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Keeping Promises in Madison
Last week, the Republican led legislature and I passed a balanced budget, complete with a permanent property tax cap, became history along with collective bargaining reform.  The best budget in 15 years, fiscal sanity and historic conservative victories … that’s a tough week to follow.
 
We promised that part of our agenda would be rooting out fraud, waste and abuse, and a major step toward that goal came this week.  The governor’s Waste, Fraud and Abuse commission unveiled a preliminary report that finds $260 million in potential savings – that’s no chump change, even though the Democrats would no doubt prefer $260 million in tax hikes to just pay for it.
 
Also this week, we unveiled a proposal to fulfill another constitutional responsibility: reapportionment of the congressional and legislative districts.  This proposal will make its way through the Legislature like any other bill, in an open and publicly accessible process.  The Democrats and their high-priced lawyers are already licking their chops to file a lawsuit … it’s increasingly disappointing that Republicans seem to be the only ones in the Capitol who take our constitutional duties seriously.
 
Unfortunately, it feels more and more like the day they fled the state, the Democrats shifted their focus from moving Wisconsin forward, to their own political gain.  This permanent campaign-and-litigation cycle isn’t good for Wisconsin, but the Democrats are putting all their eggs into that basket – fight, bicker and throw mud at every opportunity, whether or not it’s good for the state as a whole.
 
Keeping promises, fulfilling responsibilities and getting Wisconsin back on track… that’s my agenda for Madison.
 
WisBusiness: Business Leaders Laud Budget
On Tuesday, WisBusiness.com posted a long, laudatory profile of the Republican budget from the perspective of Wisconsin’s business leaders.  Excerpts:
 
“Wisconsin business leaders say they're extremely pleased with most of the $66 billion two-year budget bill now signed into law, with one calling the changes in the first six months of Gov. Scott Walker's term ‘truly remarkable.’”

“[B]usiness leaders appear overwhelmingly in favor of Walker's moves.”

“But his greatest praise was for passage of a balanced budget without raising taxes. “

“[T]he balanced budget contrasts Wisconsin ‘very nicely’ with the neighboring states of Illinois, which has raised taxes, and proposed tax hikes in Minnesota.”
June Report:- Small Job Gains, High Unemployment
President Obama’s economic policies are failing to ignite job growth.  Today’s national labor report shows that hiring came to a near stand still in June with only 18,000 new jobs created.  The unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent, the third consecutive increase in the past three months and the highest it has been in 2011.  This is the fewest number of jobs gained in nine months. 
 
The U-6, the measure of those out of work, no longer looking for work or underemployed, also rose from 15.8 percent to 16.2 percent.
 
To make matters even worse, May’s job numbers have been revised from the initial estimated increase of 54,000 to 25,000. 
 
“Today’s shocking jobs report represents a modern record of 29 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent, and falls on the 800th day since congressional Democrats have passed a budget. This report is more proof that job creation in America is nowhere near where it needs to be for a strong recovery to occur, and that immediate action is needed to change course.” – Column by Rep. Paul Ryan, Senator Jeff Sessions: Jobs and the Punting of Responsibility
Wall Street Journal: Jobs data dim recovery hopes
Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment situation summary
 
Unemployment Insurance Extension Teed Up
On Monday, Sen. Wanggaard has scheduled a committee hearing on a bill to extend unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks, as has been done in an overwhelming majority of states.
 
The bill, Senate Bill 147, changes the “trigger” for extended unemployment, from a two-year look-back to three years, allowing beneficiaries to qualify for 13 additional weeks of extended unemployment dating back to April, 2011.  The extended benefits are 100% federally funded, and will not add to the state’s existing unemployment fund debt.
 
This legislation is the product of recommendations from the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council, which provides guidance to the Legislature on unemployment insurance legislation. It captures $89 million in federal funds and will provide benefits for approximately 10,000 Wisconsin families.
 
The Senate Committee on Labor, Public Safety and Urban Affairs and the Assembly Committee on Labor and Workforce Development will hold a joint hearing on Monday, July 11th, at 10:00am in Room 412 East of the State Capitol. A vote in the Senate Committee will be held immediately following the hearing.
 
The bill will likely be voted on by the full Legislature during the July Extraordinary Session.
 
