Madison Office: 18 South, State Capitol  Phone: (608) 266-7745  E-mail: Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wi.gov


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ArticleYear:
2014
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ArticleMonthNo:
August

8/7: 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.

8/4: 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.
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ArticleMonthNo:
July

7/31: 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 online here 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.

7/23: 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.

7/18: 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.

7/14: 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. 
 

7/10: 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.

7/3: 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!

7/1: 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.
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ArticleMonthNo:
June

6/23: 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.

6/18: 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.

6/16: 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.

6/9: 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).

6/2: 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.
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ArticleMonthNo:
May

5/28: 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.

5/20: 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.

5/14: 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.

5/8: 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.

5/6: 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. 
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ArticleMonthNo:
April

4/25: 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

4/22: 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

4/18: 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: 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. 

4/14: 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. 

4/10: 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

4/3: 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.
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ArticleMonthNo:
March

3/28: 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.

3/20: 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.
 

3/17: “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!
 

3/11: 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). 
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ArticleMonthNo:
February

2/28: 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.  
 

2/21: 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: 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!

2/14: 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.

2/11: 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. 

2/6: 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.
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ArticleMonthNo:
January

1/28: 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.
 

1/24: 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).

1/17: 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.

1/10: 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.

1/6: 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!
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ArticleYear:
2013
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ArticleMonthNo:
December

12/30: Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you and your family!  As we enter 2014, it is a good time to reflect on 2013 and look forward to the promise that the New Year brings.  I wish you a happy and healthy New Year!

12/20: Cold Weather Tips – Keep Warm and Safe

Many will be traveling around the state of Wisconsin this holiday season to visit family and friends.  It is important for Wisconsinites to prepare and be aware of hazardous traveling conditions as they take to the roads during the winter season.  In the last five years, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) says an average 50,000 motor vehicles crashed during the winter months due to roads covered in ice and snow. 
 
It is important to winterize your vehicles as much as possible before venturing out.  Other measures to ensure safety include keeping your gas tank near full and making sure your car’s battery is in good shape.  The DOT also suggests carrying a winter storm survival kit in the back seat of your car that includes blankets, a flashlight, a first-aid kit, a shovel, non-perishable food items, a cell phone charger, and sand or cat litter for tire traction.  Before finalizing your travel plans, be sure to check the DOT travel website or by calling 511.  For other winter driving tips in Wisconsin, visit ReadyWisconsin.wi.gov.

12/13: Tips for Saving Energy This Winter

The U.S. Department of Energy reports that the average family spends over $1,900 a year on electricity and other utilities and some of this can be saved by being mindful of the following energy saving tips for the cold winter months: 
 
·         Use Christmas decorations with LED lights.  Christmas decorations with LED lights use 90% less energy than standard Christmas lights.
·         Turn your thermostat down to account for times when no one is home or you are sleeping.
·         During the day, open curtains on any windows facing south to allow sunlight to naturally heat the room.  At night, close curtains to help reduce drafts or the chill from cold windows.
·         Seal any air leaks around windows, doors, plumbing, cupboards, closets, or chimneys.
·         Change the filter in your furnace once a month.
·         For additional tips on saving energy this winter, please click here.
 
Additionally, Focus on Energy programs help Wisconsin residents and businesses lower their energy consumption by making homes and businesses more energy efficient.  Since 2001, Focus on Energy has helped Wisconsin residents and businesses achieve over $730 million in energy savings.  To learn more about available Focus on Energy residential and business programs, please visit the Focus on Energy website

12/9: Aviation Poster Contest

Each year, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Bureau of Aeronautics coordinates an aviation poster contest for youth ages 6 through 17.  The Bureau is currently accepting entries for the 2014 state aviation art contest, which is themed “Flying Saves Lives.”  Submissions must be postmarked by January 17, 2014.  The top three entries in three age divisions will be awarded prizes and the winners’ artwork will advance to Washington D.C. to be judged in the national contest.  For more information, please click here

12/6: 2014 Senate Scholar Program Now Accepting Applications

The Senate Scholar Program has begun accepting applications for the 2014 program.  The Senate Scholar Program provides high school juniors and seniors a great opportunity to learn more about state government through an intensive week-long program that includes meetings with legislators, staff, legislative agencies, governor’s staff, a Supreme Court Justice, the media and lobbyists.  Students also have the chance to assist the Senate Sergeant’s staff during session days and end the week by drafting a bill and holding a mock hearing.
 
