Madison Office: 122 South, State Capitol  Phone: (608) 266-7745  E-mail: Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wi.gov
12/5/2014
Governor’s Holiday Open House Schedule Announced
Each year the Governor’s Executive Residence in Madison is opened to the public for tours of the home decorated for the Christmas season. There is no charge for the public tours, but Governor and First Lady Walker are encouraging visitors to donate non-perishable food items and winter weather items for those in need.

If you will be in the Madison area in the coming week, I encourage you to stop in and take a tour. The dates and times of the open house schedule are attached below. The Executive Residence is located at 99 Cambridge Road on Madison’s northeast side.

Saturday, December 6: 9:00 a.m. – Noon
Wednesday, December 10: Noon – 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, December 11: Noon – 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 13: 9:00 a.m. – Noon
11/25/2014
Happy Thanksgiving!
This week, families and friends across America will be gathering to celebrate all we have to be thankful for.  Since the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621, Americans have been making memories with loved ones and telling stories of times past, as they sit down to enjoy a delicious turkey dinner with all the fixings or another family favorite.  As we gather around our dinner tables this season, it is a time to remember all that we have to be thankful for including the times we share with our loved ones.  We also thank and remember those who are far from their families, fighting to protect our freedoms. 
 
While the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is full of celebration, the Wisconsin Department of Transpiration (DOT) reminds us to be safe while traveling on the most congested weekend of the year.  Visit the DOT website for transportation news and updates across the state. 
 
I wish you and your family a wonderful, safe, and Happy Thanksgiving!
11/21/2014
Wishing hunters a safe and successful deer season!
Another exciting gun deer hunting season is upon us and conditions look to be great for the opening day with milder temperatures and snow cover that will be helpful in limiting noise and tracking deer.
 
Following the extensive review of Wisconsin’s deer management policies and hunting regulations in recent years, there have been a number of changes to the gun deer season.  More information on this process and regulation changes can be found on the DNR website.
 
I wish all those going out into the woods and fields a safe and successful hunt!
11/11/2014
Recognizing Our Veterans Today and Always
On November 11th, we take time as a country to pay tribute to all the brave men and women who have served and protected this nation.  Without these courageous and selfless individuals, we would not have the freedoms we enjoy and cherish as Americans.  I encourage you to take a moment today and each day to thank a veteran and to reflect upon the service and sacrifice these heroes have made on our behalf.
10/24/2014
Enjoy Halloween Family Fun
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is inviting families to take part in fun fall festivities offered through Wisconsin state parks this October, such as the Willow River State Park Halloween Bash in Hudson.  This event is scheduled for October 25th includes an evening of storytelling, crafts, and games for an admission price of $2.  For a full list of state park fall festivities please visit the DNR’s official website http://dnr.wi.gov/News/Weekly/#art3
 
In addition to the state park events, there are a host of community events in our area to celebrate fall and Halloween that include fun activities such as pumpkin carving, bonfires, and spooky candlelight hikes.  You are also encouraged to visit Travel Wisconsin’s official website at http://www.travelwisconsin.com/ to find other community events and opportunities for your family to enjoy the fall season and Halloween festivities!
10/23/2014
Public Meeting Scheduled for WIS 65/70th Avenue Intersection Improvements
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) has scheduled a public meeting on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 from 5:00 to 6:30 to discuss the construction on the WIS 65/70th Avenue intersection scheduled for 2017.  The public is encouraged to attend this meeting which will review proposed improvements to the intersection. 
 
The meeting will be held at the Village of Roberts Community Park Building and will be led by DOT project designers and real estate staff.  This is a great opportunity for residents to provide input, obtain information, and ask questions regarding the project. 
 
Questions may also be sent by mail to Tara Weiss, Project Engineer, 718 W. Clairemont, Eau Claire, WI 54701; by email to tara.weiss@dot.wi.gov; or over the phone at (715) 836-2283.
10/22/2014
Unemployment Fund Reaches Solvency, Reducing Employment Taxes
The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development recently reported that the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund deficit has been eliminated after reaching a $1.4 billion deficit in January of 2011.   The elimination of this debt is due to reforms enacted to the state’s unemployment insurance program and an increase in statewide economic output that has seen a reduction in unemployment.
 
The elimination of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund deficit will result in a reduction in taxes for small business owners and employers throughout Wisconsin. The positive balance of the fund is expected to reduce Unemployment Insurance Tax from 1.5% to 0.6% of wages up to $7,000, saving a typical small business more than $2,500 in taxes for 2014.  For more information on this and other news from the Department of Workforce Development, please visit their website or visit them on Facebook .
10/9/2014
October Marks Wisconsin Manufacturing Month
Manufacturing continues to be one of the pillars of Wisconsin’s economy and the importance of this industry is being recognized this October as Manufacturing Month in Wisconsin.  Wisconsin is a leading state in manufacturing, as it accounts for nearly 20% of our state’s economic output and employs one of every six Wisconsin workers.  Nearly half a million Wisconsin residents work in manufacturing, earning an average salary of $53,000 a year.  
 
Today’s manufacturing requires highly skilled workers and provides great earning potential and exciting opportunities in advancing new technologies, while providing a clean work environment and career advancement.  Students seeking a career in an exciting field that offers good wages and opportunities to advance should consider the manufacturing sector.  To this end, Wisconsin’s technical colleges provide students with great opportunities in a manufacturing career, offering a variety of programs including engineering, mechanical design, welding and fabrication, and machine tool operation.  Visit http://www.goldcollarcareers.com/ for more information on the exciting manufacturing opportunities available in Wisconsin!
10/1/2014
Tree and Shrub Seedlings Available Through DNR
 In an ongoing effort to promote conservation, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will be taking orders for tree and shrub seedlings in October to encourage private landowners to plan for spring tree planting.  Starting October 6th, the DNR will provide seedling order applications at all their offices and online.  Each purchase must be between 300-500 trees or shrubs, and the seedlings purchased may only be used for conservation purposes.  The seedlings will be delivered in early spring.   This program is ideal for private land owners because it not only enables them to nurture wildlife habitats, but it also promotes conservation practices, all at an affordable price. 
 
To place an order call Griffin State Nursery at 715-424-3700 or visit the DNR’s website http://dnr.wi.gov/ and search “tree planting.”
 
 
9/26/2014
Enjoying Wisconsin’s Fall Colors
The first official day of autumn is right around the corner and Wisconsin’s trees will soon paint the landscape in bright red, orange, and yellow!  You can enjoy the transition of colors in Wisconsin by keeping track of where tree colors are at their peak and visiting our state parks and forests.  Wisconsin residents and visitors can follow the latest updates on fall color changes in specific locations by clicking on the interactive fall color report provided by www.travelwisconsin.com .  To access the fall color report, click here.
9/23/2014
National Prescription Drug "Take-Back" Day
Prescription drug abuse is one of the nation’s fastest growing drug problems and addiction to prescription painkillers can often lead to the abuse of other illicit drugs such as heroin.  However, it is often unclear what we should do with unused prescription drugs that are sitting in our medicine cabinets.  Fortunately, a number of initiatives are seeking to make it easier to dispose of prescription drugs and limit the potential for abuse, including several local prescription drug recycling programs operated by county governments in our area.
 
As part of this effort to reduce prescription drug abuse, Wisconsinites are encouraged to participate in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s upcoming National Prescription Drug “Take-Back” Day.  On Saturday, September 27, 2014 from 10 am to 2 pm, Wisconsinites will be able to anonymously drop off their unwanted, expired, or unused prescription drugs at one of the many drop-off locations throughout the state.  To find a drop-off location near you, visit www.DEA.gov.  Previous Prescription Drug “Take-Back” Days have been huge successes collecting over 25 tons of unwanted, expired, or unused prescription drugs ranking us third in the nation for total amount collected.  Let’s work together to make this Fall’s Prescription Drug “Take-Back” Day another success!
9/22/2014
Apply to Design Ornaments for Wisconsin’s National Christmas Tree
Every year, the Governor chooses an artist to collaborate with a youth arts class or program to create ornaments which will be displayed on Wisconsin’s National Christmas Tree in Washington D. C.  Governor Walker will be accepting artists’ applications from now until Thursday, September 25th, for those interested in applying to create this year’s ornaments.  To apply, artists should submit the following information to govpress@wisconsin.gov:  name of artist/art teacher, email, phone number, mailing address, brief description of artistic background and training, school partner or class that will produce the ornaments, and brief description of design idea (optional).
 
