Madison Office: 122 South, State Capitol  Phone: (608) 266-7745  E-mail: Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wi.gov
12/30/2013
Happy New Year!
Happy New Year to you and your family!  As we enter 2014, it is a good time to reflect on 2013 and look forward to the promise that the New Year brings.  I wish you a happy and healthy New Year!
12/23/2013
Merry Christmas!
Christmas is a special time to spend time with family and friends as we celebrate our traditions and remember the reason for the season.  May you and your loved ones be filled with peace, joy, and happiness.  Have a very blessed and Merry Christmas!
12/20/2013
Cold Weather Tips – Keep Warm and Safe
Many will be traveling around the state of Wisconsin this holiday season to visit family and friends.  It is important for Wisconsinites to prepare and be aware of hazardous traveling conditions as they take to the roads during the winter season.  In the last five years, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) says an average 50,000 motor vehicles crashed during the winter months due to roads covered in ice and snow. 
 
It is important to winterize your vehicles as much as possible before venturing out.  Other measures to ensure safety include keeping your gas tank near full and making sure your car’s battery is in good shape.  The DOT also suggests carrying a winter storm survival kit in the back seat of your car that includes blankets, a flashlight, a first-aid kit, a shovel, non-perishable food items, a cell phone charger, and sand or cat litter for tire traction.  Before finalizing your travel plans, be sure to check the DOT travel website or by calling 511.  For other winter driving tips in Wisconsin, visit ReadyWisconsin.wi.gov .
12/18/2013
Be Cautious of New Telemarketing Scams
The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) regularly updates its website with new consumer alerts to help prevent Wisconsinites from falling victim to scams.  Here are a couple of examples of recent scams that have been reported:
 
·         Unsolicited phone calls promise individuals with a $100 gift card to be used at a major retailer for the small price of paying a shipping and handling fee of $1.95.  If you turn your financial information or a credit card number over to representatives making fraudulent calls such as this, you may likely find your account charged for much more than $1.95.
·         Scammers impersonate utility companies and try to receive payments for fictitious utility bills.  An impersonator may try to pressure a utility customer by citing an outstanding debt and threatening service will be disconnected if the bill is not paid.  Please remember not to provide credit card numbers or banking information to any suspicious callers.  Additionally, beware of emails that appear authentic but ask for your financial information, social security number, driver’s license number, other account numbers, or passwords.     
 
Please click here for additional consumer alerts reported by DATCP.  To file a complaint with DATCP’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, please click here .  
12/13/2013
Tips for Saving Energy This Winter
The U.S. Department of Energy reports that the average family spends over $1,900 a year on electricity and other utilities and some of this can be saved by being mindful of the following energy saving tips for the cold winter months: 
 
·         Use Christmas decorations with LED lights.  Christmas decorations with LED lights use 90% less energy than standard Christmas lights.
·         Turn your thermostat down to account for times when no one is home or you are sleeping.
·         During the day, open curtains on any windows facing south to allow sunlight to naturally heat the room.  At night, close curtains to help reduce drafts or the chill from cold windows.
·         Seal any air leaks around windows, doors, plumbing, cupboards, closets, or chimneys.
·         Change the filter in your furnace once a month.
·         For additional tips on saving energy this winter, please click here .
 
Additionally, Focus on Energy programs help Wisconsin residents and businesses lower their energy consumption by making homes and businesses more energy efficient.  Since 2001, Focus on Energy has helped Wisconsin residents and businesses achieve over $730 million in energy savings.  To learn more about available Focus on Energy residential and business programs, please visit the Focus on Energy website
12/10/2013
Give the Gift of Life
The holiday season encourages service and giving back to one’s community.  As you start preparing gifts for your friends and loved ones, please remember that one of the most important gifts is the act of giving blood.
 
Blood donors are needed all year long, but this is an especially great time to embrace the spirit of the holiday season by donating blood.  Below is a listing of blood drive events taking place this season in the 10th Senate District.  For more information on these blood drives or on giving blood in general, please visit the Red Cross website at www.redcrossblood.org .
 
Date
Time
Location
Address
12-Dec
8am-7pm
National Guard Armory
1245 Wall St, New Richmond
16-Dec
2pm-7pm
Family Fresh Market
2351 Coulee Rd, Hudson
16-Dec
Noon-6pm
Anytime Fitness
1700 Stout St, Menomonie
17-Dec
8:45am-2:45pm
Baldwin Area Medical Center
730 10th Ave, Baldwin
19-Dec
10am-4pm
Mayo Clinic Health System
2321 Stout Rd, Menomonie
26-Dec
Noon-6pm
River Falls Library
140 Union St, River Falls
30-Dec
9am-3pm
Bethel Lutheran Church
920 3rd St, Hudson
3-Jan
2pm-7pm
Luck Lutheran Church
510 Foster Ave E, Luck
6-Jan
Noon-6pm
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
615 Maple St, Glenwood City
6-Jan
10am-3pm
Hudson Hospital and Clinics
405 Stageline Rd, Hudson
7-Jan
11:30am-5:30pm
Webster Community Center
7421 Main St W, Webster
 
12/9/2013
Aviation Poster Contest
Each year, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Bureau of Aeronautics coordinates an aviation poster contest for youth ages 6 through 17.  The Bureau is currently accepting entries for the 2014 state aviation art contest, which is themed “Flying Saves Lives.”  Submissions must be postmarked by January 17, 2014.  The top three entries in three age divisions will be awarded prizes and the winners’ artwork will advance to Washington D.C. to be judged in the national contest.  For more information, please click here
12/6/2013
2014 Senate Scholar Program Now Accepting Applications
The Senate Scholar Program has begun accepting applications for the 2014 program.  The Senate Scholar Program provides high school juniors and seniors a great opportunity to learn more about state government through an intensive week-long program that includes meetings with legislators, staff, legislative agencies, governor’s staff, a Supreme Court Justice, the media and lobbyists.  Students also have the chance to assist the Senate Sergeant’s staff during session days and end the week by drafting a bill and holding a mock hearing.
 
Three separate sessions will be held in 2014 on February 9-14, February 16-21, and March 9-14.  Applications must be received by January 3, 2014, and applicants will be selected and notified by mid-January.  For an application or more information on the program, please visit www.senatescholar.com or contact my office by calling (800) 862-1092 or (608) 866-7745 or email Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wi.gov .
12/6/2013
View Capitol Christmas Tree and Visit Executive Residence
If you will be visiting Madison in the coming weeks, you are encourage d to stop by the State Capitol to view this year’s Christmas tree, which has been beautifully decorated with ornaments made by school children from all across the state.  The State Capitol is open weekdays from 8:00 to 6:00 p.m. and weekends from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Free tours are offered daily and start at the information desk, which is on the ground level.  For more information on visiting the State Capitol, please click here .
 
Also, you may be interested in visiting the Governor’s Executive Residence for a guided tour during which time you will be able to hear a brief history of the Executive Residence and view rooms on the first floor with many uniquely decorated Christmas trees.
 
2013 Holiday Tour Schedule
·         Saturday, December 7:  9 a.m. – Noon
·         Wednesday, December 11:  Noon - 2 p.m.
·         Thursday, December 12:  Noon - 2 p.m.
·         Saturday, December 14:  9 a.m. - Noon
 
Governor’s Executive Residence
99 Cambridge Road
Madison, WI  53704
 
While tour admission is free, participants are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items and/or new or gently used winter coats, scarves, mittens, hats, earmuffs, snow pants, or sweaters to be donated to those in need.  Please note that groups of 20 or more must call ahead and make a reservation at 608-246-5501.
12/6/2013
Wisconsin Rail Plan Available for Review
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) is seeking public review and input on the Wisconsin Rail Plan 2030, which takes a comprehensive look at both freight and passenger railroad service and provides a vision for future rail networks.  The plan also identifies network issues, as well as recommendations to improve the railroad system in Wisconsin.
 
Public review on the final draft of the Wisconsin Rail Plan 2030 will continue through December 30th and is available online by clicking here .  You may call 608-266-8108 to register comments or send written comments to:
 
Wisconsin Rail Plan 2030
WisDOT Division of Transportation Investment Management
Bureau of Planning and Economic Development
PO Box 7913
Madison, WI 53707-7913
Fax: 608-267-0294
12/2/2013
New Driver’s License Available for Veterans
Starting December 2, 2013, veterans may request to have a special veteran designation when renewing their driver’s license or any state issued identification card.  The word “VETERAN” will be designated in red on eligible licenses or ID cards.  As businesses and organizations thank veterans for their service to our country, there are often special programs, discounts, or services available that require proof of eligibility and this designation will prove to be handy for veterans so they do not have to have other paperwork on hand. 
 
The State Legislature initiated the inclusion of this new veteran status on drivers’ licenses by passing legislation earlier this year that was signed into law by the Governor.   Any interested veteran should verify their eligibility by calling the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) at 1-800-WIS-VETS (947-8387) before applying for the new “VETERAN” designation.  Veterans are encouraged to start confirming their eligibility with WDVA as soon as possible.  After eligibility is confirmed and starting December 2nd, veterans may contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to apply for the new “VETERAN” designation.  In order to obtain the designation, veterans can renew their driver’s license early; however, please note that renewal fees still apply.  To locate your nearest DMV service center, please click here
11/28/2013
Happy Thanksgiving!
Our country has been celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday officially since 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War, proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”  About 250 years earlier and long before Thanksgiving became an official Federal holiday, it is recorded that Pilgrims celebrated and feasted with Native Americans to give thanks for their first harvest upon arriving in Plymouth. 
 
Today, Thanksgiving is still a special time of the year to take a moment to reflect on all we have to be thankful for and to count our many blessings as we spend time with family and friends.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!
11/27/2013
No Call List Deadline November 30
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) offers the No Call List, a free service that covers residential land and cell phone lines.  The next quarterly deadline to sign up is November 30th.  It is important to remember to renew your registration every two years to remain on the No Call List.
 
By adding your number to the list before the deadline, you will receive protection from unsolicited calls or text messages from telemarketers.  Please note that political calls, calls from non-profit organizations and calls made in response to a purchase or by request are not covered by the No Call List.
 
To add your residential landline, cell phone or VoIP number(s) to the No Call List, please click here to sign up or call 1-866-9NO-CALL (1-866-966-2255).  Also, you can find more information about the No Call program or file a consumer complaint by visiting the Consumer Protection website   here , by sending an e-mail to   datcphotline@wisconsin.gov ,   or by calling toll free at 1-800-422-7128
11/27/2013
Tips for Smart Shopping
With the busiest shopping days upon us, the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) provides the following tips to keep in mind as you shop:
 
·         When looking at store ads, pay attention to the price, not the discount.
·         Be sure to understand a store’s return and exchange policies before you make a purchase.  Retailers may have different policies in place for Black Friday purchases.
·         Be sure to keep your receipts.
·         Keep an eye on the register when checking out to ensure you are charged the advertised or sale price.
·         Make sure you understand the terms and conditions that accompany any deals in which you are interested.
·         If you find a pricing discrepancy and a store will not correct an error, you may file a pricing complaint with DATCP’s Measures Bureau by calling (608)224-4942, emailing datcphotline@wisconsin.gov , or online .
11/25/2013
DATCP Offers Workshop on Preserving Agricultural Lands Workshop December 12
The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) will be offering a workshop on December 12th for anyone interested in establishing an Agriculture Enterprise Area (AEA).  Landowners, local government officials and business owners are encouraged to attend.  AEAs are blocks of land designated to help preserve, expand and develop farms and other agricultural businesses.  Local governments, together with at least five local landowners, may petition DATCP for designation.  To register for the webinar workshop, please email Coreen Fallat at coreen.fallat@wi.gov or call 608.224.4625 for access information.
11/22/2013
DNR Launches New Outdoor Sporting App for Smartphones
With Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer hunting season opening this Saturday, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced the launch of a new mobile app for sportsmen and women compatible with iPhone and Android smartphones.
 
Although the launch is timed with the opening of deer hunting season, the app has comprehensive information relating to all outdoor sporting activities, including fishing, trapping, and wildlife viewing.   The app can be used to access a wide range of information, including hunting hours, sporting rules and regulations, and fish species identification.   The DNR has indicated that the app will be continuously updated with the latest information.
 
11/21/2013
Winter Heating Assistance Available
With winter and cold weather temperatures fast approaching, we are once again thinking about the need to budget for those winter heating bills.  The Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) provides financial assistance for heating and electric costs as well as energy crisis situations to qualifying residents.
   
Household eligibility for WHEAP is based on a number of factors, including household size, income, and energy costs.  In most cases, energy assistance payments are paid directly to the household energy provider, and applicants are advised to contact their energy provider.  Applicants must be able to provide photo identification, proof of citizenship or legal residence, and proof of residency.  Also needed in the application is evidence of prior heating costs and proof of income for the three months prior to the month of application. 
 
For more information and how to apply, visit homeenergyplus.wi.gov or call 1-866-432-8947.
11/20/2013
Growing Wisconsin Magazine Showcases Wisconsin Agriculture
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is presenting a color publication to connect readers with our state’s agricultural community.
 
