Looking Forward to the Challenges of 2016
By changing her address and surrendering her drivers’ license, Joe’s mom was without the necessary current “government ID” she needed to legally vote in 2016.
Looking Back on 2015
Happy Holidays! While Santa is making a list of who is naughty and nice, I spent time making a list of what folks cared about enough to call or write.
Seniors React: Don’t Take My Home Phone Away!
“I was furious,” said Cindy from Chippewa Falls. “I wouldn’t have stayed on the phone this long with this dinky cell phone.” She just found out state law allowed phone companies to dump their landline customers.
What to Do About Those Pesky Unwanted Calls
The No Call List protects people from unwanted calls and texts. Frequently these calls come from telemarketing companies. Sometimes the calls are scammers trying to collect personal information to take advantage of the unwary.
Changes for Work and Workers In the "Gig Economy"
“If my company followed the rules, they couldn’t survive,” my niece Becky told me as we traveled home from our “Small Business Saturday” shopping trip.
Enjoying Thanksgiving on the Farm
Tundra Swans arrived Friday. These magnificent birds spend a brief time in Buffalo County on their way from the tundra of Canada and Alaska to their wintering grounds on the East Coast.
Wisconsin Report Card Provides Info on Progress, Problems
... Our state also got mostly Bs and Cs. Although in several cases, these scores represent benchmarks that are not improving.
Friday Night in Madison
Leaders kept details about changes to the bills secret until the last minute. Details we had not seen; the press had not read; no member of the public had an opportunity to provide comment.
Canada and Wisconsin Friends and Partners
Did you know a third of everything Wisconsin sells to the world we sell to Canada? And more visitors come to Wisconsin from Canada than any other country?
Don’t Kill the Referees
“Just do the right thing,” my doctor told me. We were discussing politics. We just finished reviewing the x-rays of my new hip replacement. My doctor wanted to offer a little advice to my colleagues in the Senate.
Vos Bill opens the door on “dark money” in campaigns
The bill opens the door to…“dark money” or contributions not reported by who wrote the check. Loopholes… make it unclear which political action committees (PAC) or independent expenditure groups must report donors and campaign spending.
Putting Political Parties Back in Charge of Elections and Ethics?
Clean elections and corruption free elected officials are goals most of us share. Yet few states have laws that truly create a nonpartisan watchdog to assure public confidence. Wisconsin is blessed to be a national leader.
How Dismantling Civil Service is happening in Wisconsin One Step at a Time
“Please do what you can to stop the dismantling of the civil service system,” Mary from Trempealeau County asked me.
Audit Bureau Turns 50, Receives National Recognition and Calls for its Demise
For fifty years, auditors at the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) have assisted legislators and the people of Wisconsin in answering questions about dollars spent. Questions like, “Did we get our money’s worth out of that program?”
Strong Consumer Protections Rely on You and Your Neighbors
“I got a call saying the IRS was taking me to court, but I filed everything on time. What do I do?”
WEDC Leaders Missed Opportunity to Apologize and Reform
“Are you going to follow the recommendations in the audit?” I asked the Board Chair of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). He crossed his arms, sat back and smiled at me.
Audit Shows Riders Received Poor Services
“Just how many ‘no shows’ are acceptable?” I asked Medicaid Director Kevin Moore at a recent Audit Committee Hearing. “Is 4,154 people left without a ride too many?”
Teacher Shortage: Who Will Teach the Children?
“Please sound the alarm,” Superintendent Mary Baier wrote to me. “We are not able to find people to fill positions in Wisconsin.” She needed a special education teacher and only one applicant had applied to her rural Plum City district.
Health Still a Top Political Issue
“ObamaCare must be repealed immediately,” begins Governor Walker’s health plan for America.
Lack of Rural Broadband Frustrates Fairgoers
Internet in rural Wisconsin is closer to Pony Express than “pedal to the metal.”
Should Tax Dollars Go to Companies Just to create jobs
WEDC’s name is misleading – it is not a corporation. It is a state ‘authority’ and is – or should be – accountable to taxpayers for dollars it spends. That’s why the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) has been auditing WEDC since its creation.
County Fairs: Time for Creativity and Critters, Friends and Family
County fairs have a deep tradition in our state. Thousands of families, FFA members, 4-Hers and other youth poured their time, energy, talent and creativity into projects exhibited at Wisconsin’s many county fairs.
Medicare and Medicaid Turn 50: Born from Compromise, Continuing in Controversy
Watch: Medicare and Medicaid at 50The Story of Medicare: A Timeline
Art Mirrors our Environment
Stockholm is a picturesque Mississippi River town of 66 individuals (not counting the dogs and cats) that swells by many hundreds on art fair day.
Governor Walker’s Vetoes Remove Legislative Oversight
The governor removed at least 15 portions of state law passed by the legislature that provided legislative authority or provided oversight of the executive branch.
A Flurry of New Policy Slipped in by Budget Committee
I didn’t expect to look up telephone laws reading the state budget.
