Looking Forward to the Challenges of 2014 It takes an optimist to be a farmer – one who sees the potential bounty of the land. But it also takes a realist to plan for the possibility of drought, hail and pests…It’s with that balance of optimism and realism I look forward to 2014.
Looking Back on 2013 ... One of my most important duties as State Senator is responding to concerns of the people I am honored to represent.
Health Insurance Problems Need Solutions Not False Choices “What are you going to do for health insurance?” I asked. “I don’t know.” Sam told me. It was a conversation I’ve had a thousand times since I became a Senator almost seven years ago. What was unique was the setting: I met Sam in an ambulance.
It’s Time to Raise the Minimum Wage In 1913, Wisconsin became one of the first states to enact a minimum wage law... Unfortunately, since that time, increases to the minimum wage have not kept pace with the rising cost of living.
Changes in Committee Workings Limit Public Input ...speed and secrecy are increasingly being used to limit public involvement and careful legislative deliberation.
Deer Hunting and Wisconsin’s Tradition of Conservation Many of us live to hunt and fish and enjoy the great outdoors. And we all have a role in preserving what we love.
Affordable Health Care: No One Should Fall Through the Cracks A focus on solutions could make a special legislative session on health insurance a success.
Why do Minnesotans Pay Less for Health Care than Wisconsinites? …the average lowest monthly premiums in the 36 states reporting numbers was $249 for a Bronze Plan. The average cost for this plan in Wisconsin was $38 more than the national average… In Minnesota, a similar plan was $144 a month…
Is Wisconsin Ready for the Corporate Reformers of Education What was predominately a local school governed by a locally elected school board is poised to become a plethora of choices...All paid for with tax dollars.
Locals Plead to Lawmakers: Do Not Roll Back Local Protections “Our aim when drafting the ordinance was not to stop mining in the Town of Cooks Valley but to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of our town,” said Town Clerk Victoria Trinko.
Lose Local Government and you will Lose America The bill, introduced by Senator Tiffany, is reportedly aimed at standardizing rules for sand mines. But the bill would stop any local protection of water, air or the use of explosives.
Vinehout: “Why Should Politicians in Madison Control our Communities?” “I don’t know why any legislator from western Wisconsin would turn control over our land to politicians in Madison.”
Property Taxes: Are the “Tools” working? Perhaps the Governor’s tools aren’t working.
Does Wisconsin Want Out-of-State Companies Running Schools with Public Dollars? Do we want to encourage out-of-state companies to run local schools with tax dollars? This is the objective of a bill before the Senate Education Committee.
New Health Insurance Marketplace: Sign-up Now! Now is the time to sign-up for health insurance! If you buy your own insurance or are uninsured, you will want to know about the Health Insurance Marketplace.
Who is a Renter going to call? When a renter calls the city for help, local officials might have their hands tied under a bill that recently passed the Senate. The bill would not allow a local ordinance to govern renters and landlords
Report Cards for Voucher Schools? Yes! Report cards are coming out. Not for the children, but for schools
Forum Explores Challenges Facing Public Schools Public education started down the statewide voucher path with the start of the school year across Wisconsin. While things might not look different on the outside, big changes are happening in the state’s public education system
Health Insurance: Big Changes Happening ... Open enrollment will begin October 1st for a new competitive Health Insurance Marketplace for small businesses and those who buy insurance on their own. Health plans will go into effect in January 2014
Wisconsin Must Invest in Ending Addiction “You need to read this book,” the judge told me. “Then you need to get every other Legislator to read the book before you take another vote.”
Budget Myths Abound “The State is spending less.” “This budget took a deficit and turned it into a surplus.” “Wisconsin has paid off its debt.” Which of these are true statements regarding the new state budget? The answer is NONE of the above
Arcadia Faces Realities of ‘Small Government’ People were friendly but anxious. They’d come to a meeting with local leaders to learn about protecting Arcadia from flooding
Fairgoers Express Views on Money in Politics “Corporations are not people…People in corporations already get a vote and a chance to speak out just like the rest of us. Giving corporations a vote and a chance to speak out means those people are getting two votes. That’s not fair
See You at the Fair! Across Wisconsin folks are picking the best of the flowers, quilts and corn stalks. Youngsters are whipping up tasty treats from scratch. Teens are washing cattle, training horses, and arranging flowers
Rural Wisconsin: Don’t Lose the Home Phone Most of us in rural counties have adapted. We don’t expect the cell phone to work and we don’t bother calling cell numbers for rural neighbors. But what happens if you pick up the old landline and it’s dead?
Art Fairs Serve Up a Slice of Wisconsin! Wisconsin has over 215 art fairs. The diversity and creativity is limited only by Wisconsin ingenuity which I’ve decided is limitless!
Bowing to Political Pressure, UW pulls the plug on WiscNet “It’s a sad day when political pressures from telephone company lobbyists keep us from working together? It’s frustrating, yet fascinating,” read a recent statement from WiscNet officials
Wisconsin Needs Smarter Budget Choices The recently passed $70 billion budget spends $4 billion more than the last budget. It is estimated to create a half a billion dollar deficit going into the next budget - even though we started with more money...