This privately funded publication showcases Wisconsin’s diverse agricultural industry, which currently contributes nearly $60 billion to the state’s economy.  Growing Wisconsin includes stories about family-owned farms, local breweries and wineries, and Christmas tree farms.  Also featured is Wisconsin’s leading role in agricultural exports, technology and research. 
Magazines will be distributed throughout the state and will be free of charge.  You can also read the digital edition by going to www.wiagriculture.com .      
11/19/2013
Learn More about Broadband Today in Webinar
Given the increasingly important role broadband access has in our daily lives and in economic development, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) and the University of Wisconsin-Extension will be holding a broadband webinar on Tuesday, November 19th from 1:00-2:30 PM.  This webinar will help participants become more versed in broadband terminology, technology, strategies, and resources.  To RSVP for this event, please email wibroadband@uwex.edu.
11/18/2013
Bill to Increase Math and Science Credits Clears State Legislature
During the fall session the State Legislature passed a bill that will require students to take three credits of math and science instead of two to graduate from high school.  As manufacturing jobs become more technical, companies increasingly need employees who have a higher level of knowledge and skills.  This legislation takes another step towards preparing students for the workforce after graduation and closing the skills gap.  Learn more about this legislation at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2013/proposals/sb51 .  The bill now heads to the Governor for his signature.
11/15/2013
DATCP Seeking Applications for Next Alice in Dairyland
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is now accepting applications for the 67 th Alice in Dairyland, a position that includes traveling across Wisconsin to promote agriculture’s $60 billion industry.
 
Applicants should have extensive knowledge of Wisconsin agriculture and experience in communications and public speaking.  Other responsibilities include conducting media interviews with television, radio, and print publications, in addition to planning and executing various marketing strategies. 
 
Alice in Dairyland is a one year, full-time position.  Application materials and a short video detailing the selection process are available at http://datcp.wi.gov/news/?Id=948 For further information, contact Becky Paris at 608-224-5115 or at Rebecca.paris@wi.gov .
11/14/2013
Wisconsin Officially Designates Honor and Remember Flag
A resolution designating the Honor and Remember Flag as Wisconsin’s emblem of service and sacrifice by those in the United States Armed Forces who have given their lives in the line of duty received final approval by the State Legislature earlier this week.  The resolution was introduced by Senator Harsdorf and Representative John Murtha at the request of a number of constituents who have lost loved ones in military service to our country.
 
Those interested in the Honor and Remember Flag may visit www.honorandremember.org for more information or to request a flag.  One personalized flag is available at no financial cost to the family of every fallen service member.
11/13/2013
Winter Driving Reminders
With snow season right around the corner, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) would like to remind drivers to use extreme caution when driving in winter conditions.  During the cold weather months, drivers should follow precautions that will protect them and others on the road.  Also, driving during severe winter storms is discouraged and motorists are advised to wait until conditions improve.
 
Further tips to minimize the dangers of winter driving include:
 
· Follow state law and remember to wear your seat belt
· Avoid using cruise control in winter conditions
· Exercise caution on bridge decks as they are often slippery and ice can build up quickly
· Brake early to anticipate slippery conditions
· As required by law, remember to remain at least 200 feet from snowplows
 
For more information regarding winter driving conditions or DOT’s plans, projects, or public meetings, visit dot.wi.gov .
11/11/2013
Help Decorate the Capitol Christmas Tree
Each year, young people are invited to submit ornaments to help decorate the Capitol Christmas tree.  Governor Walker is again inviting youth from across the state to submit homemade ornaments.
 
With this year’s theme being “Wisconsin Traditions,” ornaments should reflect Wisconsin’s rich history, unique pastimes, and traditions that make our state such a wonderful place to live.  The deadline for submitting “Wisconsin Traditions” themed ornaments is Friday, November 22nd.  Ornaments can be sent to the Department of Administration at the address listed below.
 
Claire Franz
DOA/Division of Facilities Management
17 West Main Street, Suite 119
Madison, WI 53703
11/8/2013
November 11 – A Day to Honor our Veterans
Each year on November 11th we pay special tribute and honor the men and women who have served and are currently serving our country.  It is important to remember all those who have sacrificed and fought for our country so that we have the freedoms we enjoy.  While we take time on November 11th to honor our veterans, it is important to remember and thank them for their contributions throughout the year.

The historical significance of November 11th comes from the end of World War I, when the treaty to end “The Great War” went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  November 11th was officially named Veterans Day in 1954 and is a time for Americans to reflect upon the service of military personnel who have fought in all American conflicts.

I encourage you to take time to attend a Veterans Day event in your community. 
11/7/2013
Apprenticeship Bills Pass State Legislature
Two bills seeking to spur apprenticeship opportunities through private-public partnerships passed both the State Senate and State Assembly this week.  These bills are part of the ongoing efforts by the State Legislature to bolster workforce development and address the skills gap.  Senate Bill 336 provides additional funding for the Youth Apprenticeship program, which matches high school students with employers to provide on-the-job training and technical college-level instruction, allowing more students to benefit from this proven program.  Senate Bill 335 creates an apprenticeship completion award for those participating in the Wisconsin Apprenticeship program.  Those eligible are able to receive an award upon completion of the program equal to 25% of the cost of tuition and fees, up to $1,000. 
 
Please click here for additional information on Senate Bill 335 and here for Senate Bill 336.
11/6/2013
Keeping Synthetic Drugs Off Our Streets

Legislation to help close loopholes in our state’s ban on synthetic drugs passed the State Senate this week with unanimous support.  Synthetic drugs with street names like ‘bath salts’ or K2 are dangerous drugs with side effects that are often more severe than the drugs they seek to mimic.  This legislation is intended to ensure that as new synthetic drugs are formulated, law enforcement and district attorneys will be equipped to prosecute cases involving the sale of synthetic drugs in their efforts to keep these dangerous drugs off our streets. 

For more information on this legislation, please click here.

11/1/2013
Uncovering and Stopping Waste, Fraud, and Abuse
The Department of Health Services (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigates waste, fraud, and abuse of state-funded public assistance benefits such as trafficking Foodshare benefits, billing Medicaid for services or equipment not provided, and filing a false application for medical assistance and food program.  Fraud in government programs is a significant issue that costs taxpayers and jeopardizes safety net programs by diverting resources from those most in need.  DHS updated its OIG website to make it easier for the public to report suspected fraud. 
 
If you suspect an individual or a provider of fraudulent activity in public assistance programs under DHS and would like to file a complaint, please call the OIG Fraud Hotline toll-free at 1-877-865-3432 or visit the  OIG website and click on the red “ Report Fraud ” button.  For more information on the OIG’s monthly results and efforts to prevent fraud, please click here .
10/30/2013
Public Meeting Scheduled for Hwy 64 Study
A public meeting has been scheduled to discuss the Hwy 64 Freeway Conversion Study.  This study is a planning and preservation project that seeks to ensure the safety and mobility of both freight and passenger traffic on Hwy 64.  The meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 6th, at the Somerset High School multipurpose room from 5 – 7 p.m.   A brief presentation will begin at 5:30 p.m. 
 
Independent of the St. Croix River Crossing project, this study is designed to identify the necessary future improvements and right-of-way needs to convert the roadway to a freeway and expressway.  If you live, work, or travel on or near the Hwy 64 corridor, you are encouraged to attend the meeting to provide input and receive feedback from WisDOT officials.  The presentation will cover several alternatives and include information as to why these improvements are necessary.  If you are unable to attend the meeting, or would like more information, please feel free to contact Jeff Abboud at 715-855-7661 or by e-mail at jeffry.abboud@dot.wi.gov .
10/24/2013
Certificates to Honor Successful First-Time Deer Hunters
Starting with the 2013 archery season and continuing through the gun deer hunt, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is providing first-time successful deer hunters with a free certificate to help preserve the memories and commemorate the occasion. 
 
Information such as when and where the deer was harvested, who they were hunting with, and more can be displayed on the certificate.  The certificate will be customized to the individual and can include a submitted photo.
 
Certificates will be sent electronically back to successful hunters.  To fill out the certificate, please visit the DNR website .
10/22/2013
Wisconsin Main Street Workshops Announced
The Wisconsin Main Street Program is designed to promote the historic and economic development and revitalization of downtown business districts in Wisconsin.  The program provides services such as volunteer training programs, director orientation and training sessions, design assistance, and counseling to business owners and managers.
 
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has announced the details of the fall regional Main Street Application Workshops.  One of the four workshops is being held in Menomonie on Wednesday, November 13th at the Mabel Tainter Theater Boardroom from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.  Lunch is not included.
 
Business owners, volunteers, government officials, and community leaders are welcome to attend and can register for the workshop in advance by clicking here .  For more information about the Main Street Program please click here
10/18/2013
Bill to Update ATV and UTV Definitions Moves Through Legislature
Legislation updating the definitions of all-terrain and utility terrain vehicles (ATVs and UTVs) passed both the State Senate and State Assembly earlier this week.  The bill makes several changes to the definitions to accommodate technological innovations by the ATV and UTV manufacturing industry.  Making these changes will address market demands and help foster growth in this industry.  For example, current state law requires that ATVs and UTVs must be equipped with low-pressure tires.  However, manufacturers have designed a new type of airless tire for use on these vehicles.  These new tires offer riders the benefits of enhanced durability, and because they are airless they cannot go flat and do not need to be aired-up.  The bill was developed with the input of various stakeholders involved in ATV and UTV recreation and was authored by Senator Harsdorf and Representative Erik Severson.  It now awaits the Governor’s signature.
10/18/2013
Honor and Remember Flag Resolution Passes State Senate
A resolution designating the Honor and Remember Flag as Wisconsin’s emblem of service and sacrifice by those in the United States Armed Forces who have given their lives in the line of duty was passed by the State Senate earlier this week.  The resolution was introduced by Senator Harsdorf and Representative John Murtha at the request of a number of constituents who have lost loved ones in military service to our country.  The resolution now awaits action in the Wisconsin State Assembly.
10/16/2013
State Surplus Grows to $760 Million
The Department of Administration (DOA) announced this week that our state ended the 2012-2013 fiscal year with a $760 million surplus. This figure was $90 million higher than previous estimates, due to an increase in revenue and lower than anticipated spending. As a result of the growth in revenue, a $153 million deposit was made into the state’s rainy day fund, the largest such deposit in the state’s history. The rainy day fund now stands at $279 million dollars which is also the highest balance the state of Wisconsin has ever seen. For more details on the DOA’s final budget figures, please visit their website .
10/14/2013
Fall Color Report
One of Wisconsin’s greatest fall attractions is its trees as leaves change colors to vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red.  Wisconsin’s state forests have the reputation of being some of the best in the nation for fall color.  The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports that fall colors are now peaking in central, northeast, and northwest Wisconsin.
 
The Department of Tourism has a Fall Color Report available online that allows you to select different areas of the state and see a color report for that part of the state.
10/11/2013
This Week’s Legislative Action on Harsdorf Bills
There was much action in Madison this week on a variety of issues.  Below are a number of bills introduced by Senator Harsdorf that received public hearings this week. 
 
Addressing the Skills Gap – Two bills that are part of the fall legislative agenda to improve job training and workforce development—Senate Bill 335/Assembly Bill 403 and Senate Bill 336/Assembly Bill 402—received public hearings this week.  SB 335 seeks to create an apprenticeship certificate award for those that complete an apprenticeship program, providing 25% reimbursement of tuition and fees, up to maximum of $1,000.  SB 336 would provide additional funding for the Youth Apprenticeship program that encourages schools to partner with local businesses to match students with employers to provide on-the-job training and technical college-level instruction.
 
Honor and Remember Flag – Senate Joint Resolution 45/Assembly Joint Resolution 45 would designate the Honor and Remember Flag as Wisconsin’s emblem of service and sacrifice by those in the United States Armed forces who have given their lives in the line of duty.  This resolution was introduced at the request of a number of parents of fallen soldiers in Harsdorf’s district.  AJR 45 received a public hearing before the Assembly Committee on Veterans this week.   
 
Keeping Synthetic Drugs Off Our Streets – Senate Bill 325/Assembly Bill 406 closes loopholes in our state’s ban on synthetic drugs to keep these dangerous substances out of the hands of our kids and helps district attorneys prosecute offenders.  This week, public hearings were held on this legislation in both the State Assembly and State Senate.
10/9/2013
New Job Search Website Launched

The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has launched a new Skill Explorer Website.  This is a free job search tool allowing Wisconsin workers to search for employment opportunities that match their existing skills and training.  

The Skill Explorer website allows workers to search for new career opportunities by typing in their past or current job title.  The website will provide a list of current openings relating to the work experience of that job through openings on the Jobs Center of Wisconsin.  Also provided on the new website are the job details, pay scales, and licensure or training necessary for each occupation.  A mapping function will show areas in the state where particular job openings are located, as well as the ability to search jobs by county.  

To visit the new Skill Explorer website, click here .

10/8/2013
Safe Driving Reminders
Now that the new school year is underway, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) reminds drivers to be even more vigilant around school buses, as well as students walking or biking to school.
 
Under Wisconsin law, when the red flashing lights are activated on a school bus, drivers are not allowed to pass and must stop a minimum of 20 feet from the school bus.  School bus drivers are authorized to report violations to law enforcement who can then issue a citation.
 
State law also requires drivers to yield to pedestrians who have started crossing an intersection or crosswalk.  In addition, drivers may not legally pass any vehicle that has stopped for pedestrians at an intersection or crosswalk.  Drivers are also reminded to maintain at least 3-feet of clearance while passing bicycles. 
 
More information about driving tips can be found on the DOT website .
10/4/2013
October to Highlight Importance of Manufacturing
Manufacturing has long been one of the economic backbones of Wisconsin and our state is highlighting this by recognizing October as Manufacturing Month.  The Department of Workforce Development (DWD), partnering with other state agencies, will hold events around the state to bring awareness to this leading industry.  Manufacturing remains a top industry in our state and currently employs 450,000 workers in 9,400 businesses.  These jobs provide an average income of $52,000 per year, 25% more than the average of all other private sector workers.  Wisconsin recently ranked in the top five states for manufacturing by CNBC.