Three separate sessions will be held in 2014 on February 9-14, February 16-21, and March 9-14.  Applications must be received by January 3, 2014, and applicants will be selected and notified by mid-January.  For an application or more information on the program, please visit www.senatescholar.com or contact my office by calling (800) 862-1092 or (608) 866-7745 or email Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wi.gov.

12/2: New Driver’s License Available for Veterans

Starting December 2, 2013, veterans may request to have a special veteran designation when renewing their driver’s license or any state issued identification card.  The word “VETERAN” will be designated in red on eligible licenses or ID cards.  As businesses and organizations thank veterans for their service to our country, there are often special programs, discounts, or services available that require proof of eligibility and this designation will prove to be handy for veterans so they do not have to have other paperwork on hand. 
 
The State Legislature initiated the inclusion of this new veteran status on drivers’ licenses by passing legislation earlier this year that was signed into law by the Governor.   Any interested veteran should verify their eligibility by calling the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) at 1-800-WIS-VETS (947-8387) before applying for the new “VETERAN” designation.  Veterans are encouraged to start confirming their eligibility with WDVA as soon as possible.  After eligibility is confirmed and starting December 2nd, veterans may contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to apply for the new “VETERAN” designation.  In order to obtain the designation, veterans can renew their driver’s license early; however, please note that renewal fees still apply.  To locate your nearest DMV service center, please click here
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November

11/27: No Call List Deadline November 30

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) offers the No Call List, a free service that covers residential land and cell phone lines.  The next quarterly deadline to sign up is November 30th.  It is important to remember to renew your registration every two years to remain on the No Call List.
 
By adding your number to the list before the deadline, you will receive protection from unsolicited calls or text messages from telemarketers.  Please note that political calls, calls from non-profit organizations and calls made in response to a purchase or by request are not covered by the No Call List.
 
To add your residential landline, cell phone or VoIP number(s) to the No Call List, please click here to sign up or call 1-866-9NO-CALL (1-866-966-2255).  Also, you can find more information about the No Call program or file a consumer complaint by visiting the Consumer Protection website here, by sending an e-mail to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov, or by calling toll free at 1-800-422-7128

11/25: DATCP Offers Workshop on Preserving Agricultural Lands Workshop December 12

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) will be offering a workshop on December 12th for anyone interested in establishing an Agriculture Enterprise Area (AEA).  Landowners, local government officials and business owners are encouraged to attend.  AEAs are blocks of land designated to help preserve, expand and develop farms and other agricultural businesses.  Local governments, together with at least five local landowners, may petition DATCP for designation.  To register for the webinar workshop, please email Coreen Fallat at coreen.fallat@wi.gov or call 608.224.4625 for access information.

11/21: Winter Heating Assistance Available

With winter and cold weather temperatures fast approaching, we are once again thinking about the need to budget for those winter heating bills.  The Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) provides financial assistance for heating and electric costs as well as energy crisis situations to qualifying residents.
   
Household eligibility for WHEAP is based on a number of factors, including household size, income, and energy costs.  In most cases, energy assistance payments are paid directly to the household energy provider, and applicants are advised to contact their energy provider.  Applicants must be able to provide photo identification, proof of citizenship or legal residence, and proof of residency.  Also needed in the application is evidence of prior heating costs and proof of income for the three months prior to the month of application. 
 
For more information and how to apply, visit homeenergyplus.wi.gov or call 1-866-432-8947.