Once selected, the art teacher or artist, along with the youth group or class, will be working with the National Park Foundation to begin the design process.  Examples of last year’s designs can be found by clicking here.  Good luck!
9/19/2014
Share Your Fall Photos - Participate in DNR Photo Contest
The Department of Natural Recourses is encouraging Wisconsin residents to share their photos of state parks and forests through their "Fall in Love with Wisconsin State Parks" Facebook photo contest. This is a great opportunity for people who love the fall colors and enjoy state parks, forests, trails, and recreation areas to share their experiences with others while also helping to promote state parks.  All photos entered in the contest may be used in DNR publications, brochures, website, and social media outlets. 
 
The contest will begin on September 15 th and go through October 26 th to provide photographers the opportunity to capture th e beautiful fall colors.  To enter the photo contest, simply visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Facebook page and click the “Like” button.  This will allow you to enter photos by clicking the “Photo Contest” box on the left of the page.  Visitors to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Facebook page will then be able to vote on their favorite pictures.   Winners of the contest will receive a 2015 State Park sticker, a 2015 Wisconsin trails pass, and a two year subscription to Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine .   A complete list of rules can be found on the DNR website.   
9/18/2014
Think Tree Stand Safety This Archery Season
Archery and crossbow deer seasons began last weekend and the Department of Natural Resources is reminding hunters to think about tree stand safety.  While tree stands increase a hunter’s chances of spotting and bagging a deer, they can also be dangerous as tree stand accidents are one of the leading causes of injury to hunters.  Injuries from such accidents are easily preventable.
The DNR has a few tips to share with hunters about tree stand safety:
 
  • Always wear a full body harness while you are in a tree stand, as well as when climbing into and out of a tree stand.  Make sure it is worn properly.  Tree stand harnesses have an expiration date and should be replaced when they expire and/or a fall occurs.  A safety strap should be attached to the tree to prevent falling more than twelve inches.
  • Always have three points of contact when climbing into and out of a tree stand; either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand at all times.
  • Always use a haul line to raise and lower your bow or unloaded firearm.
  • Be aware of suspension trauma, which occurs when a person is held upright for a period of time and blood flow to the brain is affected.  Suspension trauma can happen in less than twenty minutes and can be fatal.  Attach an additional foot strap to the body harness to take pressure off your upper legs.
For more information about tree stand safety, please visit the DNR’s website .
9/9/2014
New Consumer Protection Addresses Confusing Property Deed Solicitations
Many Wisconsin residents have received official-looking mail in recent years offering to provide a copy of their property deed for $89.  However, these solicitations do not note that property deeds can be obtained from a county register of deedsat a lower costEarlier this year, the State Legislature enacted legislation seekingto address these confusing solicitations.  Under this new state law, any documents soliciting fees for public records must state on the top, in at least 24-point type, all of the following:
 
·        That the solicitation is not from any state agency or local unit of government,
·        That there is no requirement to action by the solicited individual,
·        The fee or the cost to obtain a copy of the record from the state agency or local unit of government that has custody of the record,
·        The necessary information to contact and obtain a copy of the record from the state agency or local unit of government that has custody of the record, and
·        The name and address of the business or individual soliciting the fee.
 
The purpose of this law is to help Wisconsin residents identify solicitations and provide residents with the information necessary to obtain the records they need.  The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) urges residents to file a complaint if they receive a property mailer that is missing these new disclosures.  For additional information or to file a complaint, Visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at www.datcp.wi.gov, call 800-422-7128, or send an email to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov .
8/18/2014
Public Hearing Scheduled on WIS 64 Freeway Plans
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) will be holding a public hearing to seek input on plans for a future designation and conversion of WIS 64 to a freeway and expressway between 150th Avenue and WIS 65 in St. Croix County.  The proposal seeks to authorize the Department to officially designate WIS 64 as a freeway between 150th Ave and WIS 35 and as an expressway between WIS 35 and WIS 65.  This planning process will allow the Department to replace WIS 64’s at-grade intersections with overpasses based upon traffic and safety needs with the completion of the new St. Croix River Crossing.
 
The public hearing will be held on Thursday, August 28th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Star Prairie Town Hall on 2118 Cook Drive, Somerset, WI.  Those interested in learning more about DOT’s plans or providing comments or concerns are encouraged to attend.  Written comments may be submitted to Jeffry Abboud at 718 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire, WI, 54701 or by e-mail at jeffry.abboud@dot.wi.gov .
8/13/2014
Explore State Parks with New DNR Phone App
The DNR has made it easier for smartphone users to explore Wisconsin’s vast array of state parks, forest trails, and recreational areas with their new Wisconsin State Parks and Forests Pocket Ranger® App.  The app includes features such as advanced GPS trail mapping and the ability to mark photo waypoints.  It also provides a real time calendar of events and a “Friend Finder” feature that allows you to keep track of your companions when on a trail or in a park or forest.  The Wisconsin State Parks and Forests Pocket Ranger® App is available at no cost in iTunes or on the Android Market.  To download the app for your smartphone, follow the link on the DNR’s website.
8/5/2014
Tips for Purchasing Propane for the Winter
Summer is half over and given our last harsh winter, no one wants to think about buying propane.  However, the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is offering important tips for buying propane to prepare for the winter season.  Last winter, Wisconsin—and many parts of the Midwest—experienced a propane shortage due to abnormally cold weather and supply issues.  The State Legislature and Governor worked to allow greater shipments of propane by truck in response to the propane shortage and to provide financial assistance to those impacted.  As unpredictable as Wisconsin weather is, we can unfortunately count on cold weather returning this winter.  
 
While it is recommended that propane users contact their propane dealer early in order to lock in a lower price, consumers should be sure to read the fine print of the purchase agreement to be aware of any stipulations in the contract.  For DATCP’s tips and information on buying propane this season, click here .
8/4/2014
New Crossbow Deer Hunting Season Will Be Offered in 2014
A new crossbow hunting season for deer will now be offered as a result of legislation approved by the State Legislature last session.  Previously, only disabled hunters were authorized to hunt using a crossbow, but now a crossbow hunting license will be available to all hunters.  The crossbow deer hunting season will run concurrently with bow season and during open firearm seasons a gun deer license will authorize both bow and crossbow hunting.
 
The Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to visit the frequently asked questions on DNR website and hopes to continue holding online chats to inform hunters of further rule changes.  For more information on the new crossbow deer hunting season, click here.
8/1/2014
Celebrate Wisconsin Agriculture at the 2014 Farm Technology Days
Wisconsin’s Farm Technology Days will be held in Portage County this year on August 12-14 near Stevens Point.  This family-friendly event celebrates Wisconsin agriculture with over 600 commercial exhibitors offering a wide variety of farm and educational demonstrations, entertainment activities, and live performances.  During the event, there will be four areas for farmers and consumers to discuss current issues with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.  These include the Progress Pavilion (2012 Census of Agriculture and animal health information), the Applied Technology Center (business services), the Family Living Tent (consumer tips), and the Conservation Tent (pesticide and fertilizer application).  Be sure to take the whole family out to enjoy this year’s Farm Technology Days!
 
Tickets are $6 per person, children 12 and under and FFA students accompanied by their instructor have free entry.  Parking for the event is free. More information on the event can be found at: http://portagecountyfarmtech.com
7/31/2014
Changes Coming to "Do Not Call" List
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is reminding residents of new changes going into effect August 1st to Wisconsin’s “Do Not Call” list which will greatly benefit Wisconsin consumers.  As a result of legislation Senator Harsdorf cosponsored this session that was enacted into law as 2013 Wisconsin Act 234, consumers will no longer be required to reregister their phone numbers every two years in order to continue receiving protection under state law from telemarketing calls and text messages.  Additionally, the registration of a new telephone number now takes effect the following day rather than having to wait until the next quarter.  All telephone numbers currently on the Wisconsin’s “Do Not Call” Registry will be automatically transferred to the Federal Trade Commission’s nationwide list and will remain there permanently.  Wisconsin consumers can register their cell, landline, or VoIP numbers onlinehere or by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the number they wish to register.  Visit DATCP’s website http://datcp.wi.gov/news/?Id=1128 for more information on confirming phone registration, reporting unwanted calls, and specifics on the new law.
7/30/2014
Participating in Operation Deer Watch
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) needs your help in participating in an ongoing annual effort to manage deer called Operation Deer Watch.  The program enlists members of the public to report the number of deer they see between August 1st and September 30th.  Participation in the survey is easy – during the assigned period, participants will keep track of all bucks, does and fawns they see using an online tally sheet.  This year, about 14,000 randomly selected deer hunters received an invitation to participate in the program.  Those who did not receive the invitation are still encouraged to submit their observations online.  Operation Deer Watch is a great opportunity to contribute to the management of Wisconsin’s deer herd!  For more information about participating in Operation Deer Watch, click here.
7/23/2014
Unexpected Tax Return Letters May Be an Indication of Identity Theft
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has recently received reports from consumers of fraudulent tax returns.  In these reports, individuals have received letters from tax agencies stating that a tax return is under review even though he or she did not file tax returns or earn income in those states.  These letters may not be a clerical error, but an identity theft attempt by criminals.  Identity thieves try to receive tax returns by using personal information to file fraudulent claims. 
 