The fall legislative agenda includes a bipartisan jobs package seeking to further increase the manufacturing economy in Wisconsin.  I am introducing two of the bills included in the package, which would provide additional funding for youth apprenticeship programs and tuition reimbursement for apprentices and employers.  The 2013-15 state budget already includes an investment of $100 million for worker training.  These initiatives will help close the skills gap in the manufacturing industry and foster additional job growth in manufacturing.  For more information regarding events around the state, visit DWD’s website at www.dwd.wisconsin.gov.
10/2/2013
Keep Safe Online Through Cyber Security

As the way we conduct business and organize our personal lives becomes more virtual, it is important to remember to use discretion when doing business, shopping, or sharing information online.  In Wisconsin, October has been declared as Cyber Security Awareness Month.  The Wisconsin Homeland Security Council reports that last year in 2012, Wisconsinites lost $6.2 million due to cyber rip-offs and scams, with the average loss of $1,700 per victim. 

Some frequent cyber scams involve fraudulent online auto sales, online dating sites or social media networks where individuals give the false pretense of a relationship to gain trust and then ask for money, and online real estate fraud such as rental, timeshare, or loan modification scams.  Other scams involve intimidation or extortion in which someone may send an email falsely claiming the recipient has committed a crime or has a parking violation and owes money.  Additionally, beware of phishing and spoofing, which involves someone sending an email and falsely claiming to be a real business to try to get personal information, such as passwords, bank account numbers, or credit card numbers from the recipient. 

Here are a few tips from ReadyWisconsin to help keep you safe while using your computer or mobile device online:
  • Keep a Clean Machine: Keep your security software current by turning on automatic updates.
  • Protect Your Personal Information: Do not use the same password for your email, social media, and bank accounts. 
  • When in Doubt, Throw it Out: Links in emails, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often used by cybercriminals to compromise your computer.  If it looks suspicious, it is better to delete or not open the link. 
  • Think Before You Act : Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately, offer something that sounds too good to be true, or ask for personal information.
  • Get Savvy about Wi‐Fi Hotspots: Limit the type of business you conduct and adjust the security settings on your device to limit access.  Criminals may be able to access personal information when you use free Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or hotel.
10/2/2013
Public Hearing Held on ATV and UTV Update Bill
Currently, state law defines all-terrain and utility terrain vehicles (ATVs and UTVs) using a number of requirements relating to weight, height, and equipment.   However, due to technological advances and innovations, state laws have not kept up with changes in the design of ATVs and UTVs.   An example of this is the requirement that ATVs and UTVs operate on low-pressure tires, while manufacturers have designed a new type of airless tire for use on these vehicles that does not satisfy this definition.   These new tires offer riders the benefits of enhanced durability, and because they are airless they cannot go flat and do not need to be aired-up.  
 
Senator Harsdorf and Representative Erik Severson have introduced legislation to update the statutory definitions of ATVs and UTVs, allowing manufacturers to respond to consumer and market demands for innovative products.   The companion bills, Senate Bill 310 (SB 310) and Assembly Bill 381 (AB 381), make other minor updates to the definitions of ATVs and UTVs and was drafted in collaboration with recreational vehicle stakeholders, including Polaris Industries, Wisconsin ATV Association, Department of Natural Resources, and trail managers.   Both bills have received a public hearing in their respective committees.   Please click here to view a copy of SB 310.
9/27/2013
Public Hearing Held on Nurse Aid Training Bill
Currently, federal law requires CNAs receive a minimum of 75 hours of training, but individual states are allowed to require additional training hours.  Wisconsin requires 120 hours of training, while Minnesota, Michigan, and Iowa use the federal standard of 75 hours.  Currently, a CNA who received training in a state with lower requirements than Wisconsin has to start from the beginning and complete a training program in Wisconsin for the full 120 hours to become licensed.
 
Senator Harsdorf has introduced Senate Bill 212 (SB 212) to help address this regulatory barrier for CNAs that received training outside of Wisconsin to obtain their license without having to redo all of their training.  SB 212 would allow individuals who have completed CNA training in another state to combine that training with instructional programs approved by the Department of Health Services (DHS) in order to make up the difference in training hours required in Wisconsin.
 
Both nursing homes and home care agencies rely heavily on the important services and care that CNAs provide.  SB 212 would increase access to the nurse aide profession and meet a need in a high-demand field by providing an opportunity for CNAs relocating to Wisconsin or those living in border communities to make up the difference in training hours required.
 
SB 212 received a public hearing last week in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.  It is anticipated that SB 212 will be voted out of committee soon, at which point it can be scheduled to come before the full State Senate for consideration.  Please click here to view a copy of SB 212.
9/26/2013
WI and MN Revenue Departments to Discuss Tax Policy
Wisconsin Department of Revenue Secretary Richard Chandler and Minnesota Department of Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans are scheduled to discuss tax policy in an upcoming forum at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.  The forum is open to the public and will be held Monday, October 7th from 12:00-1:15 at the Humphrey School on the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus. 
 
The forum will focus on the different approaches taken by the two states relating to tax changes made in recent years by both states.  Topics to be discussed include the impact of tax policy on balancing state budgets, job creation, business start-ups and retention, and quality of life.  If you are interested in attending, please register online .  Admission is free to those attending.
9/23/2013
Tips for Maintaining Children’s Vision and Eye Health
With the school year underway, many children have headed back to classrooms that are equipped with innovative equipment to enhance their learning experience.  Schools are employing smart boards, tablets, and other types of electronics to enhance their daily curriculum.  The Wisconsin Optometric Association recently cautioned parents on their children’s overexposure to electronic screens and has a few tips to help prevent or reduce vision and eye health problems.
 
Eye discomfort, fatigue, blurred vision, and headaches are some of those challenges along with long-term issues that may impact children that have overexposure to electronic devices.  Parents and teachers are encouraged to coach students on the 20-20-20 rule when looking at electronic screens for a prolonged period of time.  Individuals should take a 20-second break every 20 minutes from watching or working on an electronic device and view something 20 feet away.  Other tips include blinking frequently while using a computer to avoid dry eyes and keeping computer screens about 4-5 inches below eye level.
 
For a complete list of tips and ways to prevent vision and eye health problems, visit the Wisconsin Optometric Association’s website .
9/20/2013
USDA Approves Natural Disaster Designation for Pierce County
On September 18th, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated Pierce County, Wisconsin as a primary natural disaster area.   Severe hail on August 6th resulted in crop damages and losses in Pierce County and neighboring counties in Minnesota.
 
Several resources are available to farmers as a result of this designation.  Farmers impacted by the adverse weather conditions have eight months from the date of designation to apply for emergency loans through the Farm Service Agency (FSA).  Emergency loan funds may be used to restore or replace essential property, pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster, and pay essential family living expenses.  Contact your local FSA office to learn more and view information you will need in order to complete an application.
 
Another resource that may be helpful is the Farmer to Farmer program provided by UW-Extension.  This program puts Wisconsin farmers in touch with one another and is provided free of charge to assist farmers searching for hay, alfalfa haylage, corn silage, high moisture corn, corn grain, and other forages if they have experienced crop loss.
 
You can visit the Wisconsin FSA’s website for more information here and access the Farmer to Farmer webpage here .
9/18/2013
Olson’s Woodville Meats Receives International Honors
Congratulations to Olson’s Woodville Meats of Woodville who was honored this week through the approval of a Joint Resolution by the State Senate acknowledging the accomplishments they achieved at this year’s 2013 IFFA International Quality Meat Competition.  The company was awarded nine gold medals, three silver medals, and the prestigious Ehrenpokal Trophy for their custom meat products.  They were recognized for their dried beef, beef jerky, bison summer sausage, and bockwurst among many other types of meats.  Olson’s Woodville Meats was the only United States company to win at the international competition.
 
The IFFA is the leading international meat trade fair held once every three years in Frankfurt, Germany.  The six-day competition represents 19 different countries featuring 1,700 products from over 200 butcher shops.
 
Olson’s Woodville Meats was founded in 1962 by Roger Olson, and has remained with his family for over 50 years.  Kevin and Cory Olson, grandsons of Roger Olson, now run the family business as third generation butchers.
 
Following approval by the State Senate this week, the Resolution is now pending in the State Assembly.  A link to the resolution can be found at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2013/proposals/sjr41
9/12/2013
Wisconsin Sees Increase in Dairy Exports
Wisconsin, long recognized as “America’s Dairyland,” has a long history of being a top producer and exporter of milk and dairy products.  Recent reports show Wisconsin’s exports of dairy products increased by 23% in the first six months of 2013 compared to a year ago.  Wisconsin dairy exports totaled $171 million.  Total agricultural exports increased 10% over last year totaling $1.6 billion to 132 countries, moving Wisconsin to 13th overall among the states.  Wisconsin’s top agricultural export destinations were Canada, China, and Mexico.  Given the importance of agriculture as one of the top industries in Wisconsin, this is great news for our state as well as our farm economy!
9/10/2013
BadgerCare Non-Emergency Medical Transportation

The Department of Health Services (DHS) recently announced a new provider for individuals enrolled in Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus for non-emergency medical transportation to and from their covered appointments.

DHS recently released videos that explain exactly who and how one can schedule a ride through MTM, Inc.  MTM is a medical and transportation management company whose mission is to partner with clients in developing innovative solutions for accessible healthcare and replaces the prior transportation provider, Logisticare.  MTM will schedule and provide rides to and from appointments.  Non-emergency medical transportation includes public transportation, rides in specialized medical vehicles, or rides in other types of vehicles depending on transportation needs.  Please note that if you have a medical emergency you should dial 9-1-1.

Please visit the DHS website for more information on eligibility, scheduling, or to view the informational videos.
9/5/2013
Upcoming License Plate Reissuance Information
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) will be reissuing certain license plates beginning with October 2013 renewals.  Notices for these plate renewals were mailed during the last week of August and will continue until all renewals are complete.
 
Both the sesquicentennial and red letter series of plates are being replaced because they are beyond their projected life cycles.  As these plates age, their reflectivity decreases and the red lettering fades, making the plates less visible to other motorists and difficult for law enforcement to read.  If you currently have plates that are scheduled for reissuance, you will receive a renewal letter explaining the reissuance process.
 
For renewals done by mail or internet, you will be mailed a certificate of registration, but instead of an expiration sticker, there will be an informational insert explaining that your license plates were reissued and will be arriving via United States Postal Service.  License plates will be mailed separately and will include the necessary sticker kit along with an additional informational insert explaining why you have received new plates.
 
For renewals done by the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) third party agents, you will receive a sticker and certificate of registration from the agent as normal.  You will receive the new license plates along with the necessary sticker kit in the mail in 7-10 days. Additionally, an informational brochure will be provided to the agents to assist in answering questions regarding reissuance.
 
Both plate types will be replaced with a standard, black-letter auto plate of the current design.  Please visit http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/drivers/ for more renewal information, DMV service center hours, and more. 
9/3/2013
Back-to-School Tax Tips
As the summer comes to an end and students head back to college, there are certain federal income tax credits and deductions available to help offset some college costs and relieve some of the financial stress associated with continuing higher education.
 
The American Opportunity Tax Credit is available for qualified expenses, including tuition and fees, course related books, and other educational supplies.  This credit can be up to $2,500 per eligible student and is available for the first four years of post-secondary education.  Recently, this federal credit has been extended to the end of December 2017.
 
Another credit available is the Lifetime Learning Credit, where individuals may be able to claim up to $2,000 for qualified education expenses on your federal tax return.  There is no limit on the number of years you can claim this credit for an eligible student, which can include either yourself, your spouse, or a dependent for whom you claim an exemption on your tax return.  This credit is very useful for graduate students, students who are only taking one course, or those who are not pursuing a degree. 
 
Individuals can only claim one type of education credit per student on the federal tax return each year.  For more information, visit the Tax Benefits for Education Information Center at IRS.gov.     
8/27/2013
No Call List Deadline August 31st
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) offers the No Call List, a free service that covers residential land and cell phone lines.  The next quarterly deadline to sign up is August 31st.  It is important to remember to renew your registration every two years to remain on the No Call List.
 
By adding your number to the list before the deadline, you will receive protection from unsolicited calls or text messages from telemarketers.  Political calls, calls from non-profit organizations and calls made in response to a purchase or by request are not covered by the No Call List.
 
Currently, legislation I have authored to make the No Call List permanent and prohibit robocalls for those registered on the No Call List has passed committee and is waiting to be taken up by the State Senate.  Senate Bill 97 (SB 97) would remove the requirement for Wisconsin residents to sign-up for the No Call List every two years by adopting the federal No Call List in Wisconsin.  In addition, SB 97 would prohibit robocalls to those on the No Call List with very limited exceptions such as school and emergency notification messages.  You can find out more about this legislation by clicking here.
 
To add your residential landline, cell phone or VoIP number(s) to the No Call List, visit http://nocall.wisconsin.gov or dial 1-866-9NO-CALL (1-866-966-2255).  Also, you can find more information about the program or file a consumer complaint by visiting the Consumer Protection website here , by sending an e-mail to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov or by calling toll free at 1-800-422-7128
8/21/2013
UWRF on Best in the Midwest List
University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF) was recognized earlier this month as one of the “2014 Best in the Midwest" by the Princeton Review.  The Princeton Review released their annual list of best colleges by region, and UWRF made the list in the “Best in the Midwest” category along with three other University of Wisconsin System institutions, including UW-Eau Claire, Madison, and Milwaukee.
 
The Princeton Review is an educational service known around the nation for its prep courses, tutoring, and other resources for students.  Robert Franek from the Princeton Review stated, “we chose it and the other terrific institutions we name as ‘region best’ colleges mainly for their excellent academic programs.”
 