Please contact the Fitzgerald office for additional information.
 
Reapportionment Plan Unveiled
Friday afteroon, the legislature unveiled new proposals to redraw the state’s legislative district maps, as required by the state constitution following the decennial census.
 
In brief:
Ø      Required: Wisconsin gained more than 300,000 residents since 2000, and the state Constitution requires new maps after every Census.
Ø      Legal: The reapportioned districts reflects the constitutional principle of “one person, one vote,” with compact, contiguous districts that preserve communities of interest.  The proposed legislation meets all the statutory and constitutional requirements for reapportionment.
Ø      Timely: At least 20 other states are already further along than Wisconsin in this process, including all of our surrounding states.   Eight states already have new reapportionment signed into law.
Ø      Court Challenge: The Democrats have shown this session that they will take just about anything to court when they can’t stop it in the Legislature: the budget repair bill, photo ID, recall petitions, etc.  A legal challenge, no matter how spurious, is likely.  That’s why the Republicans retained legal counsel at the onset, to advise the process to ensure that the districts are  is fully compliant with every legal requirement.
o       In 2002, taxpayers were on the hook for more than $2 million in attorney fees because of court challenges.  These districts aim to avoid that unnecessary cost.
Ø      Prior Sessions: For a full rundown of the legislative process in every decade since the 1950s, see the LRB memo from July, 2010 linked here: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lrb/pubs/im/10im4.pdf
o       PARTISANSHIP IN 1983... In 1982, A Democratic-controlled legislature and a Republican governor were unable to agree on a legislative plan, so a 3-judge federal panel in June 1982 promulgated a legislative reapportionment plan.  BUT, that election gave the Democrats control of the Assembly, Senate and governor's office.  So in July 1983, the Democrats introduced a NEW proposal for NEW districts on July 11, which was passed three days later and signed into law the following day on July 15. (1983 Wisconsin Act 29).  That new reapportionment superseded the old version, which was already in place and used for the 1982 election.  
 
The reapportionment proposal will go through the Legislature like any other bill, beginning with a likely committee hearing this coming week.  The Legislature will meet in extraordinary session in July.
 
Waste, Fraud and Abuse Commission Finds $260M Potential Savings
This week, Gov. Walker’s commission on wasteful spending found an incredible $262 million in possible savings.  Savings were largely found in the public assistance programs ($177 million) as well as state agency overtime, state contracting and procurement, and roundabouts.
 
The committee is likely to issue specific proposals including audits and inspector generals in some programs, tighter eligibility certification standards in some cases, and photo IDs on Quest cards.
 
The report relied heavily on public comments and discussions with government employees. 
 
At this point, the recommendations by the Committee are still preliminary, and a final report will identify final recommendations and savings estimates.  The Commission is planning to meet with each agency to discuss their waste, fraud, and abuse ideas. 
 
The Governor convened the committee in January with the goal of rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in government and finding increased efficiencies that will benefit taxpayers. 
 
Fraud, waste and abuse is a major component of the Republican agenda, and this committee’s report is a major step toward the goal of eliminating taxpayer waste, improving accountability and service.
Read the full report here.   
Related: DCF. Child care provider sentenced for fraud.
Related: USA Today. Regulators combat unemployment insurance waste and fraud.
 
Personal Protection Act Becomes Law
Governor Walker signed my concealed carry law Friday.  Here is an updated Leg Council memo of frequently asked questions about the Act. 
Ø      The act will take effect on the first day of the fourth month beginning after publication, except that the following provisions take effect on the day after publication: 
Ø      Changes to the disorderly conduct statutes;
Ø      Requirement that DOJ promulgate rules regarding what states issue authorizations to carry firearms that will be recognized as out-of-state licenses in Wisconsin
Ø      Requirement that DOJ and law enforcement agencies design certification cards for former law enforcement officers;
Ø      Requirements that DOJ design the license document and create license application forms. In addition, as noted above, DOJ must issue or deny a license within 45 days of receiving a complete application if the application is received after the day after publication of the legislation but before the first day of the fifth month beginning after that date.
 
Local Governments Put “Tools” to Work
Local governments are already taking advantage of the tools provided to them through collective bargaining reforms.  The use of jail inmates to do work previously done by state employees is becoming a viable cost-saver. 
 