Governor Should Veto Last Minute Attempt to Uncap Private Voucher Schools Senators had debated budget passage for nearly eight nonstop hours. In a little over six hours the two-year state budget would be headed to the Governor.
Medicaid Plan: Do Lawmakers Really Know All the Details? “We want to make things better,” one of the Finance Committee members recently told his colleagues. This Medicaid plan, he said, “Protects taxpayers, strengthens the safety net and lowers total cost to taxpayers.”
Is the Dairy State Ready for Tax Reform? Get rid of tax credits for dairy farmers? No tax breaks for meat or food processing plants? Get rid of credits for ethanol? Cut beginning farmer credits?
Help Wanted: Sand Mine Inspectors “We really need concerned citizens to be our eyes and ears,” wrote DNR Storm Water Specialist Ruth King in response to citizen complaints about frac sand mines. “I am only a half-time employee and cannot be everywhere at all times.”
Stewardship Fund Changes: State Land for Sale in No Bid Contracts? “I strongly supported the bipartisan Wisconsin Stewardship Fund,” a self-described Republican man from Eau Claire wrote to me.
Audit Hearing: WEDC Board Changes Key to Reform “There’s a heck of a lot of things they didn’t tell me when I signed on,” admitted the chief of the Governor’s lead jobs agency during a recent hearing before the Joint Committee on Audit.
Open the Pantry Door and Shine the Light on Economic Development Programs While the new dollars are still being debated, the spending of existing economic development dollars recently took center stage among Legislators.
Surprising UW Cash Reserve Needs Audit “What’s happening to the UW reserve money?” the woman asked. She was concerned about criticism of the University of Wisconsin. “It seems like they want to attack the UW,” she told attendees at the Mondovi Town Hall Meeting.
Rural Folks: Ag Budget Cuts Ill Advised Buried in the 2013-15 state budget is removal of almost $5 million or over a quarter of cost-share funding to create structures to reduce run-off and preserve topsoil.
State Finances: Stuck in the Mud “Pardon my tardiness,” I told the crowd gathered at a Town Hall Meeting. “I spent 20 minutes stuck in the mud.” Rural folks nodded in understanding. Spring has turned many unpaved roads into mud.
The Wisconsin Budget has Lots of Missing Numbers “Why don’t these numbers add up?” the school board member asked me. He was looking at the summary tables on dollars for schools in the new state budget. “Because numbers are missing...
State Budget Decisions Affect You Join me at a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the state budget. The two-year budget affects you in ways you may never have imagined.
Sand Mines in Our Communities Your Right to Know “Help me,” the Jackson County resident wrote. “My dream home is almost built.” He explained that as he finished his new home near Black River Falls he learned his neighbors all signed contracts to sell their land to a sand mining company.
Welcome to Spring! Snow, Ice, Floods … and Drought? It looks and feels like mid-January. Snow piles make it hard to see my milk house. For cities and farms alike it’s hard to figure out where to put all the snow.
Local Educators: Worst Education Budget in 30 Years “This is the worst budget in over 30 years,” the Chippewa Valley Superintendent told me. “We’ve had worse spending cuts, but not a wholesale change in policy.”
Why I voted against the Open-Pit Mining Bill “We must find a consensus, not conquer those who disagree,” said Senator Bob Jauch.
Fraud Discovered in Foster Care Company Prompts Audit “Foster parents are special saints,” the Eau Claire woman told me. “They take troubled children and help them have a loving family.”
Medicaid Expansion The High Cost of Ideology What if you were faced with a choice: stick to your beliefs, lose money and help fewer people. Or take the practical road, help more people and gain more money?
How Good Are Claims About Metal Mining Jobs? “We have the potential for a billion and a half dollar investment,” said Governor Walker in his recent State of the State speech. “That could lead to as many as 3,000 construction-related jobs and 2,800 long-term jobs.”
Health Insurance: #1 Challenge to Small Business Owners “What is the most important challenge facing your business today?” asked a recent survey from the Governor’s Office.
Invest in Career and Technical Education “I wish I had taken a shop class,” I told the high school student, “As a farmer, it would have helped me a lot more than the sewing class I took instead.”
School Play Gives January a Dramatic Sparkle “What I remember most about high school was our school play,” the nearly seventy-year-old rural Ettrick woman reminisced.
Technology: Computer Errors are Human Errors I asked the worker to help me understand how the University of Wisconsin’s personnel computer system continued to pay for the health insurance of 924 former employees for months after they terminated employment.
Celebrating 75 Years of the Great River Road The Mississippi river stays open south of the lock and dam by Alma. All winter you can watch eagles diving for fish in the open water and stay warm.
New Year Brings New Members and New Challenges to the Capitol Senators, Representatives and their families will soon gather to open the 101st Session of the Wisconsin Legislature.