The Princeton Review compiled their list based on data from the schools, opinions from students and staff, plus college counselors and advisors input.  There are approximately 2,500 four-year universities in the nation and 155 four-year colleges were selected from the Midwest for the list.
 
Congratulations to the professors, staff and administrators on receiving this recognition!
8/16/2013
Broadband Internet Access Survey
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC), an independent agency responsible for the regulation of Wisconsin public utilities, is seeking citizen input to help improve high speed Internet service in Wisconsin.  Broadband Internet access is crucial for economic development, and PSC is collecting information for policy leaders at the state and local level for future broadband planning. 
 
Together with community leaders and LinkWISCONSIN, PSC has developed surveys to collect information about coverage areas.  Results of the surveys will be used to map out adequate and inadequate coverage areas, see where unmet demand for high speed Internet is, and to show providers of broadband service the areas where improvement is necessary. 
 
If you have Internet access, you can click to take the personal survey here, or for your business by clicking here.  If you do not have Internet access, please contact PSC staff Pete Jahn at 608-267-2338 to receive a hard copy by mail.  The survey deadline is September 30th.  More information can be found at www.link.wisconsin.gov.
8/13/2013
Tax Tips for Newlyweds
With the summer months being a popular time for weddings, it’s important to remember how your marital status can affect your taxes. 
 
It’s important the names and Social Security numbers you record on your tax return match the Social Security Administration (SSA) records.  Changed names should be reported to the SSA to avoid any complications when filing your taxes.  Also, report the name change with your employer to ensure you receive your W-2 at the end of each year. 
 
If you file jointly, your combined incomes may move you into a higher tax bracket.  You should check the amount of federal income tax withheld from your pay and calculate the tax burden both individually and jointly to determine which filing status is in your best interest.  In most cases, it’s beneficial to file jointly. 
 
Also, if individually you didn’t qualify for itemized deductions before you were married, that may have changed, allowing you and your spouse to save money by itemizing as opposed to the standard deduction on your tax return.
 
For more information about this topic, visit IRS.gov.  IRS forms and publications are also available at IRS.gov and by calling 800-829-3676.
8/8/2013
Grants Available for Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin
As interest in locally-sourced food continues to grow in Wisconsin, the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) administers Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grants to further support and expand Wisconsin’s agriculture and food industries.  Grants are available to individuals, groups, and businesses involved in various aspects of agriculture and food production, including food processing and distribution, retail food establishments, and more.  
 
Currently there is $200,000 in grant funds available under this program with a maximum award of $50,000 per project.  Grant applicants must provide cash or in-kind match equivalent to or greater than 50% of the total cost of the project. 
 
Proposals are due on October 21 and must include a cover page, budget template, and three-page project description.  For more information about the application process and eligibility, contact DATCP’s Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin Program Manager Teresa Engel at 608-244-5101 or teresa.engel@wi.gov
8/6/2013
Public Meeting Scheduled for I-94 Expansion
A public meeting has been scheduled to discuss the expansion study for the I-94 corridor between Hudson and Baldwin.  The roadway improvements included in the plan will bring safety and economic growth to the area as the I-94 corridor is a crucial transportation route for both freight and passenger traffic.  The meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 13th, at the Roberts Community Park Building, located at 312 North Park Street from 5 to 7 p.m.   
 
Currently, the study area includes reconstruction of the deteriorated pavement while expanding I-94 with three travel lanes in each direction to improve freeway operations.  Also, bridges over Kinney Road, 100th Street, and 130th Street would be reconstructed.  Construction is projected to begin in 2018. 
 
Public input is encouraged at the meetings.  Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) representatives will be available to discuss the project at the meeting.  If you are unable to attend the meeting and have questions or concerns, contact Mohamed Hayek of WisDOT at 715-836-2065. 
8/1/2013
Minnesota Highway 95 Closure
As part of the continuing St. Croix Crossing project, Minnesota Hwy 95 will be closed August 9th – 12th.  Crews will demolish the Minnesota Hwy 36 flyover bridge to northbound Hwy 95, resulting in the weekend closure.
 
A detour route in Stillwater and Oak Park Heights will use Hwy 36, Osgood Avenue, 47th Street N., Stagecoach Trail, and Fifth Avenue N.  Motorists will continue to experience single-lane traffic on Hwy 36 east of Osgood Avenue and temporary traffic signals at the junction with Hwy 95.  Drivers are reminded to remain patient and follow the signed detour route when the closure occurs.   
 
Also, on the Wisconsin side, those traveling on Hwy 35 north of Hudson will continue to see heavier truck traffic entering and exiting the site of the former wayside in the town of St. Joseph.  For the next few weeks there will be shoulder closures to accommodate the increased traffic as trucks are hauling material from the St. Croix River bottom as the bridge foundations are being constructed.   
 
To remain up-to-date on the St. Croix Crossing project, visit www.harsdorfsenate.com and click on the St. Croix Crossing link. 
8/1/2013
Wisconsin State Park Photo Contest
Remember to take your camera along while fishing, hiking, boating, biking, picnicking, swimming, or camping in one of Wisconsin’s many beautiful state parks. 
 
The Friends of Wisconsin State Parks (FWSP) is asking all interested individuals to submit photographs taken of any of Wisconsin’s state parks in the fifth annual photography competition.  FWSP asks that the photographs include beautiful scenery or any other great outdoor activity.  Selected winners will be featured in the upcoming Friends of Wisconsin State Parks 2014 Calendar being released this October.
 
Friends of Wisconsin State Parks is a non-profit organization that was created to preserve and enhance Wisconsin’s State Trails, Parks, and Forests so that future generations can experience the stunning scenery all around Wisconsin.
 
The deadline for submissions is August 30th.  All photographs must have been taken within the past three years (January 2011), and must portray a specific Wisconsin State Park, Forest, or Trail.  Winners will be notified in September 2013.
 
For specific details and guidelines, or to enter a photo into the competition, please visit FWSP’s website .  You can also contact Patricia Loosen, Friends of Wisconsin State Parks coordinator at (608) 264-8994 for additional information.
7/30/2013
Nominations for the Arts in the Community Awards
Arts Wisconsin is partnering with the League of Wisconsin Municipalities for the fifth annual Arts in the Community Awards, which honor Wisconsin communities, elected officials, and community leaders for their involvement with innovative arts, arts education, and creative economy projects.
 
Arts Wisconsin is an independent statewide membership organization that advocates for the arts.  The League of Wisconsin Municipalities is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association of cities and villages that helps provide informational resources to Wisconsin municipalities.   
 
These organizations are currently seeking nominations for communities that have worked on arts projects that exemplify an ongoing commitment to the arts.  The projects should have broad and diverse community support and recognize the importance of the arts and their impact to a community’s economic, educational, and civic vitality. 
 
The deadline for nominations is 5:00 PM on Monday, August 19, 2013.  Nominations should be submitted by email to info@artswisconsin.org.  Arts Wisconsin will announce award winners the week of September 2, 2013.   Please contact Anne Katz, Executive Director of Arts Wisconsin, at 608.255.8316 or akatz@artswisconsin.org for more information on the Arts in the Community Awards.  
7/24/2013
Relief Options for Farmers
For farmers dealing with feed shortages this summer, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is allowing hay harvesting and animal grazing from selected state-owned lands in counties where natural disasters have been declared, including Pierce and St. Croix counties.  This is offered free of charge and will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. 
 
Farmers who graze animals will have the responsibility of setting up their own temporary electric fencing and water tanks for animal grazing.  Also, farmers participating in the program must sign an agreement that the hay taken from state-owned property will be used for livestock and not sold.  Individuals will be limited to using 20 acres.
 
If interested, contact the property manager assigned to the property to find out about availability and to complete an agreement.  To find out if there is a location that works for you, call DNR toll free at 1-888-936-7463, seven days a week from 7am to 10pm. 
7/23/2013
Construction Plans Posted for I-94/County T Interchange
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has made the plans for a new interchange and bridge on County T over I-94 available for public viewing.  The plans will be posted at the St. Croix County Highway Department in Hammond from July 25 through August 8.
 
The project consists of replacing aging and deficient infrastructure to improve safety of the existing interchange.  Current plans include a new bridge span over I-94, roundabouts at the ramp intersections on County T, and lengthened ramps to provide proper acceleration and deceleration for entering and exiting I-94 traffic.  Also included in the project are right of way improvements, accommodations for current and future bicycle and pedestrian traffic, and a new park and ride facility.  Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016.
 
A public hearing may be requested by individuals to whom the proposed project is of significant concern.   The public is encouraged to review the plans and provide input by August 9 so the comments can be incorporated in the proposed plans.  For further information, contact Chris Ouellette at 715-833-9814 or chris.ouellette@dot.wi.gov  
7/18/2013
St. Croix River Crossing Traffic Pattern Changes
If you commute or travel to or through the Stillwater area, there will be a number of changes to traffic patterns in Minnesota as construction for the new St. Croix River Crossing bridge proceeds.  Construction, excavation, and utility crews are all likely to be working simultaneously, resulting in lane closures and traffic slowdowns for the remainder of the construction season.    
 
The changes currently being implemented include traffic on eastbound Hwy 36 crossing over and using a single lane on the westbound Hwy 36 lanes, creating head-to-head traffic.  This crossover to the westbound lanes will occur west of Osgood Avenue.  Additionally, Hwy 36 ramps to and from Beach Road will remain open for the time being but are expected to close at the end of July or early August.
 
Also, temporary traffic signals will be placed at the junction of Hwy 36 and Hwy 95, affecting traffic going southbound on Hwy 95 and eastbound on Hwy 36 to northbound Hwy 95.  Hwy 95 traffic will use a single lane in each direction from Point Road to Lookout Trail through the end of the 2013 construction season.
 
I urge you to use caution when driving through these areas.  To keep up to date on current construction progress and future lane closures, you can visit my website, harsdorfsenate.com , and click on the St. Croix Crossing link.
7/17/2013
Area County Fair Season Begins this Week
One of the great summer traditions I look forward to every year are the local county fairs.  These events, which highlight and remind us of our rural heritage, bring families and friends together to celebrate what makes Wisconsin great.  Whether it was some friendly competition in the show ring or serving food in a fair food stand, it is always a fun time with friends and neighbors.
 
As a 4-H’er and fair exhibitor, I have experienced firsthand the benefits fairs provide to our communities and our youth.  Fairs not only provide valuable opportunities for learning life and career skills, but also instill the values of family and working together. 
 
I encourage you to visit one or more of the upcoming county fairs in the region to experience these wonderful events!  Here is this year’s local county fair schedule.
 
St. Croix County Fair - Glenwood City - July 17-21
Dunn County Fair - Menomonie - July 24-28
Polk County Fair - St. Croix Falls - July 25-28
Central Burnett County Fair - Webster - August 1-3
Pierce County Fair - Ellsworth - August 8-11
Burnett County Fair - Grantsburg - August 22-25
 
For a complete list of county fairs throughout the state please visit www.wifairs.com/wifairs.asp .
 
7/17/2013
Helpful Financial Tips

Keeping one’s personal finances in order is prudent for many reasons.  Here are some helpful tips to financial security and protecting your credit.

·         You are entitled to a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the 3 nationwide consumer credit reporting companies – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.  It is recommended you check your credit report at least once a year, as this information is used by banks, employers, landlords, and others to determine your credit worthiness.

·         Protect personal information by shredding cancelled checks, bills, statements, or other financial papers, and put strong passwords in place for credit card, bank, and phone accounts.  Keeping your information private avoids your exposure to identity theft and fraud.  

·         Creating financial security can be done in a number of ways.  Set financial goals that allow you to save for important items, build an emergency fund for life’s unexpected moments, and work on eliminating credit card debt.  

By following these tips, you can set yourself up for financial stability and put yourself in an overall healthier financial situation. 

7/12/2013
USDA Approves Natural Disaster Designation
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved Wisconsin’s request to declare 24 Wisconsin counties as natural disaster areas, including Pierce County.   The combined effects of excessive rain and snow, and the multiple periods of thawing and refreezing have resulted in winterkill and loss of crop, according to the USDA. 
 
There are multiple resources available for farmers to aide them because of this declaration.  Farmers impacted by the adverse weather conditions have eight months to apply for emergency loans through the Farm Service Agency (FSA).  Emergency loan funds may be used to restore or replace essential property, pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster all year, and pay essential family living expenses.  Contact your local FSA office to learn more about the program and information you will need to complete an application.
 
Another resource that may be helpful is the Farmer to Farmer program provided by UW-Extension.  This program puts Wisconsin farmers in touch with one another and is provided free of charge so you can search for hay, alfalfa haylage, corn silage, high moisture corn, corn grain, and other forages if you have experienced crop loss. 
 
You can visit Wisconsin FSA’s website for more information here and access the Farmer to Farmer page here .    
7/8/2013
New Online Resource for Ag Industry Jobs
The Department of Workforce Development’s (DWD) Job Center of Wisconsin has launched a new Agriculture Industry page on their website.  This page includes information about agriculture careers, training resources, reports, and other information about working in the agriculture industry. 
 
Highlighting a wide variety of jobs, the agricultural industry page was developed in partnership with the Wisconsin Agricultural, Education & Workforce Development Council.  This website is designed to make it easier for agricultural job seekers to find opportunities in Wisconsin’s important agricultural industry, which currently contributes nearly $60 billion to Wisconsin’s economy.
 
The website is free to use and can be found at www.jobcenterofwisconsin.com/Agriculture/Default.aspx . 
7/3/2013
Town Halls to be held on BadgerCare Plus
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) will be holding town hall meetings throughout the state on changes under the state budget in eligibility for BadgerCare Plus.  The Governor signed these changes into law as part of the two-year budget bill on June 30th.
 