11/19: Learn More about Broadband Today in Webinar

Given the increasingly important role broadband access has in our daily lives and in economic development, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) and the University of Wisconsin-Extension will be holding a broadband webinar on Tuesday, November 19th from 1:00-2:30 PM.  This webinar will help participants become more versed in broadband terminology, technology, strategies, and resources.  To RSVP for this event, please email wibroadband@uwex.edu.

11/15: DATCP Seeking Applications for Next Alice in Dairyland

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is now accepting applications for the 67th Alice in Dairyland, a position that includes traveling across Wisconsin to promote agriculture’s $60 billion industry.
 
Applicants should have extensive knowledge of Wisconsin agriculture and experience in communications and public speaking.  Other responsibilities include conducting media interviews with television, radio, and print publications, in addition to planning and executing various marketing strategies. 
 
Alice in Dairyland is a one year, full-time position.  Application materials and a short video detailing the selection process are available at http://datcp.wi.gov/news/?Id=948 For further information, contact Becky Paris at 608-224-5115 or at Rebecca.paris@wi.gov.

11/13: Winter Driving Reminders

With snow season right around the corner, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) would like to remind drivers to use extreme caution when driving in winter conditions.  During the cold weather months, drivers should follow precautions that will protect them and others on the road.  Also, driving during severe winter storms is discouraged and motorists are advised to wait until conditions improve.
 
Further tips to minimize the dangers of winter driving include:
 
· Follow state law and remember to wear your seat belt
· Avoid using cruise control in winter conditions
· Exercise caution on bridge decks as they are often slippery and ice can build up quickly
· Brake early to anticipate slippery conditions
· As required by law, remember to remain at least 200 feet from snowplows
 
For more information regarding winter driving conditions or DOT’s plans, projects, or public meetings, visit dot.wi.gov.

11/8: November 11 – A Day to Honor our Veterans

Each year on November 11th we pay special tribute and honor the men and women who have served and are currently serving our country.  It is important to remember all those who have sacrificed and fought for our country so that we have the freedoms we enjoy.  While we take time on November 11th to honor our veterans, it is important to remember and thank them for their contributions throughout the year.

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

I encourage you to take time to attend a Veterans Day event in your community. 

11/6: Keeping Synthetic Drugs Off Our Streets

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

For more information on this legislation, please click here.

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ArticleMonthNo:
October

10/30: Public Meeting Scheduled for Hwy 64 Study

A public meeting has been scheduled to discuss the Hwy 64 Freeway Conversion Study.  This study is a planning and preservation project that seeks to ensure the safety and mobility of both freight and passenger traffic on Hwy 64.  The meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 6th, at the Somerset High School multipurpose room from 5 – 7 p.m.   A brief presentation will begin at 5:30 p.m. 
 
Independent of the St. Croix River Crossing project, this study is designed to identify the necessary future improvements and right-of-way needs to convert the roadway to a freeway and expressway.  If you live, work, or travel on or near the Hwy 64 corridor, you are encouraged to attend the meeting to provide input and receive feedback from WisDOT officials.  The presentation will cover several alternatives and include information as to why these improvements are necessary.  If you are unable to attend the meeting, or would like more information, please feel free to contact Jeff Abboud at 715-855-7661 or by e-mail at jeffry.abboud@dot.wi.gov.

10/22: Wisconsin Main Street Workshops Announced

The Wisconsin Main Street Program is designed to promote the historic and economic development and revitalization of downtown business districts in Wisconsin.  The program provides services such as volunteer training programs, director orientation and training sessions, design assistance, and counseling to business owners and managers.
 
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has announced the details of the fall regional Main Street Application Workshops.  One of the four workshops is being held in Menomonie on Wednesday, November 13th at the Mabel Tainter Theater Boardroom from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.  Lunch is not included.
 
Business owners, volunteers, government officials, and community leaders are welcome to attend and can register for the workshop in advance by clicking here.  For more information about the Main Street Program please click here

10/18: Honor and Remember Flag Resolution Passes State Senate

A resolution designating the Honor and Remember Flag as Wisconsin’s emblem of service and sacrifice by those in the United States Armed Forces who have given their lives in the line of duty was passed by the State Senate earlier this week.  The resolution was introduced by Senator Harsdorf and Representative John Murtha at the request of a number of constituents who have lost loved ones in military service to our country.  The resolution now awaits action in the Wisconsin State Assembly.

