Updates from the State Senate - May 23, 2017

 

 

Robert Cowles

 

Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District

 

 

   

 

 

 

Banner Photo

 

The banner photo on the top of this E-Newsletter was taken just before sunset at the Brown County Veteran's Memorial in Ashwaubenon. With Memorial Day approaching, it is important to remember and honor those who have served and those who sacrificed their lives for our safety and freedom.

 

Quick Fact

 

Towards the end of May, 1673, Marquette and Joliet landed on the banks of modern day Green Bay to become the first European explorers to reach Northeast Wisconsin.

 

Helpful Links

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Release of WEDC and King Veterans Home Audits

 

As Co-Chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, I work with my fellow legislative members on this committee to root out waste, fraud, and abuse in our government. Over the past three weeks, two audits have been released.

 

The first audit is Phase 1 of an audit of the King Veterans Home managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This phase of the evaluation (report 17-8) focused on Kingís revenues, expenditures, and capital projects. The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureauís analyses of resident care needs, compliance with regulatory requirements, complaints, and staffing will be completed in the second phase of the evaluation.

 

In 2016, King provided skilled nursing care to an average of 685 veterans and their spouses per day. Operating expenditures for King increased from $68.8 million in fiscal year (FY) 2011-12 to $76.7 million in FY 2015-16. During this same period, King generated operating revenue of more than $8.0 million in excess of its expenditures each year. At the end of FY 2015-16, the cash balance in Kingís institutional operations account totaled $35.2 million. LAB found that DVA has not established a formal plan for the use of Kingís cash balance, and it recommended DVA do so.

 

I am encouraged that they apparently already have funds that can be utilized to fix several concerns raised regarding the facility. I feel it is critical that DVA develop a robust plan to expend the balance on improving the King facility and its care for veterans. Additionally, I want to see the next phase of the audit to dive further in detail about how we can achieve better outcomes for our veterans at King.

 

To read more about Phase 1 of the King Veterans Home audit, click on the link above to the audit or read this story from Wisconsin Public Radio.

 

The second audit was the third biennial review (report 17-9) of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). LAB reviewed 133 awards WEDC made and found WEDC improved its administration of grant, loan, and tax credit programs during the first six months of FY 2016-17.

 

LAB also found WEDC did not contractually require grant and loan recipients to submit information that included sufficient detail to allow WEDC to determine the extent to which jobs were actually created or retained. WEDC did not collect sufficiently detailed information from tax credit recipients about their existing employees and did not annually verify jobs-related information submitted by recipients, as required by statute, on the extent to which contractually required results were achieved. LAB reports that, for these reasons, WEDC cannot be certain about the numbers of jobs created or retained as a result of its awards.

 

A cloud will continue to remain over the agency until they can accurately verify data being received from award recipients. While WEDC has significantly improved in several areas relating to the administration of its programs, Wisconsin needs to have a precise understanding as to which programs are most beneficial to our economy.

 

To read more about the WEDC audit, click on the link above to the audit or read this story from the Wisconsin State Journal.

 

Two Bills Pass the Senate Floor

 
On Wednesday, May 10th, the Senate was in-session, and two bills I authored were on the floor.

 

The first was 2017 Senate Bill 85. This bill dictates four recommendations from the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureauís Report 17-2 on the State Highway Program into legislation. The bill requires the Department of Transportation to include all associated costs with major highway projects in enumeration, include the cost estimate at enumeration in its semiannual reports, regularly report information on the ongoing costs to the legislature, and consider a cost-benefit analysis before undertaking a proposed major highway project. This is a shining example of an audit being put into action, with accountability and transparency being strengthened in our government. This bill was passed on a voice vote, and is available for scheduling in the Assembly.

 

Another bill of mine that saw progress during the Senate Floor Session was 2017 Senate Bill 58 which returns local control over police K-9ís to the handlers. This bill works to eliminate the state mandate that a K-9 officer is taken out of duty for ten days each time the dog bites a suspect. While the bill still requires veterinary inspections and care, it eliminates the burden on law enforcement of losing a valuable crime fighting tool while trusting that the handlers of the K-9 officer know that dog best. This bill also passed on a voice vote, and now is on the Governorís desk to for his signature to make this bill a law.
 

Thanking My Spring Interns

 

If you have called or visited my office in the past few months, you may have spoken with one of my interns. Last week, we were sad to say goodbye to our spring academic semester interns Jenna and Brett, both UW-Madison students. Thank you to both of them, and best of luck in your future endeavors.
 

  

 

Working to Stop Child Neglect

 

On Wednesday, May 17th, I went live on Facebook during a press conference from the Senate Parlor to announce a bill to combat child neglect in Wisconsin. This bill was drafted through a combined effort between Representative Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago), Attorney General Brad Schimel, a wide variety of stakeholders and myself to define clearer criminal statutes and penalties. In 2015, 3,282 reported cases of child neglect were substantiated, accounting for 62.2% of all substantiated cases of maltreatment. Over the last 10 years, 214 children have died as a result of maltreatment, including two in my Senate district in 2015 alone. Still, child neglect is often an overlooked and misunderstood crime.

 

Children who are subject to neglect are at an increased risk for future emotional or behavioral problems, and their development, including their classroom performance, will likely suffer. I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues to move this piece of legislation forward to protect Wisconsinís most crucial resource: our children. To learn more about this issue by the numbers, click on the tweet below to view a series of important statistics on child neglect.
 

 

Alice in Dairyland Competition Comes to Green Bay

 
Alice in Dairyland is Wisconsinís official Agricultural Ambassador program run by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. Each year, a new ĎAliceí is selected to serve for one-year as a full-time professional, which includes traveling more than 40,000 miles to promote our agricultural industry through media interviews, speeches and school presentations.

 

On May 13th, I was happy to attend to see a field of qualified candidates come to Lambeau Field in hopes of becoming the next Alice. In the end, Crystal Siemers-Peterman of Cleveland was crowned Wisconsinís 70th Alice in Dairyland. Thank you to the outgoing Alice in Dairyland Ambassador Ann OíLeary of Evansville, and welcome to the new Alice in Dairyland Ambassador.

 

Photo Credit: Alice in Dairyland Facebook Page

 

Thanks For Reading!

 

Feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns you may have,

and be sure to visit my website connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

Senator Robert Cowles

 

 

 

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882 | Office: 118 South, State Capitol

 
Office: (
608) 266-0484 | District: (920) 448-5092 | Sen.Cowles@legis.wisconsin.gov

 

     

 

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