The time table for changes to BadgerCare Plus coincides with the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by the federal government.  These changes will ensure health care coverage through BadgerCare Plus to all adults with income below the federal poverty level for the first time in state history.
 
The Department will hold three public hearings around the state next month.  For a list of times and places, visit the DHS website at http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/News/PressReleases/2013/070113.htm.  The nearest public hearing to our area will be held in Eau Claire on July 10th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Chippewa Valley Technical College.
 
If you are unable to attend any of the public information meetings, but would still like information or to provide a comment please contact the department by e-mail, online, fax, or regular mail.  Contact information is included at the link listed above and the deadline to submit comments is July 30th, 2013.
7/1/2013
Celebrating the Fourth of July
Independence Day is an important time to reflect on the freedoms we enjoy in our nation and to recognize the courage of members of our armed services throughout our history in protecting those freedoms.  The Fourth of July is also a great day for celebrating with family and friends, including parades, cookouts, and fireworks.
 
If you plan on including fireworks in your family’s celebration, the Department of Health Services (DHS) provides a number of tips for safely setting off fireworks.  Please visit http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/health/InjuryPrevention/Fireworks.htm for more information on enjoying fireworks while avoiding injuries.
 
I wish you and your family a safe and happy Fourth of July!
 
6/28/2013
Agricultural Exports Seminar in River Falls
On Tuesday, July 16, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) invites food and agricultural companies to attend an Export Education Seminar.  Beginning and experienced exporters can benefit from the seminar and be part of Wisconsin’s growing agricultural exports. 
 
In 2012, Wisconsin exported over $2.9 billion in agricultural products to 149 countries, a record value for the state.  Wisconsin ranked 13th in the nation in agricultural exports last year.
 
Topics that will be covered at the seminar include:
● Developing export readiness skills,
● Export pricing and quoting,
● Export documentation,
● Navigating free trade agreement,
● Finding buyers for your products, and
● Accessing resources to trade internationally.
 
The seminar is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, University Center, 500 Wild Rose Avenue, River Falls.  To attend, register by July 9th at www.foodexport.org .  For additional information, contact DATCP's Ashwini Rao at 608-224-5119 or ashwini.rao@wisconsin.gov .
6/26/2013
Governor Declares State of Emergency in Seven Counties
Due to the amount of rainfall this spring that has resulted in widespread flooding and prevention of spring planting, Governor Walker has declared a state of emergency in St. Croix County and six other counties around the state.  The Governor’s declaration is a step towards obtaining federal recognition of the conditions in the affected counties.
 
Farmers who have crop insurance are encouraged to get in touch with their agents with questions about what is covered by their plan and what recording needs to be done in order to receive payment on a claim.  Farmers should also report crop damage, failed acres, and any damage to conservation structures such as dams, buffer strips and side waterways to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) office in their county.  Visit www.fsa.usda.gov/wi for more information on FSA and reporting crop damage.   
6/25/2013
New Medical Transportation Manager Town Hall Meetings
On April 11, the Department of Health Services (DHS) announced a new contract with Medical Transportation Management, Inc. (MTM) to manage non-emergency medical transportation services for certain Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus members.  This contract will take effect on August 1st, at which time MTM will take over transportation services from the current provider, LogistiCare.
 
As Wisconsin transitions Medicaid and BadgerCare transportation management from LogistiCare to MTM, town hall meetings with representatives from both DHS and MTM have been scheduled to help answer questions about the changes.  DHS is offering this meeting for members, providers, stakeholders, and advocates to learn about MTM’s plans to implement the improved Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) policy. 
 
Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus members who can get non-emergency medical transportation to covered appointments should continue to call 1-866-907-1493 (or TTY 1-866-288-3133) to schedule their rides. The phone number that members use to schedule rides to covered services will not be changing.
 
The nearest meeting in our area will be held in Eau Claire on Friday, June 28th at the Skybox Banquet Room in the Metropolis Resort, 5150 Fairview Drive.  To make reservations, please visit http://www.mtm-inc.net/wisconsin/townhall-rsvp/
6/24/2013
DOT Launches New Wisconsin 511 Construction Project Website
Some say that in Wisconsin there are two seasons—winter and road construction.  With the beautiful months of summer upon us, it seems that orange construction cones are springing up all over our state resulting in challenges as families and individuals navigate to their destinations.
 
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) launched a new project called Wisconsin 511.  This program creates two new tools that travelers can use to remain informed on construction projects. The new Wisconsin 511 construction project website gives visitors details on closures, travel times, project news and updates, schedules, and maps.  The DOT has also launched a new Twitter page @511WI where you can follow a real-time update of construction projects.  Twitter accounts for regional DOT offices have also been set up to keep drivers informed on local construction projects.
 
Easy links to the various 511 Twitter sites, as well as to other DOT social media sites are available on the DOT’s Stay Connected website, http://www.dot.wi.gov/util/stayconnected.htm , or visit the DOT’s construction project website for more in-depth information.
6/21/2013
New Agreement Authorizes Meat Shipments Across State Lines
Meat processors are now allowed to ship across state lines under a new agreement between the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protections (DATCP) Division of Food Safety and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Wisconsin is one of three states in the nation to sign an agreement under the USDA Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program.
 
Under the agreement, DATCP’s Division of Food and Safety will inspect meat products at participating meat processors using the same oversight and sampling programs used under the federal inspection program.  While Wisconsin’s meat inspection program, established in 1968, has equaled or exceeded the standards of the federal program for the past 44 years, meat processors were required to obtain USDA approval prior to shipping their products across state lines.  This new option will eliminate regulatory barriers to sales in other states for Wisconsin meat processors, particularly those located along or near our state’s borders.
 
State-inspected establishments wishing to apply for entry into the new program should contact Mr. Arthur Ness, DATCP Bureau of Meat Safety and Inspection, at (608) 224-4715 to begin the process.  For more information about interstate shipment of meat products, visit www.datcp.wi.gov/food .          
6/20/2013
State Senate Passes WEDC Reforms
A package of reforms to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) moved forward this week on a unanimous, bipartisan vote in the State Senate.   The legislation proposing the reforms, Senate Bill 205 (SB 205), was drafted by the co-chairs of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee in response to the disappointing results of a recent WEDC audit.   These reforms are intended to address concerns raised with financial management, program administration, and accountability at the agency.
 
SB 205 includes two reforms that I proposed in separate legislation, including requiring an annual financial audit of WEDC and set term limits for WEDC Board members.  Other reforms included in the bill require one of the WEDC Board members to be a certified public accountant, require WEDC to adopt transparent procurement procedures, and expand the annual reports WEDC must submit to the State Legislature.
 
SB 205 has now been referred to the State Assembly for consideration.
6/17/2013
DATCP Consumer - Alert Work-at-Home Solicitations
The Wisconsin State Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) would like to alert consumers of a potential scam that has been reported by numerous Wisconsin residents.  While most Wisconsinites are looking for extra ways to earn a living, the DATCP states that any work-at-home proposal that requires an upfront fee is probably a scam.
 
DATCP has been alerted to a New Jersey-based company that promises cash for stuffing envelopes.  This company pledges anywhere from $10-20 for stuffing each envelope or assembling a packet.  Additionally, the company asks for up-front payments in order to supply a list of companies that would receive these packets and envelopes or additional fees before sending any further information out.
 
DATCP cautions consumers to contact them before responding to solicitations to verify their legitimacy.  Visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at http://datcp.wisconsin.gov , send an e-mail to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov or call the Consumer Protection Hotline toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.
6/14/2013
June 14th is Flag Day
Join in on celebrating Flag Day, a holiday that traces its origins to right here in Wisconsin!  The origin of Flag Day is traced to Waubeka, a small town north of Milwaukee.  In 1885, Stony Hill School teacher Bernard John Cigrand displayed a 10-inch flag in an inkwell and had his students write essays on what the flag meant to them.  He told the students that June 14th was the birthday of the flag and it has been so ever since.
 
As we commemorate our flag, we revere the stars and stripes as the living symbol of our national principles of liberty, justice, and freedom that we hold most dear.  We thank the brave men and women who have fought and continue to fight to preserve our freedom, and we remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice protecting these values.  Please take a moment to consider the history of our national flag, and the meaning it has for all of us as Americans and our veterans.    
 
Wisconsin offers a statewide sales tax exemption on the sale of United States and Wisconsin flags as an incentive for communities, veterans and everyday citizens to honor our national and state flags.
6/11/2013
Celebrating June as Dairy Month
The dairy industry is a vital part of Wisconsin’s economy, contributing more than $26.5 billion in economic activity each year.  Wisconsin has more than 140 cheese plants and 11,000 dairy farms.  In total, our state produces over 600 varieties of cheese!
 
Events are continuing all month to celebrate dairy products and those who contribute to this wonderful industry.   For more information and to check for June Dairy Month events in your area please visit www.dairydaysofsummer.com and help celebrate Wisconsin’s strong tradition of dairy products!
6/11/2013
Encouraging Job Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to meet with staff from BRIDGE for Youth and Adults with Disabilities, a non-profit organization located in Hudson.  BRIDGE provides important support for individuals with disabilities in the St. Croix River Valley.  The organization offers life skills training and social and recreational opportunities for their clients, such as cooking classes, dances, and community field trips. 
 
Additionally, BRIDGE helps those who are seeking sustainable employment within their communities.  BRIDGE is continually interested in forming partnerships with area employers, and I commend BRIDGE’s efforts to network with employers to help individuals with disabilities find valuable employment options in the community.
 
BRIDGE, along with similar organizations, plays a vital role in providing services to those in our communities with disabilities that are beneficial to participants, families, and businesses alike. 
 
To learn more about BRIDGE, please visit their website.
6/10/2013
Wisconsin Heat Awareness Day
While temperatures have been unusually cool, summer is right around the corner, and Wisconsin Emergency Management is reminding people of the dangers associated with extreme heat and promoting community safety and health.  Thursday, June 13, is Wisconsin Heat Awareness Day. 
 
Last year, Wisconsin confirmed 24 heat related deaths, most occurring during five days of excessive heat warning from July 2-6.  None of the victims had air conditioning and did not seek shelter at one of the many cooling centers which opened around the state. 
 
Summer heat waves have been the biggest weather-related killers in Wisconsin for the past 50 years, far exceeding tornadoes, severe storms and floods combined.  Heat is also the number one weather-related killer in the United States.  Groups who should take extreme caution in the heat are the elderly, infants and young children, and those with chronic heart or lung problems.  Also, anyone who works outside during the summer months should also be aware of the heat conditions.
 
For more information, visit http://readywisconsin.wi.gov and click on the Heat Awareness section.   
 
 
6/6/2013
Spare Key Expands to Wisconsin
Spare Key, a Minnesota-based non-profit that has made mortgage payments for Minnesota families since 1997, has expanded to Wisconsin.  Spare Key makes mortgage payments for families whose child is seriously ill or critically injured and in the hospital. 
 
Since it was founded, Spare Key has made mortgage payments for more than 1,500 families totaling nearly $1.6 million.  Executive Director Erich Mische said northern Wisconsin will be the first part of the state to benefit from the expansion. 
 
If your family or a family you know may qualify and benefit from this program, visit www.sparekey.org f or more information and application details.
  
6/5/2013
Public Invited to Deer Trustee Report Meeting
On Saturday, June 8, the Department of Natural Resource is inviting citizens to attend a public meeting to receive updates and ask questions about the progress of the Deer Trustee Report (DTR).  Dr. James Kroll, the Governor-commissioned report author, will be in attendance. 
 
At the meeting, the DNR will give an update on progress made, addressing questions and collecting feedback on implementation proposals that are moving forward.  Governor Scott Walker developed the “Deer Trustee” position to review programs, activities, and efforts by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to help better manage the white-tailed deer herd. 
 
The meeting will take place from 10am to 12pm at UW-Stevens Point Dreyfus University Center, 1015 Reserve Street.  For more information, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords, “Deer Trustee Report.” 
6/4/2013
Bill to Make No Call List Permanent and Prohibit Robocalls Advances
Legislation I have authored to make the No Call List permanent and prohibit robocalls for those registered on the no call list passed out of the Senate Committee on Energy, Consumer Protection, and Government Reform on a unanimous 5-0 vote last week.  Senate Bill 97 (SB 97) would remove the current requirement for Wisconsin residents to sign-up for the No Call List every two years by adopting the federal No Call List in Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) would still be responsible for investigating complaints and enforcing state laws relating to telemarketing calls.  In addition, SB 97 would prohibit robocalls to those on the No Call List with very limited exceptions such as school and emergency notification messages.  The bill is now available to be taken up by the full State Senate.  Find out more about this legislation at here.
6/3/2013
Voter ID Law Ruled Constitutional
Last week, Wisconsin’s 4th District Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that 2011 Act 23, the voter photo identification law, is constitutional.  This decision by the Court of Appeals overturned a Dane County Circuit Court judge’s ruling against the law based upon a challenge by the League of Women Voters.  According to the court, the State Legislature has broad constitutional authority to establish a voter registration system and set in place procedures to ensure that those seeking to vote are eligible under state law. 
 
While last week’s decision is great news for ensuring election integrity, another challenge by the Milwaukee NAACP is currently pending before the 2nd District Court of Appeals.  The voter ID law will not go into effect until all injunctions against the law are resolved.  Wisconsin would join 30 other states that have laws in place that require voters to show photo ID at the polls if other legal challenges are similarly dismissed.
 
5/31/2013
Find the Latest on JFC Budget Actions Here
The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee is anticipated to wrap-up its work on the state budget next week, beginning with a session on Tuesday.  The remaining issues to be considered include medical assistance, income taxes, and remaining items under the Department of Public Instruction, including school aids.
 