10/14: Fall Color Report

One of Wisconsin’s greatest fall attractions is its trees as leaves change colors to vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red.  Wisconsin’s state forests have the reputation of being some of the best in the nation for fall color.  The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports that fall colors are now peaking in central, northeast, and northwest Wisconsin.
 
The Department of Tourism has a Fall Color Report available online that allows you to select different areas of the state and see a color report for that part of the state.

10/10: New Job Search Website Launched

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

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

To visit the new Skill Explorer website, click here.

10/4: October to Highlight Importance of Manufacturing

Manufacturing has long been one of the economic backbones of Wisconsin and our state is highlighting this by recognizing October as Manufacturing Month.  The Department of Workforce Development (DWD), partnering with other state agencies, will hold events around the state to bring awareness to this leading industry.  Manufacturing remains a top industry in our state and currently employs 450,000 workers in 9,400 businesses.  These jobs provide an average income of $52,000 per year, 25% more than the average of all other private sector workers.  Wisconsin recently ranked in the top five states for manufacturing by CNBC.

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

10/2: Public Hearing Held on ATV and UTV Update Bill

Currently, state law defines all-terrain and utility terrain vehicles (ATVs and UTVs) using a number of requirements relating to weight, height, and equipment.  However, due to technological advances and innovations, state laws have not kept up with changes in the design of ATVs and UTVs.  An example of this is the requirement that ATVs and UTVs operate on low-pressure tires, while manufacturers have designed a new type of airless tire for use on these vehicles that does not satisfy this definition.  These new tires offer riders the benefits of enhanced durability, and because they are airless they cannot go flat and do not need to be aired-up. 
 
Senator Harsdorf and Representative Erik Severson have introduced legislation to update the statutory definitions of ATVs and UTVs, allowing manufacturers to respond to consumer and market demands for innovative products.  The companion bills, Senate Bill 310 (SB 310) and Assembly Bill 381 (AB 381), make other minor updates to the definitions of ATVs and UTVs and was drafted in collaboration with recreational vehicle stakeholders, including Polaris Industries, Wisconsin ATV Association, Department of Natural Resources, and trail managers.  Both bills have received a public hearing in their respective committees.  Please click here to view a copy of SB 310.
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ArticleMonthNo:
September

9/26: WI and MN Revenue Departments to Discuss Tax Policy

Wisconsin Department of Revenue Secretary Richard Chandler and Minnesota Department of Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans are scheduled to discuss tax policy in an upcoming forum at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.  The forum is open to the public and will be held Monday, October 7th from 12:00-1:15 at the Humphrey School on the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus. 
 
The forum will focus on the different approaches taken by the two states relating to tax changes made in recent years by both states.  Topics to be discussed include the impact of tax policy on balancing state budgets, job creation, business start-ups and retention, and quality of life.  If you are interested in attending, please register online.  Admission is free to those attending.

9/20: USDA Approves Natural Disaster Designation for Pierce County

On September 18th, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated Pierce County, Wisconsin as a primary natural disaster area.   Severe hail on August 6th resulted in crop damages and losses in Pierce County and neighboring counties in Minnesota.
 
Several resources are available to farmers as a result of this designation.  Farmers impacted by the adverse weather conditions have eight months from the date of designation to apply for emergency loans through the Farm Service Agency (FSA).  Emergency loan funds may be used to restore or replace essential property, pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster, and pay essential family living expenses.  Contact your local FSA office to learn more and view information you will need in order to complete an application.
 
Another resource that may be helpful is the Farmer to Farmer program provided by UW-Extension.  This program puts Wisconsin farmers in touch with one another and is provided free of charge to assist farmers searching for hay, alfalfa haylage, corn silage, high moisture corn, corn grain, and other forages if they have experienced crop loss.
 