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, take the following steps:
· Contact Equifax , Experian , or TransUnion to place a fraud alert
·  Order and review  your credit reports for unexpected activities
·  File an incident report with the police
 
DATCP is working with the Internal Revenue Service, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue and the states that sent the notifications. If you receive a similar letter in the mail, please file a complaint on the DATCP website or contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-422-7128 or by email at datcphotline@wisconsin.gov .
7/22/2014
Prevent the Transmission of Rabies in Pets and Livestock
As you and your family enjoy the warm weather, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) reminds individuals that the increase in people to animal and animal to animal contact during good weather can increase the risk of rabies transmission.  Rabies can be transmitted by infected animals through bites, scratches, and saliva contact with broken skin.  In Wisconsin, bats and skunks are the most likely to carry the rabies virus, but cases have been found in dogs, cats, raccoons, fox, and livestock.  State law requires vaccination for dogs five months and older.  Though not required by state law, rabies vaccines are recommended for use in cats, ferrets, horses, cattle, and sheep.  More information on Wisconsin’s rabies control requirements can be found here .  A few tips to prevent rabies transmission include:
· Vaccinate pets and livestock
·  Securely cover garbage cans
·  Keep pet food inside and in a sealed container
·  Prevent bats from entering your home
 
For more information on rabies and rabies prevention, visit the DATCP website or contact Dr. Yvonne Bellay at 608-224-4888 or Yvonne.bellay@wi.gov
7/18/2014
August 1st DNR Application Deadlines Nearing
As fall approaches, those planning to participate in fall turkey, bobcat, fisher, otter, wolf, or sturgeon seasons are reminded that permit applications must be submitted by August 1 at noon.  The Online Licensing Center, all authorized license agents, DNR Service Centers, and the DNR’s call line at 1-877-945-4236 will have permit applications available for purchase.  Specific details for each season can be found here.
7/15/2014
2015 Friends of Wisconsin State Parks Calendar Photo Contest
Do you have a photo that captures the natural beauty of Wisconsin?  The Friends of Wisconsin State Parks has announced the sixth annual photography competition and is looking for photos of scenery and activities from Wisconsin state parks, forest trails, and recreational areas.  The 2015 calendar will be available for purchase and will be distributed to subscribers of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine with the December issue. 
Photographers can submit one entry per season (spring, summer, fall, winter) for a total of four possible entries.  Submissions must be sent by Sunday, August 31, 2014. 
Rules of entry are as follows:
  • Photos will be accepted from amateur photographers ages 14 and over; photographers that earn more than half of their income from photography are not eligible. 
  • Photos must have been taken within the past three years, since January 1, 2012. 
  • DNR employees and Friends of Wisconsin State Parks board members and their immediate family members are not eligible to win. 
For more information, visit http://friendswiparks.blogspot.com/2014/06/2014-photo-contest.html or contact Patricia Loosen, Friends of Wisconsin State Parks coordinator at 608-264-8994. 
7/14/2014
Protect Your Eyes from Summer Sunshine's UV Rays

As you and your family enjoy the warm weather outside, the Wisconsin Optometric Association reminds individuals to protect their eyes this summer.  Here are some tips to protect your eye health:

Be sure to check the UV protection level on sunglasses before purchase.  Sunglasses with 99 or 100 percent UV-A and UV-B protection, have a uniform tint, and fit close to the face provide optimal protection from the sun. 
 
Short-term exposure to UV rays can cause “sunburn of the eye” (photokeratitis), with symptoms including: redness, extreme sensitivity to light, excessive tearing, or a gritty feeling in the eyes. Eyes with long-term exposure to UV rays can result in significant damage, such as cataracts, age related macular degeneration, or abnormal growths.  Consult your eye doctor if you are experiencing symptoms related to sunburn of the eye. 
 
Children’s eyes have lenses that are more transparent and cannot filter UV rays as easily as adult eyes.  Teaching a child to protect his or her eyes can avoid unnecessary damage while enjoying the summer sunshine. 
 
7/11/2014
Stillwater Lift Bridge Lane Closures Scheduled

Starting 9AM on Monday, July 14, 2014, motorists will encounter alternating lane closures and delays on the Stillwater Lift Bridge as crews conduct an in-depth inspection of the bridge, which is done every two years.  Lanes will reopen daily by 2PM and inspection will occur only on weekdays.  The inspection has an expected completion date of Friday, July 25, 2014, by 2PM, weather permitting.  Motorists are encouraged to seek alternate routes to avoid the expected increase in congestion. 

Boat and water traffic will not be impacted and the normal lift schedule will not change. 

7/10/2014
WIS 65 Improvement Meeting Scheduled in Polk County
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Northwest Region has scheduled a meeting to discuss plans for roadway improvement on WIS 65.  WisDOT is proposing reconstruction on a portion of WIS 65 between the Polk County line and Highway 8 that will straighten roadway alignment, lessen hills, and improve the intersection at 40th Avenue.  Maps and aerial views of the proposal will be displayed and WisDOT representatives will be present to answer questions. 
 
The meeting is scheduled for 5-7PM on Thursday, July 17, 2014, at the Alden Town Hall, 183 155th Street, Star Prairie, WI 54026.  A short presentation of project information will be held at the beginning of the meeting. 
 
If you are unable to attend the meeting, or would like more information, contact Project Manager Beth Cunningham at (715) 635-4973.  Written comments regarding the project can be mailed to Beth Cunningham, Wisconsin Department of Transportation NW Region/Spooner, W7102 Green Valley Road, Spooner, WI 54801 or emailed to beth.cunningham@dot.wi.gov .
7/7/2014
Robocalls Take On ‘Local’ Identities
The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has recently received an increase in consumer reports of scams offering to lower credit card interest rates for a fee.  Caller ID displays for these calls have shown a phone number nearly identical to the consumer’s number.  The name and phone number that appears on the phone display can be changed by scammers to show a ‘credible’ name and local number to entice consumers to answer the call.  Hang up immediately if you receive a call from ‘Cardholder Services’ offering to lower your credit card rates.  Pressing keys on your phone could lead to more robocalls from scammers.  In many cases, the goal of these scammers is to charge your credit card with phony fees or to sell your phone number to other scammers. 
 
For additional information or to file a complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at datcp.wisconsin.gov, send an e-mail to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov or call the Consumer Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.
7/3/2014
Celebrating Independence Day!
Independence Day is here, and not only is it a great opportunity to create memories with your loved ones, but it is also an important time to reflect on the sacrifices made that allow us to enjoy today’s freedoms. This 4th of July marks America’s 238th birthday –the world’s longest standing constitutional republic— and what better way to celebrate than with cookouts, parades, and fireworks!
 
Are you planning on boating with your family or lighting fireworks this 4th of July? If so, the Department of Natural Resources provides a number of tips for being safe while having fun off-shore! Please visit here for more information. Also, the Department of Health Services provides a number of tips for safely setting off fireworks.  Please click here for more information on enjoying fireworks while avoiding injuries.
 