In action to date, the Committee has reduced spending by $310 million, lowered borrowing by $433 million, and eliminated 274 positions. The following are highlights of Committee action this week:
 
Building Commission
·       Reduce the amount of bonding by $250 million and request the Building Commission to prioritize building projects.
 
Health Services
·       Authorize the creation of the Office of Children’s Mental Health to improve and coordinate initiatives to provide mental health services to children.
·       Approve additional funding and allow counties to work together in operating coordinated services teams to administer cross-disciplinary care for children.
 
Children and Families
·       Provide funding for a 2.5% increase in foster care rates and kinship care payments.
 
Public Instruction
·       Allow school districts to utilize the services of multiple software vendors for maintaining student information.
·       Create a grant program for school districts to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses.
·       Call for a comprehensive evaluation of Common Core State Standards.
 
Sporting Heritage
·       Direct DNR to utilize a federal grant program to provide $600,000 for efforts to improve outdoor education and the recruitment and retention of sportsmen.
 
 
Budget highlights for the week ending May 24th:
 
Transportation
     Created a mechanism for local governments to obtain assistance for fixing roads following damage from storms and clean-up efforts.
     Addressed a deficit in the transportation fund without raising taxes or fees.
     Increased aid for local governments for local road projects and for maintaining state highways.
 
UW System
     Enacted a two year tuition freeze and a freeze on some student fees.
     Delayed flexibility measures until further review of the System’s reserve funds is complete.
     Required the UW System to report to the legislature on how tuition is distributed to each campus and on the fees charged to students to improve transparency.
     Expanded eligibility for veterans to receive funding under the Wisconsin GI Bill by addressing residency requirements.
 
Department of Justice
     Approved a modified version of enhanced DNA collection from those convicted of misdemeanors or arrested on felony charges.
     Provided additional resources for the Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce.
 
District Attorneys
      Increased certain part-time assistant district attorney positions to full-time, including one in St. Croix County, to address increasing caseloads.
      Funded a pay progression plan for assistant district attorney positions to improve efforts to retain experienced prosecutors.
 
Other Provisions
      Increased funding for counties for child support enforcement activities to improve the collection of child support.
      Approved the Governor’s proposal to fund two additional positions to monitor sand mining operations.
      Authorized the option of a high deductible health plan and health savings account option for state employees.
 
 
Budget Highlights from the week ending May 17th:
 
Department of Workforce Development
       Increase the number of work searches from two to four per week required by those receiving unemployment  benefits.
       Provide $150,000 to support the Veterans in Piping program, which provides plumbing and pipefitting apprenticeship opportunities for veterans.
 
Public Service Commission
       Provide $4.3 million for a grant program to encourage broadband expansion in underserved areas.
 
Local Government
       Improve reporting of government spending by requiring counties and municipalities over 5,000 in population to participate in the state’s OpenBook initiative.
      Create a program to reimburse local governments that utilize private businesses to establish “lean programs” to maximize the use of taxpayer dollars.
 
Department of Natural Resources
      Address the rapidly increasing debt service costs associated with the Stewardship program, while preserving the program by adjusting bonding authority.
      Maintain the partnership with Friends of Crex for a wildlife educator at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area.
 
Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection
      End the diversion of agricultural chemical clean-up funds for other purposes and ensure that fee revenue is used for clean-up programs as intended.
      Increase aid for county fairs by $50,000 annually.
      Preserve funding for the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program.
 
Budget highlights from the week ending May 10th:
 
Property Taxes
      Continue the Property Tax Freeze to protect property taxpayers
      Encourage responsible budgeting by providing flexibility to local governments that pay down debt
 
Technical Colleges
      Enact performance-based funding initiative to encourage innovation and reward high-performing technical colleges
      Performance funding would be distributed based on a number of criteria including success in job placement for students in their field of study, number of degrees earned in high demand fields, collaboration and efficiencies, and providing courses that are responsive to needs of employers
 
Veterans Affairs
      Provide funding to Wisconsin Veteran Homes to ensure veterans receive quality care
 
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
      Ensure compliance with audit recommendations by withholding funding in second year of budget
      Require an annual independent financial audit of the WEDC
      Set aside additional funding to promote Wisconsin and encourage businesses to invest in Wisconsin
 
 
Budget highlights from the week ending May 3rd:
 
Department of Tourism
·       Provide additional $500,000 in state funding for tourism marketing
 
Department of Veterans Affairs
·       Provide additional $5.3 million in state funding to the Veterans Trust Fund
·       Ensure full funding to honor our passing veterans through military funerals
·       Provide grant funding to increase support for local county veteran service offices
 
Department of Transportation
·       Increase funding for preservation of freight rail to boost economic development
·       Provide citizens the ability to donate $2 to Donate Life Wisconsin when signing up as an organ donor
·       Strengthen efforts to address drunk driving by maintaining funding for OWI testing and increasing the penalty on OWI offenses
 
Circus World Museum
·       Removed a provision that would transfer operations of the museum to the Wisconsin Historical Society and preserved the current public-private partnership
 
 
5/31/2013
Free Fun at State Parks This Weekend
This weekend, June 1-2nd, enjoy Wisconsin’s great outdoors by visiting a Wisconsin State Park for free.  Fish in any of Wisconsin’s beautiful lakes without worrying about a license, or hike on one of our gorgeous state trails free of charge.  This is a great family-friendly opportunity to experience all Wisconsin has to offer.
 
Visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) website for a complete list dates and activities. There you can also find a map of all the free activities going on around the state and find a park to enjoy near you.
5/22/2013
Safe Boating Information
This week, May 18-24th, is National Safe Boating week.  With the weather warming up after a long winter, people are looking to get out on the water and head out to our beautiful lakes and rivers.  Now is the time for boaters to get up to date on their certification, which can be done online or in a classroom.  It’s also time to inspect and equip your boat before you head out.
 
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has helpful boating resources on their website , where you can register your boat, sign-up for a safety class, find a list of boat landings across the state and more.  Brush up on proper boating practices before heading out to the lake or river and have a safe and enjoyable summer!
5/20/2013
St. Croix Crossing Bridge Project Public Open Houses
The St. Croix Crossing Bridge project team is hosting a series of open houses which includes two in Wisconsin.  At the open houses, representatives from the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation will be able to explain the project, answer questions and receive input from area residents and local businesses.
 
Wisconsin Open Houses:
May 21, 5:00 – 7:00 pm
Hudson High School Cafeteria
1501 Vine Street, Hudson
 
June 4, 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Holton Elementary School
70 County Hwy E, Houlton
 
The St. Croix Crossing Project Office, located at 1862 Greeley St. in Stillwater, is open to the public from 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, with extended office hours on Tuesdays until 6:30 p.m.
Visit www.mndot.gov/stcroixcrossing and the St. Croix Crossing Facebook page at   www.facebook.com/saintcroixcrossingmndot for more information about the project.  
5/16/2013
Three-vehicle Combination Bill Moves Forward
Legislation I authored at the suggestion of a number of constituents was approved by the State Senate last week on a voice vote.  Senate Bill 75 (SB 75) would increase the allowable length of certain three-vehicle combinations from 65 to 70 feet.  Currently, some three-vehicle combinations for those seeking to camp or engage in recreational sports in our state exceed current length limits, limiting tourism opportunities.
 
Neighboring states of Minnesota and Iowa already allow three-vehicle combinations of 70 feet, while other western states and Canadian provinces allow such combinations.  SB 75 would make it easier for individuals to travel between states and would have a positive impact on the tourism industry.
5/15/2013
Watch St. Croix River Crossing Progress Online
Construction has begun for the new St. Croix River Crossing and you can watch it live on the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s website here.  MNDOT has set up a webcam for the public to view the work on this project as it proceeds.  Part of the construction this month includes clearing the property adjacent to Minnesota Highway 95 in Oak Park Heights. 
 
An office has been set up in Stillwater for DOT and contractors working on the St. Croix River Crossing.  The public is welcome to visit during office hours, which have been extended on Tuesdays to answer questions about the project.  The office is open 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m Monday – Friday and 7 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays at 1862 Greeley Street, Stillwater.  You may also call 855-GO-CROIX with any questions you may have on the project.
5/10/2013
Safe Spring Cleaning with Clean Sweep Events
Clean Sweep events are being held throughout the state for residents to properly dispose unwanted household or agricultural chemicals or leftover prescription drugs.  A listing of local Clean Sweep events is available on the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) website DATCP encourages residents to double check with the local event coordinator on the website listing to confirm the date and location because they vary county by county.  It is also important to read the information carefully regarding what will be accepted at the local site, and whether or not there is a fee or preregistration required.  Some collections accept additional items like electronic waste, tires or fluorescent bulbs.  If you do not find a Clean Sweep location conveniently located near you, contact your local solid waste or recycling department to find out about other hazardous material collections.  If you have agricultural chemicals to dispose of, it’s best to contact your county extension agent.  Many police departments have permanent drop boxes available for the collection of unwanted prescription drug disposal. 
 
DATCP’s Clean Sweep program provides grants to local governments, planning commissions and   tribes to support the collections.  Clean Sweep grants have helped collect more than 3 million pounds of farm chemical waste since 1990,   16 million pounds of household hazardous waste since 2004, and more than 136,000 pounds of   unwanted prescription drugs since 2008.
5/9/2013
Stay Updated for Summer Travel
With summer around the corner, it’s a great time to visit the Wisconsin 511 website for the latest travel information at: www.511wi.gov.  The website provides updates on travel conditions across the state, road construction projects and traffic information.  By signing up for the free My511 service, you can create an account that will send you updates on regular routes you travel.  You may also receive updates by dialing 511 from your mobile or landline phone.  Wisconsin 511 is a valuable resource as you travel across the state in the coming months.
5/8/2013
Act 10 Reforms Reduce Overtime Costs
The Department of Administration announced last week that state agencies reduced overtime costs by 22% in 2012, as compared to 2011.  These figures continue to show the positive benefits to taxpayers provided by the collective bargaining reforms passed under Act 10 last session.  I look forward to continuing to work with my legislative colleagues and the administration to advance efficiencies in state government.
5/7/2013
New Council on Workforce Investment

Last week, Governor Walker announced new membership for his Council on Workforce Investment, comprised of state business leaders, elected officials and education representatives.  Members of the Council serve as an advisory panel that helps guide the plan to prepare Wisconsin workers to find family-supporting careers in the modern workforce.  The Council will provide valuable input as the Governor and Legislature continue to work to address the skills gap and fill employers’ current and future labor market needs.

The Council is a federally-mandated body that advises the Governor and state Department of Workforce Development (DWD) on the allocation of federal workforce development funding.  Among the duties of the Council is approving the annual Workforce Investment Act plan required of all states in coordination with Wisconsin’s 12 autonomous workforce investment boards.  The membership of the council includes state legislators, local elected officials, and representatives from youth organizations, organized labor, and community-based organizations.
 
More information, meeting information and a list of members is available at http://www.wi-cwi.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5/6/2013
Wisconsin Tourism Industry Makes an Impact
It’s National Travel and Tourism Week, which is a great time to recognize the impact that tourism has on our state economy.  In Wisconsin, the tourism industry continues to be an important part of the state economy with a total impact of $16.8 billion last year.  Overall, in 2012, a 5 percent growth in the tourism economy translated to an increase in tourism-related employment and personal income, according to just released economic impact figures compiled by Tourism Economics, the research firm commissioned by the Department of Tourism.  Other industry indicators included strong day traveler growth pushing recreational spending up 7 percent and a 2.7 percent daily rate increase at Wisconsin lodging properties, which helped grow overall hotel room revenues by 4.6 percent.  In Wisconsin, tourism supports nearly 184,000 jobs and $4.5 billion in personal income.  One in thirteen jobs in Wisconsin relies on tourism and that number continues to grow.  Tourism provides fun for travelers, job and small business growth opportunities, and tax savings for Wisconsin taxpayers.  In fact, last year Wisconsin taxpayers saved nearly $575 per household by the taxes generated by tourism.
 
For more information, free travel guides, listings of local events and more, visit the Wisconsin Department of Tourism website at: www.TravelWisconsin.com.
 
 
5/3/2013
DNR Green Tier Program is Growing
Wisconsin’s Green Tier is an innovative environmental program that takes a cooperative approach to our state’s regulatory climate to enhance environmental performance and lower costs for job providers.  Green Tier is a voluntary program for businesses that recognizes and rewards environmental performance.  This program provides an opportunity for Wisconsin businesses to gain regulatory flexibility while encouraging exceptional environmental practices.  Green Tier is helping businesses make not only a difference environmentally, but it is also helping make a difference in their bottom line.
 
Participation in the Green Tier Program is growing, including several businesses in our area.  The DNR announced this week that Phillips Medisize’s Design and Development Center in Hudson is the latest firm in western Wisconsin to apply to this program.  If approved, the Design and Development Center would join other Phillips facilities in New Richmond and Menomonie that are already certified under Green Tier. 
 
Other area businesses participating include Bosch Packaging, Donaldson Company, Federal Foam Technologies, and the Wisconsin Industrial Sand Company.
 
For more information on the Green Tier program please visit the DNR’s website at www.greentier.wi.gov .
5/1/2013
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month
May 1st marks the beginning of National Mental Health Awareness Month, which seeks to bring attention to the challenges faced by those living with mental health issues in our country.  Some have estimated that as many as one out of four adults are diagnosable with mental health disorders each year and 20% of all children will have at some point in their life a seriously debilitating mental disorder.
 