You can visit the Wisconsin FSA’s website for more information here and access the Farmer to Farmer webpage here.

9/12: Wisconsin Sees Increase in Dairy Exports

Wisconsin, long recognized as “America’s Dairyland,” has a long history of being a top producer and exporter of milk and dairy products.  Recent reports show Wisconsin’s exports of dairy products increased by 23% in the first six months of 2013 compared to a year ago.  Wisconsin dairy exports totaled $171 million.  Total agricultural exports increased 10% over last year totaling $1.6 billion to 132 countries, moving Wisconsin to 13th overall among the states.  Wisconsin’s top agricultural export destinations were Canada, China, and Mexico.  Given the importance of agriculture as one of the top industries in Wisconsin, this is great news for our state as well as our farm economy!

9/5: Upcoming License Plate Reissuance Information

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) will be reissuing certain license plates beginning with October 2013 renewals.  Notices for these plate renewals were mailed during the last week of August and will continue until all renewals are complete.
 
Both the sesquicentennial and red letter series of plates are being replaced because they are beyond their projected life cycles.  As these plates age, their reflectivity decreases and the red lettering fades, making the plates less visible to other motorists and difficult for law enforcement to read.  If you currently have plates that are scheduled for reissuance, you will receive a renewal letter explaining the reissuance process.
 
For renewals done by mail or internet, you will be mailed a certificate of registration, but instead of an expiration sticker, there will be an informational insert explaining that your license plates were reissued and will be arriving via United States Postal Service.  License plates will be mailed separately and will include the necessary sticker kit along with an additional informational insert explaining why you have received new plates.
 
For renewals done by the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) third party agents, you will receive a sticker and certificate of registration from the agent as normal.  You will receive the new license plates along with the necessary sticker kit in the mail in 7-10 days. Additionally, an informational brochure will be provided to the agents to assist in answering questions regarding reissuance.
 
Both plate types will be replaced with a standard, black-letter auto plate of the current design.  Please visit http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/drivers/ for more renewal information, DMV service center hours, and more. 
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ArticleMonthNo:
August

8/27: No Call List Deadline August 31st

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) offers the No Call List, a free service that covers residential land and cell phone lines.  The next quarterly deadline to sign up is August 31st.  It is important to remember to renew your registration every two years to remain on the No Call List.
 
By adding your number to the list before the deadline, you will receive protection from unsolicited calls or text messages from telemarketers.  Political calls, calls from non-profit organizations and calls made in response to a purchase or by request are not covered by the No Call List.
 
Currently, legislation I have authored to make the No Call List permanent and prohibit robocalls for those registered on the No Call List has passed committee and is waiting to be taken up by the State Senate.  Senate Bill 97 (SB 97) would remove the requirement for Wisconsin residents to sign-up for the No Call List every two years by adopting the federal No Call List in Wisconsin.  In addition, SB 97 would prohibit robocalls to those on the No Call List with very limited exceptions such as school and emergency notification messages.  You can find out more about this legislation by clicking here.
 
To add your residential landline, cell phone or VoIP number(s) to the No Call List, visit http://nocall.wisconsin.gov or dial 1-866-9NO-CALL (1-866-966-2255).  Also, you can find more information about the program or file a consumer complaint by visiting the Consumer Protection website here, by sending an e-mail to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov or by calling toll free at 1-800-422-7128

8/16: Broadband Internet Access Survey

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC), an independent agency responsible for the regulation of Wisconsin public utilities, is seeking citizen input to help improve high speed Internet service in Wisconsin.  Broadband Internet access is crucial for economic development, and PSC is collecting information for policy leaders at the state and local level for future broadband planning. 
 
Together with community leaders and LinkWISCONSIN, PSC has developed surveys to collect information about coverage areas.  Results of the surveys will be used to map out adequate and inadequate coverage areas, see where unmet demand for high speed Internet is, and to show providers of broadband service the areas where improvement is necessary. 
 