I wish you and your family a safe and joyous Independence Day!
7/2/2014
St. Croix Crossing Open for Fourth of July Travelers
The Department of Transportation is alerting motorists that all highways in the St. Croix Crossing construction area will be open for motorists during the holiday weekend.  Construction crews do not plan to work July 4 through July 6.  The following is a schedule of openings and closings in the area: 
  • The new Wisconsin State Road 35 overpass is now open to traffic.
  • Minnesota Highways 36 and 95 in Oak Park Heights and Stillwater will remain open.  Highway 36 from the Washington Ave/Norell Ave intersection to Highway 95 and Highway 95 from Highway 36 to the Sunnyside Marina north entrance will continue single-lane traffic. 
  • The Stillwater Lift Bridge, while currently closed due to high water, will reopen to vehicle and pedestrian traffic at 4PM on July 2 and resume its normal schedule, except for between 10:30PM and 11PM on July 4 when the lift bridge will remain in the down position to accommodate increased vehicle traffic. 
  • Due to high water levels, the DNR has a no wake zone on the St. Croix River.  A mile-long river channel (marked by red and green buoys) and no wake zone are in place between Stillwater and Bayport. 
  • In Minnesota, the northbound I-694 ramp to eastbound Highway 36, the ramp from Hilton Trail to westbound Highway 36, and access to Viking Drive from eastbound Hwy 36 are all closed.
7/1/2014
Exercise Caution and Be Safe on our Roadways!
As you head out for summer vacations or weekend getaways with your family on Wisconsin’s many roads and highways, it is important to be aware of highway maintenance and construction workers that are working hard during construction season.  Additionally, law enforcement officers and emergency services personnel are also often along our highways as they respond to emergencies and traffic stops.
 
To keep safe and protect law enforcement officers, emergency responders, and road maintenance workers on the highway, Wisconsin has a “Move Over” Law that requires drivers to slow down or change lanes to create a safety zone.  This safety zone provides space for squad cars, ambulances, fire trucks, tow trucks or highway maintenance vehicles that are stopped on the side of a road, ensuring the safety for those providing these important services.  For ways to create a safe zone when driving on the highway, click  here .
6/25/2014
Preventing the Spread of Invasive Species in Wisconsin
"Clean Boats Clean Waters” volunteers and Department of Natural Resources staff will be at boat launches throughout the state during the July 4th weekend helping boaters inspect their boats and showing the necessary steps to slow the spread of aquatic invasive species.  The sixth annual "Landing Blitz" aims to educate and reward boaters for taking steps in preventing the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian water-milfoil. Boaters spotted already practicing the important prevention steps might be rewarded with a free "Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers" towels. For more information on preventing the spread of invasive species and boating regulations, click here .
6/23/2014
Public Meeting Scheduled on I-94 Hudson Interchanges
A public meeting on improving the I-94/Carmichael Road and I-94/US 12 interchanges has been scheduled by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT).  Significant traffic congestion is expected in Hudson by the year 2035 based on the projected growth of the area.  WisDOT would like the community’s input on options to modify and build connections to create efficient traffic flow to the area.  Maps of proposed improvements will be displayed and WisDOT representatives will be available to discuss the project in further detail. 
 
The meeting will be held Tuesday, July 1, 2014, from 5-7PM at the St. Croix County Government Center, County Board Room, 1101 Carmichael Road, Hudson, WI 54016.  A short presentation is planned for 5:30PM.
 
If you are unable to attend the meeting, or would like more information, contact Project Manager Jim Koenig at (715) 838-8391.  Written comments regarding the project can be mailed to Jim Koenig, WisDOT,718 West Clairemont Avenue, Eau Claire, WI 54701 or emailed to james.koenig@dot.wi.gov .
6/20/2014
Reducing Disaster Damage in Wisconsin
Over the last three decades, Wisconsin has incurred more than $3 billion in disaster-related property damage due to severe weather.  Natural disasters can come unexpectedly to homes and businesses.  When possible, residents should be prepared for when the unexpected comes.  The Division of Emergency Management of the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs estimates that for every dollar spent on hazard mitigation, $4 in future damages can be avoided and $5 can be avoided from flood damage.  Some mitigation solutions can be as simple as elevating a furnace in your basement.  For more hazard mitigation ideas ranging from flooding to droughts, click here.
6/18/2014
Avoiding Summer Scams
Summer is finally here and is a great time for working around the home or garden, planning a family vacation, or attending a local concert or community event.  In order to ensure you have an enjoyable summer, the Consumer Action Handbook has a few suggestions to avoid some of the top scams of the season.  For example, as you head out on family trips it is recommended that you avoid using gas additives advertised to improve fuel efficiency.  No such products have been demonstrated to increase gas mileage and some of these additives can actually harm your vehicle’s engine.  Summer is also a great time for home improvement projects, but always be sure to research those you are considering  doing business with before hiring.  Also, it is advisable that you do not pay in advance for projects.  For more summer consumer tips, please click here .
6/17/2014
Keeping an Eye Out for Credit Card Fraud
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has recently received a number of consumer complaints regarding fraudulent credit card charges.  These credit card charges are small and can easily be overlooked by cardholders.  Some cardholders have also said that foreign transaction fees appear on their monthly statements when a fraudulent charge occurs.  If you believe that a fraudulent charge appears on your monthly statement, immediately contact your financial provider by calling the phone number on the back of your card.
 
