece and renamed the “Purple Heart” in 1932 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the birthday of General Washington. This change was made by one-time Wisconsin resident, Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Purple Heart Day is celebrated on Aug. 7 of each year.The Purple Heart is awarded to members of our armed forces who are wounded or killed in the line of duty. In fact, while serving in Europe during World War II, my father was injured by shrapnel from a Panzer tank and was subsequently awarded the Purple Heart. In turn, it gave me great pride to lend my support to establish this day here in Wisconsin.
Court shuts lid on cookie jar
July 29, 2010
Recently, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled an action by the Doyle Administration to raid $200 million from the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund to help balance the state budget was unconstitutional and a taking of private property without just compensation. Under the ruling, the state will be ordered to repay the money, plus lost earnings and interest. The Governor orchestrated this raid In the 2007-09 state budget, which was eventually approved by the Legislature. However, each of my Senate Republican colleagues and I voted against the budget and the raid, warning of this outcome. The Patients Compensation Fund was established in 1975 to minimize the impact of lawsuit-related insurance costs. Physicians, hospitals, and other health care professionals pay into the fund in order to keep the cost of malpractice insurance in check, as well as assist in the payment of medical malpractice claims. A study by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau found the multimillion dollar raid could create a deficit in the account and result in significant increases in medical liability insurance premiums, adding to the cost of medical care. According to the Wisconsin Medical Society, which initiated the legal challenge, fees charged to doctors increased 9.9 percent last year. While this is one example of a raid of a segregated fund, it is only one of many such accounts that have been pilfered in recent budgets and used for unrelated state expenditures. Perhaps the most egregious to date is the $1.3 billion taken from the Transportation Fund and shifted to the General Fund. That raid has resulted in higher vehicle registration and license fees for Wisconsin motorists, and of course, a huge deficit in funding transportation projects.
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