Four (Not so Easy) Ways to Balance the Transportation Budget
Budget talks are stalled. Legislators can’t seem to find a way through the labyrinth of interests stalking the Capitol halls. One main sticking point is how to balance the transportation budget.
State Health Marketplace Needed to Protect Wisconsinites
Many Wisconsinites are waiting to hear if they will still be able to afford their health insurance bill.
Transportation Spending: It’s time for a comprehensive audit
“Senate leader on budget deal: ‘I don’t know where we are at’” was the headline of a recent Associated Press story on the budget deal. The story went on to report there’s “no agreement yet on how to pay for transportation projects…”
Kicking Controls Out the Window
No UW oversight by LAB a Recipe for Corruption The motion effectively throws Wisconsin taxpayer controls out the window for a significant portion of the state budget.
“I’m Counting on You”
In late night budget action, after freezing the school revenue limit and allowing no increase in aid, the Republican majority voted to strip away teaching standards.
I agree Governor! Let’s Make Public Schools “Whole”
In a recent late night session, …Republicans on the Joint Finance committee opened wide the spigot of state money flowing to private schools.
Audit Affirms Complaints but also Satisfaction with Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Program
Last April I wrote about many complaints I received concerning rides to medical appointments for folks in BadgerCare and other Medicaid programs.
Time to Return to a State Department of Commerce
Not following the law, and not acting in a transparent and accountable way is a frequent criticism of the state’s economic development operations.
Citizen Input Provides Important Details of Conservation Budget Cuts
“Why is it I keep hearing more about what’s in the governor’s budget?” the woman asked me. “Don’t you see it all at once and then decide what to do?”
A Business Owes Nothing in Taxes & Gets a State Check?
“Why doesn’t the press cover what’s happening with refundable tax credits?” I asked the journalist. We were chatting about what I found in the state budget.
Let’s Debunk a Few Budget Myths
“I’m okay with the cuts,” the man wrote me. “It’s shameful to pass debt on to our children.” In the man’s message, he implies a common misconception about Wisconsin – there is no state debt.
People Speak Out About Consequences of Budget Decisions
“This is not my cup of tea,” the farmer said quietly as he moved up to the microphone at the Eau Claire budget hearing.
Uber vs. Taxi Cabs: Is a Statewide Preemption of Local Laws a Good Idea?
Could a ride-sharing company known as Uber be in your future? Testimony from company lobbyists suggests we may soon see the San Francisco based app-driven ride-sharing company in rural Wisconsin.
Details Buried Deep in Budget Affect Students and Voters
“I didn’t know that was a part of the state budget,” the parent told me.
Advocacy Gives Voice to the Voiceless - Families Support Family Care and IRIS
I remember when I first met a man I’ll call ‘Ron’. He came to my office with his caregiver. He couldn’t speak but used a speech synthesizer and an iPad to introduce himself.
Farmers say Budget Damages Farm Research, Schools and Conservation Input
“It’s very important that we are here today,” the farmer from Independence told me. “In fact, it’s more important that we be here than anywhere else.” Here was in my Capitol office. Local farmers were visiting as part of Ag Day at the Capitol.
Legislative Season Brings Many Capitol Visitors
“I’ve never done this before,” the young woman told me. She came to my Capitol office for the first time to talk about issues important to her and her profession. She was one of about two-dozen groups that recently visited.
Why I Opposed Senate Bill 44
Much has been said and written about Senate Bill 44 otherwise known as the Right to Work bill. I wanted to share my reason for opposing and voting against passage of this bill.
Economic Development $$$ Grow ~ Public Oversight Shrinks
“I’ve heard about the cuts,” the Buffalo County man said. “But this budget spends more. Who’s getting more money?”
"You have got to be kidding!"
“You have got to be kidding!” a Chippewa Valley advocate responded when I told her about a plan to potentially turn Family Care over to a for-profit insurance company.
Save SeniorCare, Again!
“Please do what you can to keep SeniorCare as is. It is critical to those of us on it.” wrote a rural Buffalo County woman.
State Budget: Take Time to Learn and Express Yourself
Recently the Governor made public his proposal for the state’s two-year budget. The day following his speech a Senate page brought around a hand-truck load of budget documents.
Governor’s Higher Ed Budget Cuts Bad for Wisconsin’s Future
My son got me thinking about the challenges our students face – competing in a global marketplace, changes in the economy, changes in technology. College has never been so important. Keeping colleges up-to-date costs money.
“Let’s Not Throw the Baby Out with the Bath Water”
GAB Audit Hearing shows path to improved operation.
“I Don’t Have A Clue”
School Play Mirrors Confusion in Assembly Education Committee.
LAB Fraud Hotline: Working to Stop Waste, Abuse and Mismanagement
“We waited and the ride never came,” said one disabled man. “I was so cold” another woman said. “They said the heater in the van didn’t work.”
Pay Attention ~ There’s a New Legislature in Session
On the first working day of 2015 a new group of freshman legislators began their work. Ordinary folks from ordinary lives receive a crash course in state services, agencies, budgeting and parliamentary procedure.