For additional information on credit card fraud or to file a complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at datcp.wisconsin.gov, send an e-mail to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov , or call the Consumer Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.
6/16/2014
DNR Announces Increases in Walleye Daily Bag Limits
Effective June 10th, 2014 to March 1st, 2015, the bag limit for walleyes will increase in certain inland lakes in Northern Wisconsin.  For a list of the lakes with revised daily bag limit click here .  The Department of Natural Resources would like to remind you that if the lake you are fishing on has a bag limit of less than five, you may fish other lakes to fill your daily bag limit.  However, while fishing you may not possess fish in excess of that lake's daily bag limit.  Therefore, remember to remove all fish from your boat prior to fishing on a second lake that also has a restricted bag limit.
6/10/2014
Email Scam Consumer Alert
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) would like to inform Wisconsin residents of an email scam regarding taxpayer information.  The email states that the recipient owes the Department of Revenue (DOR) taxes, and will face additional penalties if they do not open the attachment.  The attachment can damage your computer or give access to personal information.  DATCP warns individuals not to open any attachments and to delete the email.  DOR does not communicate to taxpayers through email nor does it ask for personal information by phone or email.  For additional information or to file a consumer complaint, please click here ( http://datcp.wisconsin.gov ).
6/9/2014
I-94 Improvement Project Public Meeting
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) would like citizen input on the proposed I-94 improvement project between Hudson and Baldwin.  A public meeting will be held on June 18th at the Roberts Elementary School gymnasium from 4:30-7:30 pm and will focus on the environmental aspects of the construction project.  All interested individuals are encouraged to attend to review displays, ask questions of DOT staff members, and provide written or verbal comments regarding the project.  For more information on the proposed construction plans, please click here: (http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/projects/nwregion/94/index.htm).
6/6/2014
I-94 Interchange Public Meeting
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) is holding a meeting for public comments on the proposed reconstruction of the County Road T bridge over I-94 near Hammond.  The meeting will take place at the St. Croix Central Middle School Small Gym on Wednesday, June 11th from 5:30 – 6:30pm.  The meeting will present information on the construction schedule, construction staging, and the right-of-way acquisition.  DOT staff will be available to answer questions and take verbal and written testimony on the project.  For more information on the proposed construction plans, please click here .
6/2/2014
Fun and Free Weekend Reminder
June is right around the corner which means the annual Free Outdoor Fun Weekend is almost here.  During the weekend of June 7th and 8th the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is waiving all state trail pass fees, park admissions, and fishing license requirements for state parks and trails.  Free equipment will also be available at many of the state parks for use during the weekend.  For more information, visit the DNR website at dnr.wi.gov .
5/30/2014
Mabel Tainter Named One of Top 15 Theaters Worldwide
CNN recently recognized the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts in Menomonie as one of the 15 most spectacular theaters in the world.  The theater was first built in 1889 as a tribute to the daughter of Captain and Mrs. Andrew Tainter, a young musician named Mabel.  The theater underwent a renovation in 2007, but care was taken to ensure that its impressive historical features still remain.  To read the CNN news piece or to learn more about the truly spectacular Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts and their performances, please visit their website by clicking here .
5/28/2014
June is Dairy Month
June Dairy Month is an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the importance of agriculture and the dairy industry to our state.  Community events are planned throughout Wisconsin to show support for dairy producers and the agricultural community.  Agriculture is a vital part of the state’s economy and Wisconsin leads the country in cheese production and is second in milk production.  Over the past year alone, Wisconsin’s dairy-related exports have increased by 41%.  Breakfasts on the Farm and community Dairy Days are just a few ways to celebrate and support our dairy farms and businesses. You can find a June Dairy Month event in your area by clicking here.
5/23/2014
Memorial Day – A Time to Remember
Memorial Day is our nation’s day of remembrance to honor the men and women that have sacrificed their lives to defend our country and protect our freedoms.   As we reflect on our fallen heroes during this national holiday, please consider taking time to attend a Memorial Day service in your area to pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in fighting for our country.   I wish you and your family a Happy Memorial Day!
5/20/2014
I-94 and WIS 128 Informational Meeting Scheduled May 21st
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) will be holding a public information meeting this week regarding the I-94/WIS128 interchange improvement project and is inviting area residents to attend.  The meeting will be held on May 21st at the Baldwin Ag Center from 5:30 to 7:30pm and will focus on construction scheduled to being in late spring of 2016.  Construction will include the I-94/WIS 128 intersection and replacing the overpassing bridge.  DOT staff members will be available as well as displays of the project for review.  For more information on this project, please click here .
5/15/2014
May is Mental Health Awareness Month
May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, which is part of a national campaign to increase awareness and provide information on mental health issues.  The State Legislature joined in the effort this session by creating the Speaker’s Task Force on Mental Health chaired by Representative Erik Severson.   This panel produced a number of reforms that were passed and signed into law to modernize the state’s mental health laws and provide quality treatment as well as accessibility of services.  Senator Harsdorf was the Senate sponsor of one of these measures which encourages peer run respite centers enabling community-based treatment provided by individuals who are in successful recovery from mental illness or substance abuse.   For the complete mental health report issued by the task force please click here or feel free to contact Senator Harsdorf’s office for more information on the legislation suggested by the task force that was enacted into law.
5/14/2014
Free Bird Walk Scheduled this Saturday
Don’t miss an exciting opportunity to join local birders this Saturday, May 17th, from 7-9am at Interstate Park for a free bird walk.  Brian Collins will be leading a two-hour morning bird walk on the Silverbrook Trail at the Park to view migratory birds returning to Wisconsin.  Attendees are asked to meet at the Pines Group Camp and to bring binoculars and a bird field guide if they have them.  The walk is free to the public, but a Wisconsin State park sticker is required to enter the park.  For more information, click here to visit Interstate Park’s website.
5/12/2014
Celebrating Syttende Mai
Syttende Mai celebrates the declared independence of Norway from Denmark with the signing of the Norwegian Constitution, which occurred on May 17th or “Syttende Mai” in Norwegian. Norwegian heritage can be found throughout our state as one out of every twelve Wisconsinites is of Norwegian descent. We are fortunate to have a Syttende Mai celebration close by in Woodville. The State Senate voted earlier this year to honor Syttende Mai through Senate Joint Resolution 81, which was co-sponsored by Senator Harsdorf and proclaims May 16th-18th, 2014 as Syttende Mai Weekend. For more information on the Syttende Mai celebration in Woodville and others around the state, please visit the Travel Wisconsin website at www.travelwisconsin.com .
5/8/2014
Wisconsin Tourism Revenues Continue to Climb
Recently released figures from Wisconsin’s Department of Tourism indicate that tourism spending increased last year by 4.3% statewide to $17.5 billion.  This marks the fourth consecutive year of growth in Wisconsin’s essential tourism industry, which supported one in thirteen jobs throughout the state last year and generated $2.4 billion in local, state, and federal tax revenues combined.  St. Croix County experienced a particularly sharp 8.5% increase in tourism spending last year.  For more information on our state’s increasingly popular events, parks, and attractions, visit www.travelwisconsin.com .
5/7/2014
State Website Has New Look!
The State of Wisconsin’s website recently received a makeover to adopt a more user-friendly design.  The website is the main point of access for all state agencies, boards and commissions, branches of state government, and other Wisconsin related information.  The new design includes the ability for customers to access the webpage from all smartphones, a Google search for easier navigation, and an online chat feature for assistance, among other improvements.  Check out the redesigned website by clicking here.
5/6/2014
Hiking, Swimming, and Picnicking
If you are looking for a great family day trip this summer to do some hiking, swimming, picnicking, and other outdoor activities, be sure to check out the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) website on state parks.  Wisconsin offers numerous state parks, forests, trails, and recreation areas.  Wisconsin’s State Park System reports about 14 million visitors a year.  Please click here for the DNR’s nature programs and events calendar. 
4/30/2014
“REGGulatory” Relief for Small Egg Producers
Legislation passed earlier this spring and recently signed into law is now easing the burden for small egg producers to sell directly to consumers.  2013 Wisconsin Act 245 allows egg producers with 150 chickens or less to sell directly to consumers without first obtaining a food processing plant license.  Farmers must still obtain a retail food establishment license to sell at farmers’ markets and follow basic food safety regulations to sell eggs directly to consumers, such as proper storing conditions and packaging.  The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is in the process of updating regulations to further assist egg producers.  For more information on food safety and regulations, visit the DATCP website at datcp.wi.gov.
4/25/2014
Camping in Wisconsin
For folks who love the great outdoors, be sure to check out the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) website for camping opportunities across the state.  Wisconsin has a wide range of campgrounds to offer within the State Park System with just under 5,000 campsites collectively.  You can search campgrounds by location here , and you can reserve a campsite at a Wisconsin State Park online by clicking here
4/24/2014
Hunter and Trapper Education Courses
If you are interested in hunting or trapping for the first time this year, you may want to start preparing in advance by taking a hunter or trapper education course.  The DNR offers various options for hunter education including basic hunter education courses offered in a classroom setting, an Internet field day with an online course, and an adult online hunter education test out.  Anyone born on or after January 1, 1973 must complete a hunter education course and show the certificate in order to purchase any hunting license in Wisconsin.  This requirement does not apply to those hunting under the hunting mentorship program or those who have successfully completed basic training in the U.S. Armed Forces, Reserves, or National Guard. 
 
Additionally, trapper education courses are generally held over a weekend and a correspondence course is also available.  Those who have not previously purchased a trapping license and are not actively engaged in farming must complete a trapper education course.
 
To find a hunter or trapper education course near you, please click here .
4/22/2014
Consumer Protection Alert - Beware of Phone Scam
The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has issued a consumer alert warning people of a BadgerCare Plus health care scam.  The Department indicated that scammers are making calls to BadgerCare Plus members alleging to represent the State of Wisconsin and are asking callers for their bank account information in order to deposit a $200 stipend.  Please note that the actual Badger Care Plus program, administered by the Department of Health Services, will already have your account information.  DATCP advises that you should never provide financial information over the phone unless you initiated the call.  If you think you have been scammed, please visit the Consumer Protection Bureau to file a consumer protection complaint.  The Consumer Protection Bureau may be reached at 1-800-422-7128, datcp.wisconsin.gov, or by email at datcphotline@wisconsin.gov
4/21/2014
National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day
The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) reports that more Americans abuse prescription drugs than those who use cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, and inhalants combined.  Many people become addicted to illegal drugs due to the availability of legal drugs, such as prescription medications.  In an effort to help address substance abuse and prescription drug misuse, DOJ encourages Wisconsinites to participate in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 26th, during which you may drop off your unused or expired prescription drugs.  There will be various collection sites across the state from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.  To find the collection site nearest you, please click here.  For additional information on the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, please click here.   
4/18/2014
Celebrating Earth Day
Wisconsin has a long history of promoting conservation and our beautiful outdoors, as evidenced our numerous parks, forests, and preserves open for recreation and outdoor sports.  This tradition of conservation leadership is exemplified by the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, which is named in honor of Governors Warren Knowles of New Richmond and Gaylord Nelson of Clear Lake.  Governor Nelson was instrumental in establishing Earth Day in 1970 as a U.S. Senator, which is celebrated every year on April 22nd.
 