Currently, the State Legislature is considering a $29 million initiative for mental health resources proposed in the Governor’s budget.  Among the mental health provisions included in the budget are a focus on children’s mental health and increased counseling services for youth living with mental health challenges.  In addition, a Special Speaker’s Task Force on Mental Health, chaired by Representative Erik Severson, is holding hearings around the state and will be making recommendations to the Legislature regarding mental health care and services.
4/30/2013
County Veterans Service Officers are a Local Resource
County Veterans Service Officers (CVSO) are valuable resources that offer assistance and information on Wisconsin’s veteran programs.  Your local CVSO is available to answer questions about federal and state veterans benefits including burial honors, education benefits, and veterans homes, and to assist in obtaining additional information on behalf of veterans.
 
For more information regarding programs and the addresses of your nearest county veterans service office, please visit www.wicvso.org or contact your local CVSO.
 
The CVSOs serving the 10 th Senate District are:
Burnett County: Doug Stubbe, 715-349-2179, dstubbe@burnettcounty.org
St. Croix County: Merlin Blaisdell, 715-386-4757, merlin.blaisdell@co.saint-croix.wi.us
Dunn County: Greg Quinn, 715-232-1646, gquinn@co.dunn.wi.us
Pierce County: David Till, 715-273-6753, david.till@co.pierce.wi.us
Polk County: Rick Gates, 715-485-9243, cvso@co.polk.wi.us
4/17/2013
Wear Blue in Honor of Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month
Governor Scott Walker declared April Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month.  Wisconsinites are encouraged to wear blue to work tomorrow, Thursday, April 18, to promote awareness of child abuse prevention.
 
Blue is the commemorative color for national child abuse prevention and awareness.  Throughout the country, states and local agencies are hosting events featuring the color blue or using blue pinwheels, a symbol for child abuse prevention, to bring visual awareness to this important issue affecting children and families.
 
Information and resources are available at the Department of Children and Families website: http://dcf.wi.gov/child_and_family_safety.htm .
 
4/15/2013
Work-share Program Approved
The Senate passed work-share legislation last week that seeks to provide flexibility to employers and help keep workers on the job during challenging economic times.

Assembly Bill 15 (AB 15) gives an employer, pending approval by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the ability to reduce workers' hours instead of utilizing layoffs. This bill allows an employee whose hours have been reduced under a work-share program to be eligible for unemployment insurance for the reduced hours that they will not be working, while helping businesses retain skilled workers.

AB 15 previously passed the State Assembly on a bipartisan vote and now goes to the Governor for his signature. Wisconsin would join 24 other states that have work-share programs if the bill is signed by the Governor.
 
4/12/2013
Seeking Student Representative for the WI Technical College System Board
The Governor recently announced that there is an opening for a student representative on the Wisconsin Technical College System Board.  This Board is the governing body for the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), which helps develop statewide policies and standards for the educational programs and services provided by the technical college districts across the state.  The Board facilitates relationships between the technical college system and employers to ensure courses are relevant for evolving careers and up-to-date with technology in each sector of our economy.
 
Eligible candidates for the student representative position must be over the age of eighteen, a Wisconsin resident, enrolled at least part-time, and in good academic standing.  Interested students should submit a cover letter, resume, and completed application by email to govappointments@wisconsin.gov or by mail to:
 
Office of the Governor
Attention: Eric Esser
Appointments Director
115 East, State Capitol
Madison, WI  53707-7863
 
To access the application, please visit www.walker.wi.gov and click on “Apply to Serve,” then “Boards/Commissions.”  Applications are due no later than Wednesday, April 17th by noon.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this position.  Applicants may also contact Mr. Eric Esser in the Governor’s office at (608) 266-1212 with any questions about the appointments process.
4/8/2013
Beware of Scams Targeting Babysitters
The state’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, which regulates unfair business practices, recently advised people to be careful of fake check scams targeted at babysitters.
 
Consider the following scenario: A babysitter replies to an online job posting, which says the family is moving to the area from out of state in a few weeks and wants to line up a babysitter.  The prospective babysitter and the client discuss details via email.  The babysitter will be paid $400 per week.  The client sends an initial check for $1,800 and instructs the babysitter to cash the check, keep $400 for the first week’s pay, and wire transfer the remaining balance back.
 
The babysitter in this scenario has been subject to a scam involving a bad check and will be liable for the total amount of the check plus any penalties.  The Bureau of Consumer Protection provides the following tips to avoid falling prey to a check cashing scam:
  • Scammers often ask you to send back funds by wire, often overseas.  Wire transfers are like handing over cash—once the transfer is sent, it is nearly impossible to get the money back.
  • There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire it back. 
  • Oftentimes, fake checks can look real, which can lead to the delay time between when a victim cashes a check and when the bank realizes that it is fraudulent.
  • You are responsible for the checks you deposit.  If you cash a bad check, you will be required to pay the bank back the total amount plus any penalties.  Do not take the risk of depositing a bad check from someone you do not know.
  • Scammers often claim to be in another country or to have difficulties with the English language, which gives them a reason to ask you to keep all communication in email or text messages.  Scammers may also have an “agent” that will assist in the transaction, either by sending a bad check or by receiving the excess funds.
Please contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection for additional information or to file a complaint if you feel you have been subject to a scam.  The Bureau of Consumer Protection may be reached at 1-800-422-7128, by email at datcphotline@wi.gov or online at http://datcp.wisconsin.gov .   
4/5/2013
Avoid Tax Preparation Fraud
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has been hearing from an increasing number of Wisconsin residents about fraudulent tax filings.  Wisconsin residents working with a tax preparation service are encouraged to contact DATCP if they believe there are questionable practices taking place at a tax preparation business and file a complaint with the state.
 
Complaints can be filed online through the DATCP website www.datcp.wi.gov or a complaint form can be requested by calling the state’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-422-7128.
 
Some tips to avoid becoming the victim of tax preparation fraud:
  • Be alert to promotions such as “quick cash loans” that can be used to gain the personal financial information needed to file an individual’s tax return.
  • Check the tax preparer’s qualifications and history. 
  • Find out about service fees.
  • Make sure the tax preparer is accessible.  
  • Never sign a blank tax form.
  • Never sign an authorization permitting a company to file your taxes if you do not want the company to do so.
  • Never sign a document without first reading it and understanding what it says.
  • Always insist upon receiving copies of all documents you are required to sign, or those that identify the terms of a transaction and the charges you will be required to pay. 
4/1/2013
Subscribe to DNR Outdoor Report
Sign up for notifications from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to get the latest updates and news on current fishing activities, wildlife observations, and state park events by region.  The DNR Outdoor Report is updated and posted every Thursday.
 
To subscribe to the free Outdoor Report, please visit https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/WIDNR/subscriber/new?pop=t or to review past Outdoor Reports, visit the DNR’s archive at http://dnr.wi.gov/news/or/ .
3/22/2013
Joint Finance Committee to Hold Public Hearings on State Budget
The Joint Finance Committee will be holding a number of public hearings around the state on the state budget bill introduced by the Governor.  As a member of the Finance Committee, I am pleased that one of the hearings will be held in Baldwin.  This will provide area residents with the opportunity to comment on the budget provisions and share their thoughts with the budget-writing committee.  Below are the dates, times, and locations for the upcoming public hearings.
 
Thursday, April 4th, 2013
Greendale High School Auditorium, 6801 Southway, Greendale, WI 53129
10:00AM – 6:00PM
 
Monday, April 8th , 2013
Legends Club Room 4th Level
Lambeau Field Atrium, 1265 Lombardi Ave, Green Bay, WI 54304
10:00AM – 5:00PM
 
Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
Crystal Grand Music Theatre, 430 W. Munroe Avenue, Lake Delton, WI53940
10:00AM – 5:00PM
 
Thursday, April 18th, 2013
Baldwin-Woodville High School Auditorium, 1000 13th Ave, Baldwin, WI 54002
10:00AM-5:00PM
3/20/2013
Tax Preparation Assistance Available
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Taxpayer Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) are two programs to assist low and middle income taxpayers in filing their tax returns.
 
The VITA program is a cooperative effort between the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the State of Wisconsin.  Volunteers trained by the IRS and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) prepare basic income tax returns for free.  The TCE program is supported by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Foundation.  AARP's Tax-Aide volunteers are trained in cooperation with the IRS and DOR to prepare basic income tax returns at no cost. Most of the VITA and TCE sites offer free electronic filing as well.
 
More information on VITA sites near you can be found at http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Find-a-Location-for-Free-Tax-Prep or by calling 1-800-906-9887.  TCE sites near you can be located by calling 1-888-227-7669 or visiting www.aarp.org/applications/VMISLocator/searchTaxAideLocations.action
 
3/15/2013
OpenBook Wisconsin to be Launched
This week marks the nationwide recognition of Sunshine Week, which highlights open, transparent government and public access.  This spring, Wisconsin plans to launch its spending disclosure website called OpenBook Wisconsin. This website is part of the on-going effort to make state government more transparent for citizens.
 
OpenBook Wisconsin will give citizens easy access to State of Wisconsin expenditures, or the amount of money Wisconsin spends to do business.  It will include payments Wisconsin has made for purchasing goods or services.  You will be able to search the website database by state agency, expense category, and vendor by fiscal year.  At the launch of the website, the database will include information beginning with the fiscal year 2008 through the most current month.  There are future phases planned to include more information in the coming months, such as employee salary data, grants that have been awarded, and contracts that state agencies have with vendors.
 
The Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) is overseeing this project.  Please visit their website at www.doa.state.wi.us for more information as OpenBook Wisconsin goes live in the coming weeks.
3/14/2013
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Approval of Permit Moves St. River Crossing Forward
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved the permit application under the federal Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act for the St. Croix River Crossing bridge project.  This approval marks another step towards a new river crossing and allows bids to be sought for the bridge construction.
 
Bridge foundation work will begin next month, while construction of the main structure is expected to begin next year with a completion date of 2016.
 
The new St. Croix River Crossing will replace the 80-year-old Stillwater Bridge and will improve traffic flow and safety for area residents and commuters. 
3/11/2013
Openings for the Profitable Sustainability Initiative
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) still has openings for manufacturers to participate in the Profitable Sustainability Initiative (PSI).  The program is designed to assist small to midsized manufacturers develop sustainable practices to help increase the manufacturers’ productivity, competitiveness, and profitability. 
 
Manufacturing is a key industry throughout the state, and Wisconsin has been a leader nationwide in sustainable manufacturing.  PSI helps manufacturers work with energy specialists, lean and finance experts, environmental consultants, and professionals skilled in logistics to implement efficiencies in the participant’s business plan.    
 
The Northwest Wisconsin Manufacturing Outreach Center (NWMOC) and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership manage this program.  Any manufacturer interested in applying to PSI may contact Ted Theyerl, the PSI Project Manager at NWMOC, at 715.874.4658 or theyerlt@uwstout.edu.  
3/8/2013
Deer Trustee Report Meeting Webcast on Saturday

The Department of Natural Resources is hosting a public meeting to kick off the implementation of the Deer Trustee Report this Saturday, March 9 in Stevens Point.  However, for those who are unable to attend the meeting in-person, a live webcast of the meeting will be available online.

 
The public meeting will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at UW-Stevens Point’s Lee S. Dreyfus University Center, Alumni Room (350). It is the first of seven meetings to develop action items for moving recommendations in the 2012 report forward with the intent of enhancing deer management in the state.
 
For more information about the Deer Trustee Report visit: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/trustee.html
3/6/2013
Wisconsin Ag Exports at Record High
Wisconsin is well known for its strong agricultural heritage and agriculture continues to be one of the state’s largest industries.  Fittingly, the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) recently announced that 2012 was a record-setting year for Wisconsin’s agricultural exports.  Wisconsin exported over $2.9 billion worth of agricultural products last year to 149 countries, which was a 3% increase over 2011. 
 
After a record year of ag exports, Wisconsin is now ranked 13th in the nation for the value of ag exports, which is up from 16th in 2011.  Wisconsin exported the most to Canada, Mexico, China, Korea, and Japan.  Wisconsin’s most valuable ag export was the category including ethanol.  Wisconsin’s second most valuable ag export was miscellaneous food, which includes sauces, yeasts, and mustards.  Dairy-related products, including eggs, cheese, and honey, were the state’s third most valuable export.  Baking-related items, such as malt extract, dough, and pastry mixes, ranked fourth and preserved foods, including sweet corn, potatoes, cranberries, and cranberry juice, ranked fifth as most valuable ag exports. 
 
As Wisconsin continues to increase its ag exports in international markets, ag products and the ag industry continue to be an important part of our state’s economy.  According to a report done by UW-Extension, agriculture generates more than $59.6 billion in economic impact to the state each year.   Additionally, the ag industry supports over 350,000 jobs in Wisconsin, which accounts for 1 out of every 10 workers.
 
Any Wisconsin agribusiness that would like additional information about exporting ag products may contact DATCP’s International Trade Team at 1.800.462.5237 or international@wisconsin.gov .
3/5/2013
New fishing, hunting licenses go on sale March 6

Wisconsin hunting, fishing, trapping and other licenses for the 2013-14 seasons go on sale Wednesday, March 6. Annual licenses are valid from April 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014. Hunting and fishing licenses for the 2012-13 license year expire March 31, 2013.

For the avid angler and hunter, DNR licensing staff encourage you to take a look at purchasing a Conservation Patron license, which gives the license holder all of the basic fishing and hunting privileges at one price, $165 for Wisconsin residents and $75 for Wisconsin residents under age 18.
 