In Racine County, the County Jail is outsourcing landscaping, painting, and snow-shoveling jobs to inmates – a practice previously prohibited by union contracts. 
 
While some see this innovative approach as a “disturbing trend,” Racine County Executive, Jim Ladwig, sees the use of inmates as a wine-win.  “It gives them a sense of value they are helping the community, and at the same time it will help the county maintain property that has been neglected,” said Ladwig. 
 
Governor Walker Signs Two More Bills into Law
Governor Walker signed the following bills into law this week:
 
Senate Bill 41: (Lazich) – SB 41 will make our shipping market more balanced and also protect the public from unsecure cargo.  The law prohibits contracts from requiring the motor carrier to indemnify the shipper from liability arising from the negligence or intentional acts of the shipper. It also nullifies any such provisions included in existing contracts.  
 
Senate Bill 81: (Lasee) – SB 81 expands utility companies’ ability to meet the RPS which is effective on December 31, 2015. Under the RPS, an electric utility is required to provide at least two percent more of their electricity from renewable resources in 2011 than in 2010 and at least six percent more in 2015.
 
The bill expands the definition of hydroelectric facilities that are eligible to count towards compliance with the RPS. The expansion includes hydroelectric facilities that meet the following criteria:
 
It has a capacity of 60 megawatts or more (defined as large).
It was placed in service on or after December 31, 2010.
 
Making the effective date of the bill December 15, 2015, allows for the construction of new large hydroelectric facilities and gives electric providers the opportunity to meet the standard while pursuing other types of renewable energy.
 
Around the Country
Reuters: State-by-State Obesity (spoiler alert… we’re getting fatter)
 
In Case You Missed It
Forestry Committee Update
The Department of Natural Resources announced today that it will be ceasing forest tree and shrub seedling production at its Hayward Nursery, Hayward, and consolidating those operations in the state’s two southern nurseries, the Griffith Nursery at Wisconsin Rapids and the Wilson Nursery at Boscobel, beginning in 2013.
 
The Hayward Nursery will continue to sell seedlings until all current stock is gone, a process that is expected to be completed in 2013. No new trees are expected to be seeded at Hayward and plans are being developed for repurposing the Hayward facility. Originally a federal tree nursery, Wisconsin took possession and has operated the Hayward facility since 1944.
 
The agency was not selling off the facility or its equipment. If demand for products produced within the state nursery system were to increase, the Hayward nursery could be put back into the seedling business quickly. The department is also willing to consider partnerships and discuss private utilization of the facility for seedling production.
 
Annual demand for seedlings dropped from 12 million per year to the current 7 million.
Seedlings produced at the state run nurseries are used for reforestation (replanting of areas currently in forest) and afforestation (converting nonforest areas to forest). Recent statewide forest inventories show Wisconsin has 16.7 million acres of forest or approximately 46 percent of the state’s land area.
Natural Resources Committee Update
Wisconsin wildlife officials have communicated guarded support to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS) over recent federal efforts to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list in the Great Lakes States.
 
“We support the delisting, but we have concerns as to whether the Fish and Wildlife Service is using the newest and best available science to support the delisting,” said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. “We have a lot at stake here and we are counting on the service to put the best and most defensible delisting rule forward. We hope they will take our comments seriously as they publish their final rule.”
 
In its most recent delisting proposal, the USFWS includes genetic findings suggesting that two species of wolves, the gray wolf and eastern wolf, may inhabit the Great Lakes States of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. But there is considerable scientific debate questioning whether the eastern wolf is a separate species or just a subspecies, and there is no field evidence of a separate population of eastern wolves living within the Western Great Lakes Region.
 
DNR feels that wolves in the western Great Lakes Region, as supported by most of the science, act and behave as a single species. DNR therefore insists wolves need to be delisted as a single species in the region as they were when originally listed under the endangered species act more than 30 years ago.
 
“The USFWS knows that genetically, we have the same wolves here today as we did when they were first listed,” said Stepp. “We also know that our wolf population estimates are solid.”
 
Stepp also noted that Wisconsin’s wolf plan and goals are peer reviewed and are supported by the public.
 
“We have exceeded our delisting goal eight times over. It is time to return management to Wisconsin,” said Stepp.
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