Conservation is important in keeping Wisconsin’s outdoors a great place for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy our many state parks and trails.  The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will be holding their annual Work*Play*Earth Day events all across the state on April 19th, 26th, and May 3rd, including one scheduled on the Stower Seven Lakes State Trail in Amery on April 19th.  You can volunteer to help plant trees, pick up litter, remove invasive species, and much more.  For more information regarding Work*Play*Earth Day, visit the DNR website at www.dnr.wi.gov
4/18/2014
Enhancing Driver Safety
In an effort to bring awareness to the importance of attentive driving, April has been designated nationally as Distracted Driving Awareness month.  The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) is partnering with the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and State Farm Insurance to invite the public to participate in Distracted Driving Awareness month by focusing on teen driver safety.  On Tuesday, April 22nd, Facebook and Twitter users are encouraged to change their status or post a message about the importance of engaged driving and use the promotion hashtag “#DriveEngaged.”  To participate, you can also include a message about driving engaged in the signature line of your email.  For more information on this initiative and sample posts, please click here .  You may also check out the Drive Safe website by clicking here .
4/17/2014
Upcoming Public Meeting on Menomonie State Road 25 Projects
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced a public information meeting on Monday, April 21st to discuss the preliminary design for the WIS 25 (North and South Broadway Street) resurfacing projects and the US Highway 12 and Red Cedar Street intersection project.  DOT will use the meeting to gather public input on these projects.  The meeting will be held at the City of Menomonie City Hall Building at 800 Wilson Avenue in the 3rd Floor Council Chambers in an open house format from 4:30 to 6:30.  For more information on these DOT projects, please contact the Northwest Region Communications Manager, Chris Ouellette, at (715) 833-9814 or chris.ouellette@dot.wi.gov . 
4/15/2014
National Library Week
This week, April 13th -19th, is National Library Week, which is observed throughout the country to celebrate the many contributions of libraries and promote their use.  This year’s theme is “Lives change @ your library® .”  Libraries are a tremendous asset to our communities as they provide people of all ages access to a variety of resources, services, and programs. They are instrumental in promoting the importance of reading, which is vital to life-long learning.  For more information on National Library Week, please click here , and for additional information on what libraries have to offer, please click here .  
4/14/2014
Upcoming Public Meeting on St. Croix Crossing
The U.S. Coast Guard will be hosting a public meeting on Wednesday, April 16th to discuss changes to the Stillwater Drawbridge schedule in relation to the upcoming boating season.  The meeting will be held at Stillwater City Building at 216 North Fourth Street in the Council Chambers Meeting Room from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.  Please contact Bill Knutson at (314) 269-2434 or william.f.knutson@uscg.mil with any questions on this meeting. 
4/11/2014
An Opportunity to be involved in State Government
Every two years, the Wisconsin State Legislature along with the Legislative Council, identifies complex issues concerning state law that would benefit from further study and consideration.  Topics are then taken up by Special Study Committees made up of legislators and citizens who are interested in the issue.
 
The Joint Legislative Council recently approved study topics and is looking for citizen members to serve on a handful of Special Study Committees.  The committee topics include adoption, courts using nontraditional adjudication methods, criminal penalties, tax incremental financing laws, and the Wisconsin Technical College System.  For a complete list of Special Study Committees and the scope of their study, please click here If you are interested in serving, please send a letter of interest and resume to Terry Anderson by May 1st in ordered to be considered.
 
Terry C. Anderson, Director
Wisconsin Legislative Council
PO Box 2536
Madison, WI  53701-2536
 
The Joint Legislative Council hopes to appoint members so the committees can begin meeting by June.  The Special Study Committees are to complete their assignment before December 31, 2014.  Legislative Council provides a brochure that explains public member service on a Special Study Committee, which is available online here .
4/10/2014
Conservation Congress Spring Fish and Game Hearings
The Conservation Congress works with the Natural Resources Board and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to gather public opinion regarding management of Wisconsin’s natural resources and increase citizen involvement.  The Conservation Congress invites the public to its upcoming spring fish and game hearings, which will be held on Monday, April 14th at 7:00 PM in each county in the state.  The hearings in area counties will be held at the following locations:
 
·         Burnett County : Burnett County Government Center Room 165, 7410 County Road K, Siren, WI 54872
·         Dunn County : Dunn County Fish and Game Club, 1600 Pine Avenue, Menomonie, WI 54751
·         Pierce County : Ellsworth High School Auditorium, 323 Hillcrest Street, Ellsworth, WI 54011
·         Polk County : Unity High School Auditorium, 1908 State Hwy 46, Balsam Lake, WI 54810
·         St. Croix County : St. Croix Central High School Commons, 1751 Broadway Street, Hammond, WI 54015
 
For a listing of all counties, please click here
 
DNR Wildlife Management staff will also be present to give an overview of the deer herd and provide updated information on the deer season.  If you are unable to attend, you may provide input online by completing a herd status summary survey, which will be available until April 18th.  To access the survey, please click here
 
More information on the Conservation Congress can be found on the DNR’s website by clicking here
4/8/2014
Wisconsin Summer Fun and Vacation Ideas
As you begin to plan summer excursions, be sure to check out the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s website at TravelWisconsin.com to find summer events, festivals, vacation destinations, and much more.  The site provides ideas on places to stay and things to do, which are accessible by city or region. 
 
Additionally, you can sign up to receive emails from TravelWisconsin.com on a variety of topics that may interest you.  By clicking here , you can choose from categories such as biking, camping, cabins and cottages, golf, amusement parks, waterparks, natural attractions, fishing, fairs and festivals, and many more.  As the Department of Tourism updates its information on the topic, you’ll be informed as well.
4/3/2014
Winter Storm Alert
The National Weather Service has issued immediate Winter Storm Watches and Warnings for northwest Wisconsin.  Forecasters have predicted heavy, wet snow, ice accumulations, and strong winds across much of northern Wisconsin.  Please check conditions and the roads before you travel by calling 5-1-1 or visiting www.511wi.gov .  For additional information on the storm alert and precautions to take, please click here .
4/1/2014
Save the Date for Free Fun Weekend on June 7 and 8
With the subzero temperatures we’ve had this winter, it is nice to look ahead to the summer months and plan fun, outdoor activities.  The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is hosting their annual Free Outdoor Fun Weekend on June 7th and 8th.  The Free Fun Weekend allows anyone to enjoy the many parks, lakes, and trails across the State of Wisconsin without first obtaining a sticker, license, or paying an admission fee.
 
The DNR is waiving all state trail pass fees and park admissions.  Additionally, no fishing license will be required to fish on any state waterways.  The DNR will also have free equipment located at many state parks and DNR offices.  For more information to plan your weekend, visit the DNR website at dnr.wi.gov or click here .
3/28/2014
Powerball Prize Scam Consumer Alert

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) would like to alert consumers to a phone scam aimed at Wisconsin residents.  The calls relate to Powerball prizes and ask the consumer to pick numbers.  The caller later informs the consumer they have won millions of dollars or an automobile.  The scam does not ask for any up-front money, but they ask consumers general financial questions relating to financial investments and the value of their home.

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) is in charge of the state lottery and wants to highlight that the only case in which DOR would contact residents is if you have entered and won a “mail-in” drawing.  This scam is unique in that the Powerball calls do not ask for sensitive personal data or request money.  However, the callers still collect data allowing them to build consumer profiles for potential future scams or possibly sell the information to risky third parties.  For additional information on this scam or to file a complaint, please visit datcp.wisconsin.gov or call the Consumer Information Hotline at 1-800-422-7128.

3/25/2014
Recognizing Dr. Norman Borlaug
Today marks the 100th birthday of Dr. Norman Borlaug, a respected agricultural scientist and leader who was known as “the man who saved a billion lives.  Among other honors awarded for his contributions, Dr. Borlaug received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his success in adapting new wheat varieties and promoting their worldwide production and his work has proven instrumental in the fight against global hunger.  Earlier this month, the State Senate passed a resolution authored by Senator Harsdorf to honor Dr. Borlaug for his contributions to agricultural science.
3/20/2014
Expanding Job Opportunities for Those with Disabilities
With a focus on providing job opportunities and putting people back to work, the Governor has designated 2014 as the “Year of a Better Bottom Line.”  This designation includes an emphasis on employment opportunities for those with disabilities.  Earlier this session the State Legislature approved additional funding for Project SEARCH, which assists students with significant disabilities in transitioning from high school to the workforce.  Students between the ages of 18-21 take part in three internships during their final year of high school where they learn valuable hands-on skills to prepare themselves for employment in their chosen field.  The additional funding will significantly reduce waiting lists for students to enter into Project SEARCH.  We are fortunate to have the local Walmart Distribution Center in Menomonie participating in this program.  For more information contact Molly Michels, Wisconsin Project SEARCH Statewide Coordinator, at molly.michels@wisconsin.gov or (608) 261-7816, or visit www.projectsearch.us .
 