The adult Conservation Patron license includes fishing; sturgeon hook and line; small game; spring and fall turkey; archery; trapping; gun deer licenses. It also includes the early and exterior goose permits or Horicon goose application; drawing applications for spring and fall turkey, otter and fisher; state waterfowl, pheasant, turkey, inland trout and Great Lakes trout and salmon stamps; resident annual park stickers; state trail access; and a subscription to Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine. The Junior Patron includes everything except the park admission sticker, trail pass and magazine subscription.
 
License buyers also will want to let family and friends know about the first-time buyer license, offered for the second year. Several resident licenses are available for as little as $5 for those who have never purchased a Wisconsin license or those who have not done so for more than 10 years.
 
Hunting and fishing licenses, including the Conservation Patron license, can be purchased through the Online Licensing Center on the DNR website, at all authorized license agents, at DNR Service Centers (Hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation; DNR Service Centers are not open on Saturdays), or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236). DNR Customer Service staff is available to assist the public by phone and online from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Customers may reach customer service at 1-888-WDNR INFo (1-888-936-7463) or by e-mail at csweb@wisconsin.gov.
3/1/2013
Opportunity to Create a Farm to School Site
In partnership with the AmeriCorps Farm to School program, the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is now accepting applications to be an AmeriCorps Farm to School site for the 2013-2014 school year. 
 
Two goals of the program are promoting healthy eating habits and increasing access to local foods in schools.  Host sites for the AmeriCorps Farm to School Program can be a non-profit organization, state agency, university, school, school district or group of schools. Each site must have a letter of support from the schools it will serve. New sites will begin August 15.
 
Each site receives at least two half-time AmeriCorps members. One will focus on community outreach, connecting schools to farmers and the community.  A second will be a nutrition education member that will implement educational activities within the school.
 
Sites must be able to provide support to their AmeriCorps members, help create a local Farm to School task force in their community, complete pre and post evaluations of the program, and provide matching funds for operating expenses of the program.
 
The application is due to DATCP by April 26.  Applicants are highly encouraged to complete a notice of intent to apply by March 17 to assist with program planning.
To receive an application, visit http://datcp.wi.gov/Business/Buy_Local_Buy_Wisconsin/Farm_to_School_Program . For more information, contact DATCP’s Camilla Vargas at 608-224-5017 or camilla.vargas@wi.gov.
2/22/2013
Referendum to Protect Transportation Fund Coming to Voters
The State Senate gave final approval to a constitutional amendment that will now go before voters on a statewide referendum that proposes to safeguard the state’s transportation fund from future raids.  The transportation fund, which is composed primarily of gas tax and vehicle registration fee revenues, is the funding source for transportation needs in Wisconsin.
 
Given the raids made by the previous administration of the transportation fund for other budget purposes, the State Legislature has proposed protecting the transportation fund in the state Constitution.  The proposed amendment will safeguard the transportation fund by preventing future diversions of funds and ensuring that future revenues are used for transportation programs and projects. 
 
In order to amend the state Constitution, a resolution must be passed by both houses of the legislature in two consecutive legislative sessions and then approved by voters in a statewide referendum.  Since the resolution was approved by the State Assembly and State Senate last session and again this session, the question will be placed on the November 2014 statewide ballot.
2/21/2013
Clean Water Legislation Advances
Legislation that I have authored to aid municipalities in completing water infrastructure projects was approved this week by the State Senate.  Senate Bill 10 (SB 10) would bring Wisconsin state law in compliance with recent changes to federal law relating to the Clean Water Program and the Safe Drinking Water Program. 
 
SB 10 will enable 20 communities around the state to benefit from these programs this year by receiving up to $500,000 in assistance for local infrastructure projects.  Communities affected this year in our region include St. Croix Falls, Luck, and Webster.
 
Additionally, SB 10 provides the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with flexibility to fund innovative pilot project by removing current limitations on the types of projects the DNR can fund.  This will benefit communities by giving them the ability to put in place more cost-effective projects for meeting water quality standards.  This has the potential to save municipalities’ taxpayer dollars as they upgrade their waste water and drinking water systems.
2/20/2013
Governor’s Budget Address to be Live-Streamed Tonight
A joint session of the State Legislature will assemble tonight (Wednesday, February 20th) to hear Governor Walker’s budget address, which will outline his two-year budget proposal.  In addition to being available on public radio and television, the Governor’s office will be streaming the budget address live on the Governor’s website at www.walker.wi.gov .  The address will also be available live through the Wisconsin Eye website, www.wiseye.org/ . 
2/15/2013
Applicants Sought for Student Representative on the UW Board of Regents
The Governor has announced he is seeking applicants for the student representative on the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.  Students willing to serve a two-year term that are over the age of 18, enrolled at least half-time in a University of Wisconsin institution, in good academic standing, a Wisconsin resident, and would be enrolled for their entire term are encouraged to apply.  Please note that due to UW-Madison and UW-Parkside having been recently represented on the board, no applications will be accepted from these institutions.
 
The Board of Regents is responsible for establishing policies and rules for governing the University of Wisconsin System, planning to meet future state needs for higher education, setting admission standards and policies, as well as reviewing and approving university budgets.  Regents are charged with establishing the regulatory framework within which the individual campuses are allowed to operate with as great a degree of autonomy as possible.  Board members attend eight regular meetings per year, serve on special committees, serve as liaisons with at least two UW institutions, and perform related duties.
 
The deadline for submitting application materials is noon on Wednesday, February 20, 2013.  Potential applicants with questions about the appointments process may contact the Governor’s appointment director, Eric Esser, at 608-266-1212 or visit the Governor’s website atwww.walker.wi.gov.
2/14/2013
Governor announces 'DNA at Arrest' to be included in budget
This week, the Governor toured the state with Attorney General JB Van Hollen to outline several of his public safety priorities in the upcoming budget.  I am pleased that the Governor and Attorney General have come out in strong support for enhancing our state’s DNA collection to include those arrested on felony charges.
 
I have been leading the effort to enact this law in Wisconsin, which is currently in place in over half the states and the federal government.  Enhanced DNA collection will save lives, save investigative costs and time, exonerate the innocent, and provide relief to victims and their families.
 
This proposal has been carefully drafted to respect the rights of those arrested as we provide law enforcement with the latest tools to fight violent crime. The United States Congress recently boosted enhanced DNA collection efforts by passing federal legislation providing grant funding to states for this purpose.  This bipartisan bill has been signed into law by the President.
2/8/2013
DOT Schedules Public Meeting for Improvements to WIS 35 and WIS 70 Intersection in Burnett County
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Northwest Region has scheduled a public information meeting on February 21 from 5-7 p.m. at the Burnett County Government Center to discuss the proposed improvements to the intersection of WIS 35 and WIS 70 in Burnett County. The meeting will follow an open house format with a brief project overview presentation at 5:30 p.m. 
 
The public is encouraged to attend the meeting, provide input, and ask questions concerning this project.  Maps showing the proposed improvement alternatives will be on display.  WisDOT representatives will be available to discuss the project on an individual basis.
 
If you are unable to attend the meeting or would like more information, those interested in this project can contact Diane Slick at (715) 395-3020.  Written comments regarding the project can also be mailed to Ms. Slick at the WisDOT Northwest Region office in Superior (1701 North 4th Street, Superior, WI 54880).
2/6/2013
Hudson Offers Free Fishing Clinic for Kids
The St. Croix County Sports Alliance and St. Croix County Parks Department are sponsoring a free fishing clinic for kids on Saturday, February 23rd.  This is a great opportunity for kids to enjoy the outdoors and learn how to ice fish. 
 
The free fishing clinic is geared toward youth ages thirteen and under.  It will be held at Perch Lake from 2:00 to 4:00 PM.  The clinic will be based at the public access lot in the southwest corner of Perch Lake off of Perch Lake Road in the Town of St. Joseph.  Please note that this location is not inside Homestead Park.  Please contact Buck Malick at 715.386.7010 for additional information.
2/5/2013
Capitol Phone Outage
Update: The State Capitol's phone service has been partially restored. Please continue to feel free to contact me either by phone or e-mail at sen.harsdorf@legis.wi.gov.
 
AT&T is experiencing a widespread telephone outage in the downtown Madison area.  As a result, there are reported phone line problems at the following state facilities:  Department of Human Services, Risser Justice Center, and the State Capitol.  AT&T is working to restore telephone connectivity.  During the outage, please contact my office by email at Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wi.gov .   If you are unable to e-mail, the voicemail system is working and you can call and leave a message on my voicemail.  The voicemail is checked regularly and my office will be in contact with you.  We apologize for the inconvenience and will post an update when phone service is restored.
2/1/2013
Wisconsin Department of Revenue Now Accepting E-file Returns
Most Wisconsin income taxpayers are able to file their state income taxes through the e-file system found on the Wisconsin Department of Revenue website at www.revenue.wi.gov .  E-file is a faster and more convenient way to file your tax return.  The Wisconsin e-file system works in conjunction with the IRS, and as of January 30th, both Wisconsin and the IRS have started accepting e-file returns.  Due to late action on federal legislation there are some federal forms that are not yet available as they require more extensive programming and testing of IRS systems.  The IRS will announce when those forms are ready, which is expected to be between late February and March.  The key forms delayed include Form 5695 (Residential Energy Credits), Form 4562 (Depreciation and Amortization) and Form 3800 (General Business Credit).  Some of the benefits and requirements for Wisconsin e-file are listed below. 
 
Wisconsin e-file:
• Offers Wisconsin fill-in tax forms that do the math to help prevent errors
• Is secure and confidential – your taxpayer information is protected
• Sends a confirmation once a return is electronically submitted and received
• Allows you to link to e-filing options for your federal income taxes by clicking on “web-based filing”
• Refunds can be deposited directly into your bank account within days. 
 
What You Need to E-file
• Your federal income tax return
• All documents about income you received during the year, including W-2s and 1099s
• Legal names and social security numbers of spouse and dependents you’ll include on your return
• Charitable donations
• Property tax bill or rent certificate, if claiming Homestead Credit
• Bank account information for direct deposit or withdrawal
1/31/2013
WisDOT Public Meeting
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) will be replacing the County T bridge over Interstate 94 and reconstructing the interchange and adjacent ramps in 2016. A park and ride lot will also be a part of the project. WisDOT is currently preparing and evaluating reconstruction plan alternatives and has scheduled a public meeting on Wednesday, February 6th. The public is encouraged to attend and share verbal or written comments or concerns about the project. Meeting details are as follows:
 
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
St. Croix Central Middle School Small Gym
1295 Vine Street
Hammond, WI 54015
5:30-7:30 Open House
6:00 Presentation
 
The meeting will be organized in an open house format with a variety of exhibits and maps for review. Information presented at the meeting will include current project area issues, drawings of proposed alternatives and improvements, and the project schedule. Project staff will be available to answer questions throughout the evening.
 
Anyone unable to attend the meeting can provide comments to:
 
Tara Weiss
Project Manager—WisDOT Northwest Region
718 W. Claremont Avenue
Eau Claire, WI 54701
Phone: 715.836.2283
 
1/24/2013
Senate Scholar Program Applications Available
The Senate Scholar Program provides students with an introduction to many facets of state government and the legislative process.  During the intensive week-long program, students have an opportunity to meet with legislators and staff, legislative support agencies, governor’s staff, a Supreme Court Justice, the media and lobbyists.  Students also assist the Senate Sergeant’s staff during session days and conclude the week by drafting a bill and holding a mock hearing. 
 
I encourage any high school junior or senior to apply to this rigorous behind-the-scenes experience of state government.  If you are interested, please contact my office by calling (800) 862-1092 or (608) 266-7745 or emailing Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wi.gov.  In addition, more details and a link to the application are also found at: www.senatescholar.com.  The application deadline is April 1. 
1/16/2013
DOT Schedules Public Meeting on I-94 Study
The Department of Transportation has scheduled an informational meeting to update the public on a study of Interstate 94 between Roberts and Hudson.  The study is reviewing the need for improvements and possible expansion of the Interstate from the US Highway 12 interchange to two miles east of the State Road 65 interchange.
 
The Department is encouraging individuals to attend the meeting for more information on the study and to provide their input.  The meeting will be held on January 22nd from 5:00-7:00 in Roberts at the Community Park Building, which is located at 312 North Park Street.  Comments can also be submitted to Mr. Jim Koenig by phone at 715-838-8391 or by mail at WisDOT Northwest Region, 718 W. Clairemont Avenue, Eau Claire, WI 54701.
1/15/2013
State of the State Address Tonight
Tonight, January 15th, Governor Walker will give his third State of the State address.  The easiest way for you to watch and listen is by clicking the live-stream broadcast at www.walker.wi.gov .  The address will begin at 7pm.  In addition, the broadcast will be available on Wisconsin Public Television, Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Eye .
 
I encourage you to tune-in as the Governor lays out his plan to address job creation and reform government.
1/9/2013
Watch Out for Red Flags When Purchasing Football Tickets
As football fans are buying, selling and showing off their postseason football tickets there are some important tips to remember:
 
  Avoid fraud by purchasing tickets through the NFL-sanctioned ticket    exchange or a third-party exchange that will guarantee the validity of tickets.
 
•  If you post a picture of your ticket on a social networking site make sure you blur out the barcode on the ticket to avoid a scammer stealing the information to create a fake ticket.
 
  Avoid buying tickets from anyone on the street or near the venue.  They are more likely to be stolen or counterfeit tickets.
 
  As potential protection in case the tickets you purchased do not arrive, it is best to use a credit card when buying your tickets.  However, make sure the seller is legitimate before providing your credit card information.
 
If you believe you have been involved in a scam please contact the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection at 800-422-7128 to file a consumer complaint, send an email to: datcphotline@wisconsin.gov, or visit:  http://datcp.wi.gov/Consumer/Consumer_Complaints/index.aspx