Friday, March 18, 2016

Open Records Request

On Tuesday, March 15, my office, along with other Legislative offices, received an open records request for media contacts as well as name and email data of people (constituents) who receive emails from my office. This request originated from Mr. Shae Sortwell.

Please keep in mind that all communications to public officials, including my office, are considered public records. If you have ever communicated with an Assembly or Senate office, please be aware that your communication and information are subject to public open records requests. 

If you have questions about this request, please feel free to call my office at (608) 266-9175.

Eden Elementary Recognized

I was pleased to attend the Department of Public Instruction's recognition ceremony this week for schools that have earned the 2015-16 Wisconsin Title I School of Recognition Award.

In the 59th Assembly District, Eden Elementary received this award, which recognizes schools that meet the following criteria:

Congratulations to Principal Melinda Myers and Eden Elementary faculty and staff for your outstanding performance last year. Keep up your great work educating our young people!

Local Artists Featured at the Capitol

Last week, the Wisconsin Art Education Association sponsored a student art display in the Capitol rotunda. While perusing the displays, I found some local artists featured! What a great job by talented local artists Ashley Krause from Kewaskum Middle School; Stephanie Goeser, Carolyne Roepke and Maxime Angot from New Holstein High School.




WACS Day at the Capitol

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Association of Christian Schools held their Day at the Capitol event. I was honored to speak to the group of approximately 100 students and parents about the legislative process and the role of a Christian legislator.


"Christmas Tree Bill" Passes Senate

This past week marked the official end of the 2015-16 legislative session as the Senate officially adjourned on Tuesday, March 15. One of the many bills passed by the Senate this past Tuesday was my bill to ensure that churches are free to display safe, well-watered and properly lit Christmas Trees in their sanctuaries in the future.

To read more about this bill, click here. The bill now awaits the Governor's signature before becoming law.

Voucher Program Op/Ed

Please take a moment to read my most recent editorial on the state voucher program, and the caution that must be exercised by private and parochial institutions when considering participation in the program.

Breaking News: “Wisconsin legislators pass a bill requiring private and parochial schools accepting voucher payments to abide by open records and open meetings laws.” Does this statement shock you? While this has not become law, there is a very real possibility that this could be law a decade from now. Let me explain. Early last year, many private and parochial schools were pushing for a statewide voucher program. After all, this would be the greatest thing since sliced bread, right? Free money! Fortunately, not every parochial and private school board and principal sees it this way. Yes, I did vote for the voucher program via the 2015-17 state budget; it was the right thing to do. Low-income parents – parents who, previously, had zero ability to pay for a parochial or private school education – now have the opportunity to choose a school where their children can thrive. A word of caution though, the political winds will eventually shift in Wisconsin and program rules will change. Need proof? How about this real life anecdote - during one of our last Assembly floor sessions in February, Democrats attempted to bring a bill to the floor for a vote that would have required any school in the choice program to abide by open meetings and open records laws, thereby opening every Christian, choice school and their policies to public scrutiny.  

During recent CESA 6 meetings with area public school superintendents and school board members there was dissent over the requirement that public school districts transport voucher kids and provide special education resources. Truth be told, I can envision a day when legislation will rear its ugly head requiring voucher schools that receive state transportation aid get their own kids to school and fund their own special education programs (even though special education dollars are allocated from the federal government to run the program). And what about the trending requirement that public schools provide changing rooms for kids who identify as the opposite sex? What about the sex education curriculum? When will creationism be challenged by the requirement to also teach evolution? How about Bible study, discussions of sin and societal ills in a Christian school? Prayer in school? And what kids will be required to attend religion class? I can guarantee that no voucher school will be safe from these mandates, intense scrutiny and oversight. Activist courts have already bastardized the First Amendment; thus, I don't believe the Supreme Court would stand in the way of a law prohibiting prayer in publicly funded parochial schools if voucher students are present. Consider the following excerpt from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) convention resolution in 1967: "…1) avoid any aid that would hinder our Christian schools from carrying out their objectives, 2) avoid any aid that would lead to dependency upon the government and would undermine our Christian stewardship, 3) avoid any aid that would bring with it improper government control…”  

While the choice program is an excellent outreach tool and a truly useful welfare program, it will be evolving for years to come and must be utilized with extreme caution. I urge any school considering participation in the voucher program to set defined limits and remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch - there must be an exit strategy.

Upcoming Listening Sessions

On April 9, I will be in various locations throughout the District. While the itinerary is still being finalized, please watch for next week's e-update in which I will list the times and locations of each listening session.

If you have any questions to submit beforehand, please email me at, or call the office at (608) 266-9175 so that I can come prepared to address your specific concern.

IRIS/FamilyCare Updates

In the 2015-17 budget (2015 WI Act 55), the legislature directed the Department of Health Services (DHS) to develop a plan for redesigned IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct) and FamilyCare programs. Redesigning these programs will ensure that IRIS and FamilyCare remain sustainable, while at the same time maintaining key components such as self-direction and independence.

DHS recently released a draft concept paper for FamilyCare/IRIS 2.0. To read the paper, click here.

Among the changes directed by the legislature were an expansion of FamilyCare statewide and a transition to a model that coordinates all of an individual's care needs. DHS hosted two public hearings on this new plan on March 7 in Eau Claire and Madison. To sign up for email notifications about changes to the program, click here. DHS will draft a final report that will then be submitted to the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) by April 1 for review.

Questions? Concerns?

As always, please continue to contact me with any questions or concerns. I received many constituent contacts last year- nearly 1,500 emails, phone calls and letters! Thank you for all your input, thoughts and encouragement. It is an honor to serve you.



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To Contact Me:

State Capitol, Room 17 West
P.O. Box 8952, Madison, WI 53708
Phone: (608) 266-9175
Fax: (608) 282-3659