3/18/2014
Loan Guarantees for Emergency Heating Assistance Approved by Legislature
Last week, the State Senate unanimously approved legislation that would create a loan guarantee program to encourage financial institutions to issue emergency heating assistance loans to those burdened with higher heating bills.  As a cosponsor of this legislation, Senator Harsdorf recognizes the importance of providing relief to those impacted by the propane shortage and high prices over the winter months.  The bill having already passed the State Assembly is now awaiting action by the Governor.
3/17/2014
“Big Apple Giveaway” with the Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers are partnering with Edvest for the “Big Apple Giveaway” contest.  The winner of the giveaway will receive a $10,529 Edvest college savings account and win a round-trip for four to New York City.  While in New York, the winning student has the opportunity to announce the fourth-round draft pick for the Green Bay Packers during the 2014 NFL draft at the Radio City Music Hall.  Parents and legal guardians may enter children 8-14 years of age, and the deadline to enter is April 4, 2014 when the winner will be selected randomly.  Edvest is Wisconsin’s 529 College Savings Plan that helps families save money and financially prepare for college expenses.  To enter the “Big Apple Giveaway” contest or to learn more information, visit www.Edvest.com/bigapple .  Good luck!
 
3/12/2014
Detour Coming to Wisconsin 35 as St. Croix Crossing Project Advances
As the St. Croix Crossing project continues to advance, construction zones will be causing detours in surrounding areas.  Construction on Wisconsin 35 will begin Monday, March 17 and will include an overpass for Wisconsin 64, which will connect to the St. Croix Crossing.  Traffic will be re-routed to County Road V and County Road E from Wisconsin 35.  For a detailed map of the construction areas and detour routes, click here.  Construction crews will be working 24-hour shifts in order to complete the overpass project in approximately two months.  The St. Croix Crossing is scheduled to be completed in 2016.
3/11/2014
St. Croix Crossing Update Meetings to be Held March 12th
The Wisconsin and Minnesota Departments of Transportation will be holding two open house meetings on the St. Croix Crossing on Wednesday, March 12th, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm and 4:30 pm to 7:00 pm.  During the open houses, project staff will be giving presentations at 11:15, 12:15, 5:00, and 6:00 to share information on the WIS 35/WIS 64 approach and Minnesota Highway 36/Highway 95 approach construction schedules and the St. Croix Crossing bridge work.  The public is encouraged to stop by for information or with any questions on the 2014 construction schedule.  The open houses will be held at the Oak Park Heights City Hall at 14168 Oak Park Blvd N in Stillwater.
 
For more information on the St. Croix Crossing project, please click here or call 1-855-GO-CROIX (462-7649). 
3/4/2014
Ideadvance Seed Fund
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) in partnership with the University of Wisconsin System recently launched a new initiative called Ideadvance, which is designed to encourage entrepreneurship at UW campuses.  WEDC provided $1 million from its Capital Catalyst program and UW System provided $1 million from its Economic Development Incentive Grant to create the $2 million Ideadvance Seed Fund to assist UW students, staff, and faculty as they commercialize technology and ideas.  The seed funding will support entrepreneurs by bridging the gap between ideas and creating new businesses.  UW-Extension will administer the Ideadvance Seed Fund and will be accepting applications in three rounds beginning in March and again in May and November. 
 
Ideadvance is an important partnership between WEDC and UW System that will help advance technology across the state and lead to greater job growth.  Additional information on this new initiative is available at http://uwideadvance.org/ .  For assistance with the application process, please contact Idella Yamben at uwideadvance@uwex.edu or 608-263-3315.
2/28/2014
DNR Sticker Contest for High Schoolers
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced its 2015 state park and forest sticker design contest.  Each year, high school students design the state park and forest annual vehicle admission sticker .  Entries for the 2015 sticker must be submitted by April 16, 2014.  For more information on the sticker contest and to see the design chosen for 2014, please click here .  
 
2/25/2014
Top Ten Consumer Complaints of 2013
The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) recently released their list of “Top Ten Consumer Complaints of 2013.”  DATCP documented 10,454 new formal complaints in 2013, and telemarketing recorded the most overall complaints for the 11th straight year.  Landlord/tenant and telecommunications complaints also topped the rankings.  For the complete “Top Ten Consumer Complaints of 2013” list, or to file a consumer complaint, visit http://datcp.wi.gov/.
2/21/2014
Legislation to Ease Transport of Ag Products Advanced
Last week, the State Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 501 (SB 501), which authorizes the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue permits allowing the transportation of oversized loads of corn stalks and baled straw during an agricultural emergency.  While current law authorizes DOT to issue such permits for baled hay, SB 501 will amend state law to also allow the permits for corn stalks and baled straw.  This week the State Assembly also passed SB 501 and the bill is now before the Governor for his consideration.  More information on SB 501 can be found here .
2/20/2014
Legislature Honors UW-Stout Chancellor Sorensen
On Tuesday, both the State Senate and State Assembly passed a joint resolution commending Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen for his contributions to the University of Wisconsin-Stout.  Chancellor Sorensen will retire in August after serving the students, faculty, and staff at UW-Stout as chancellor for twenty-six years, making him the longest serving chancellor in campus history.  Among the many accomplishments under Chancellor Sorensen’s dynamic and innovative leadership, UW-Stout received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2001 and was designated as Wisconsin’s polytechnic university in 2007.  Best wishes to Chancellor Sorensen as he looks forward to retirement this fall!
2/20/2014
Nurse Aide Bill Approved by State Legislature
Earlier this week, both the State Senate and State Assembly unanimously approved Senate Bill 212 (SB 212), which will make it easier for nurse aides, or CNAs, to be employed in Wisconsin.  Currently, Wisconsin does not recognize CNA training and experience completed in other states if it does not equal Wisconsin’s standard of 120 hours of training.  This legislation will recognize a CNA’s recent past work experience and training from a different state.  It also creates a bridge training program so a CNA seeking employment in Wisconsin from another state will receive credit for the hours of training they received elsewhere.  SB 212 is now awaiting action by the Governor.  
 
The service CNAs provide is an important level of care in our health care system, and this legislation will help address the growing need for skilled health care workers in our state.  For more information on this bill, please click here .
2/17/2014
PSC Broadband Expansion Grants
The Public Service Commission (PSC), an independent agency responsible for the regulation of Wisconsin public utilities, is currently accepting applications for Broadband Expansion Grants.  The state budget allocated up to $500,000 in grants to be used in the 2014 fiscal year.  Broadband Internet access is crucial for economic development, and these new grants will be used to improve broadband communication services in underserved areas of the state.  Grant applications are due March 21, 2014.  For additional information, please click here .
2/14/2014
Cookie Bill Approved by Senate
Earlier this week, the State Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 435 (SB 435), commonly referred to as the “Cookie Bill.”  This legislation seeks to encourage homegrown businesses that sell home-baked goods by allowing home bakers to sell certain baked goods without requiring a food processing license from the state.  SB 435 also builds upon legislation previously passed for home canners, known as the “Pickle Bill,” to increase the allowable sales limit for home-canned goods.  This legislation now awaits consideration by the full State Assembly.  For additional information on this bill, please click here.
2/13/2014
DNR Impaired Waters List Available for Public Comment
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently released a draft of their list of lakes and rivers that do not meet certain quality standards.  This list is updated regularly to reflect new information or changes in water quality status.  More information on impaired waters and a copy of the 2014 draft list update is available on the DNR’s website here.
 
The draft is available for public comment until March 6th.  Comments received before then will be forwarded onto the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which will finalize the list.  To submit your comments to the DNR, send your email to DNRImpairedWaters@wisconsin.gov or by standard mail to Mr. Aaron Larson, DNR, Water Evaluation Section (WY/3), PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.
2/11/2014
Wisconsin Approach Work Begins on St. Croix River Crossing
Work on the Wisconsin approach of the St. Croix River Crossing will begin in the coming weeks.   Here is the timeline for the first phase of the Wisconsin approach, which is estimated to take about six months:
 
·         Within the next couple of weeks, crews will begin mobilizing equipment to the area.
·         Crews will begin clearing and grubbing on the west side of WIS 35 during the week of March 10th.
·         During the week of March 17th, WIS 35 will close to traffic, and the detour will go into effect.  WIS 35 is planned to re-open to traffic on July 3rd.
 
The first phase will also include the construction of the new WIS 64 roadway between the St. Croix River and County E.  Due to the short timeframe allowed to build the WIS 35 overpass to keep the detour length at a minimum, crews will be working around the clock for about a month from Monday morning to Saturday morning.  I encourage you to click here for additional information on the project and for updates as construction continues. 
2/10/2014
Opportunity for Citizen Involvement on State Boards and Commissions
The Governor’s office is looking for individuals interested in applying to serve on any of Wisconsin’s over 200 state boards and commissions.  If you’re interested in getting involved in state issues and working with citizens across Wisconsin, applying for an appointment is an excellent way to provide input to help with policy-making, regulation, and advocacy efforts.
 
Although Madison is a good distance from our area, it is important to have geographical representation from across the state on these boards and commissions.  If you would like more information or want to apply for a position, please click here . 
2/6/2014
National Wear Red Day
Tomorrow, February 7th, is National Wear Red Day, which is a part of the American Heart Association’s February Heart Month.  Wear Red Day is designed to help raise awareness of heart disease affecting women.  The American Heart Association reports that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, and more women die from heart disease than all forms of cancer combined.  Please click here for more information on heart disease, and for practical steps to take better care of your heart health, please click here .
1/30/2014
Waste, Fraud, and Abuse Website and Hotline
While the State Legislature has passed a number of reforms in recent years to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse in state government, we continue to look at ways to save taxpayer dollars.  If you have suggestions on areas the state should look at to find cost savings, you are encouraged to share your ideas by clicking here .
 
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) within the Department of Health Services (DHS) also maintains a hotline to receive reports on waste, fraud, and abuse of public assistance programs.  OIG wants to hear from anyone who has information concerning public assistance fraud.  DHS operates many of the state’s public assistance programs including FoodShare benefits, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicaid among others.  OIG investigates fraud and reviews all tips they receive, and takes appropriate action with the Department of Justice.  If you suspect any fraudulent activity of any public assistance programs, please call the Office of the Inspector General toll-free fraud hotline at 1-877-865-3432.
1/28/2014
Harsdorf Votes to Advance Bill Aimed at Scams
As a member of the Senate Committee on Energy, Consumer Protection, and Government Reform, Senator Harsdorf voted last week to advance a bill seeking to address scams currently being operated in Wisconsin.  These scams involve solicitors mailing documents to Wisconsin homeowners requesting exorbitant fees in exchange for a copy of the deed to their home, which is typically available from the resident’s local register of deeds for a nominal fee.
 
While it is legal for business enterprises to sell copies of public records, these particular solicitations are troubling because they are frequently formatted to appear as if they are being sent by an official government entity and also appear to impose a deadline for payment. 
 
Harsdorf co-sponsored this bipartisan legislation to require solicitors to include a disclaimer explaining that the document was not from a government entity and to restrict how much solicitors could charge.  Click on the link below for more information on this legislation.
 
1/27/2014
Governor Takes Action to Address Propane Shortage
Today the Governor took several actions to address the propane shortage being experienced in Wisconsin after having declared a state of emergency over the weekend.  The Governor ordered the Department of Administration’s Division of Energy Services to make an additional $7 million available to counties administering the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP).  For more information and criteria on eligibility for the program, you may contact the energy assistance call center at 1-866-HEATWIS (432-8947).

The rapidly rising cost of propane has exhausted some propane retailers’ lines of credit to replenish their supplies of propane as they become available.  In response, the Governor directed the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to implement a $5 million loan guarantee plan aimed at providing these propane retailers with a new line of credit.  Under the plan, WEDC will offer 80% loan guarantees to Wisconsin propane retailers.
 
Additionally, the Governor instructed the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) to move forward with a similar $3 million loan guarantee plan for propane dealers.  While these actions seek to address the cost of propane, supply issues continue to keep propane reserves low.  Prior actions to enable companies to ship propane into Wisconsin by truck remain in place to aid in the effort to increase the supply of propane.
1/24/2014
Propane Shortage Affecting Wisconsin
Wisconsin, like much of the Midwest, is currently facing a propane shortage.  In response, the Governor has issued executive orders relaxing certain trucking regulations in an effort to augment the state’s supply of propane.  Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a declaration of emergency that will also aid propane transporters to meet demand.  The limited supply of propane is also resulting in burdensome price increases for many consumers.  Individuals affected by the shortage are encouraged to contact their county’s social services office to inquire about their eligibility for assistance under the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP).  For more information you may contact the energy assistance call center at 1-866-HEATWIS (432-8947).
1/21/2014
Watch the State of the State on Wisconsin Eye
On Wednesday, January 22, Governor Scott Walker will be delivering his State of the State address.  The broadcast will be available on Wisconsin Public Television, Wisconsin Public Radio, and you can also stream the Governor’s remarks online through Wisconsin Eye .  I encourage you to tune-in at 7 p.m. as the Governor lays out his vision for continuing to move our state forward.  
1/17/2014
Ice Safety Tips
Winter is upon us and that means ice fishing season in Wisconsin is in full swing.  An estimated 590,700 Wisconsinites will take to the frozen water this winter as the number of ice fishers has steadily climbed over the last decade.  If you are venturing out onto the ice to fish, cross-country ski, or ride a snowmobile or ATV, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a few safety tips before you head out.
 
It is important to note that the DNR does not monitor local ice conditions or the thickness of the ice.  The DNR states that there is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice and many factors contribute to the strength of ice such as temperature, age, appearance, thickness, and the type of body of water.  The department suggests traveling in groups, dressing warmly in layers, and avoiding inlets and outlets that may have a current that can thin the ice.  The DNR also provides tips should you fall through the ice and instructions for making an ice claw to assist in getting out of the icy waters.  For a complete list of safety tips, click here or visit the DNR website at dnr.wi.gov .
1/14/2014
New Financial Transparency Website Launched
The Department of Administration (DOA) recently launched a new website called OpenBook Wisconsin that is part of the continued effort by the State Legislature and Governor to make state government more transparent for Wisconsin residents.  This new website can be accessed at openbook.wi.gov and provides Wisconsin citizens with information on state expenditures across various state agencies and categories.
 
In the future, DOA will be adding additional information to this website including state grants, state contracts, and salary and fringe benefits for state employees.  It is projected that the site will be updated with new information biweekly.  To explore the new site, please click here.
1/10/2014
Alice in Dairyland Application Deadline Approaching
Alice in Dairyland serves as a key spokesperson to promote Wisconsin’s important agriculture industry that generates nearly $60 billion in economic impact.  The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is now recruiting for Wisconsin’s 67th Alice in Dairyland.
 
For those interested in becoming Wisconsin’s next Alice in Dairyland, please note that applications for Alice in Dairyland must be received by DATCP before 4:30 PM on Monday, January 13, 2014.  Applicants must be a female Wisconsin resident and at least 21 years old.  For additional information on Alice in Dairyland, please click here or contact the Alice in Dairyland Program Manager, Becky Paris, at 608-224-5115 or rebecca.paris@wi.gov.
1/9/2014
Atlas of Wisconsin Public Access Lands Now Available
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced the new Atlas of Public Access Lands is now available both online and in a printable format.  This is a great resource for those who enjoy the great outdoors and are looking for land that is available for hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking and other outdoor activities.  
 
The land highlighted in the new atlas is made possible through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.  The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, created by the Legislature in 1989, has been widely supported since land purchased through the program ensures public access to hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreational opportunities.  The new atlas contains 441 maps, two indexes, a glossary, and contact information to land managers, who are available to answer questions about the properties.  For more information on the new atlas, please click here.
1/6/2014
Free Ice Fishing Weekend
If you are looking to try something new at the beginning of the New Year, look no further than Wisconsin’s frozen waters.  The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is hosting a Free Fishing Weekend on January 18-19, 2014.  Residents and nonresidents are permitted to fish anywhere in Wisconsin without a license or trout stamp, although all other fishing rules still apply.  Bundle up the kids or bring a group of friends out to Wisconsin’s water for some ice fishing fun.
 
For more information, visit the DNR’s website or click here to find fishing events around your area or to host a community fishing event for all.  Remember to be safe out on the ice and have fun!
1/3/2014
New DNR Sticker Available for 2014
The 2014 annual Wisconsin state park admission stickers and state trail passes are now on sale through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  The stickers are available for $25 to Wisconsin residents and went on sale Dec. 1.  The vehicle stickers are required for all motor vehicles wishing to gain access to more than 60 state parks, forests, and recreation areas throughout Wisconsin.  A state trail pass is needed for all that plan to go biking, in-line skating, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, or off-highway motorcycling on a state trail and are age 16 or older.  To purchase a park admission sticker or a state trail pass, you can visit park offices, DNR service centers , or call the DNR at 888-936-7463.  The Friends of Wisconsin State Parks also offers online sales of admission stickers and trail passes with a donation to the statewide friends group through the organization’s website .
 
The 2014 sticker was designed by Ursula Reid, a junior at Cedarburg High School.  Her design was selected from 220 entries by high school students around the state.  Entries for the 2015 Wisconsin state park sticker design contest are now being accepted through April 17, 2014.  The contest is only open to high school students in public, private, or parochial schools.  For contest rules and information, visit the DNR website by clicking here .