If you have Internet access, you can click to take the personal survey here, or for your business by clicking here.  If you do not have Internet access, please contact PSC staff Pete Jahn at 608-267-2338 to receive a hard copy by mail.  The survey deadline is September 30th.  More information can be found at www.link.wisconsin.gov.

8/8: Grants Available for Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin

As interest in locally-sourced food continues to grow in Wisconsin, the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) administers Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grants to further support and expand Wisconsin’s agriculture and food industries.  Grants are available to individuals, groups, and businesses involved in various aspects of agriculture and food production, including food processing and distribution, retail food establishments, and more.  
 
Currently there is $200,000 in grant funds available under this program with a maximum award of $50,000 per project.  Grant applicants must provide cash or in-kind match equivalent to or greater than 50% of the total cost of the project. 
 
Proposals are due on October 21 and must include a cover page, budget template, and three-page project description.  For more information about the application process and eligibility, contact DATCP’s Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin Program Manager Teresa Engel at 608-244-5101 or teresa.engel@wi.gov

8/1: Minnesota Highway 95 Closure

As part of the continuing St. Croix Crossing project, Minnesota Hwy 95 will be closed August 9th – 12th.  Crews will demolish the Minnesota Hwy 36 flyover bridge to northbound Hwy 95, resulting in the weekend closure.
 
A detour route in Stillwater and Oak Park Heights will use Hwy 36, Osgood Avenue, 47th Street N., Stagecoach Trail, and Fifth Avenue N.  Motorists will continue to experience single-lane traffic on Hwy 36 east of Osgood Avenue and temporary traffic signals at the junction with Hwy 95.  Drivers are reminded to remain patient and follow the signed detour route when the closure occurs.   
 
Also, on the Wisconsin side, those traveling on Hwy 35 north of Hudson will continue to see heavier truck traffic entering and exiting the site of the former wayside in the town of St. Joseph.  For the next few weeks there will be shoulder closures to accommodate the increased traffic as trucks are hauling material from the St. Croix River bottom as the bridge foundations are being constructed.   
 
To remain up-to-date on the St. Croix Crossing project, visit www.harsdorfsenate.com and click on the St. Croix Crossing link. 
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ArticleMonthNo:
July

7/30: Nominations for the Arts in the Community Awards

Arts Wisconsin is partnering with the League of Wisconsin Municipalities for the fifth annual Arts in the Community Awards, which honor Wisconsin communities, elected officials, and community leaders for their involvement with innovative arts, arts education, and creative economy projects.
 
Arts Wisconsin is an independent statewide membership organization that advocates for the arts.  The League of Wisconsin Municipalities is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association of cities and villages that helps provide informational resources to Wisconsin municipalities.   
 
These organizations are currently seeking nominations for communities that have worked on arts projects that exemplify an ongoing commitment to the arts.  The projects should have broad and diverse community support and recognize the importance of the arts and their impact to a community’s economic, educational, and civic vitality. 
 
The deadline for nominations is 5:00 PM on Monday, August 19, 2013.  Nominations should be submitted by email to info@artswisconsin.org.  Arts Wisconsin will announce award winners the week of September 2, 2013.   Please contact Anne Katz, Executive Director of Arts Wisconsin, at 608.255.8316 or akatz@artswisconsin.org for more information on the Arts in the Community Awards.  

7/23: Construction Plans Posted for I-94/County T Interchange

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has made the plans for a new interchange and bridge on County T over I-94 available for public viewing.  The plans will be posted at the St. Croix County Highway Department in Hammond from July 25 through August 8.
 
The project consists of replacing aging and deficient infrastructure to improve safety of the existing interchange.  Current plans include a new bridge span over I-94, roundabouts at the ramp intersections on County T, and lengthened ramps to provide proper acceleration and deceleration for entering and exiting I-94 traffic.  Also included in the project are right of way improvements, accommodations for current and future bicycle and pedestrian traffic, and a new park and ride facility.  Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016.
 
A public hearing may be requested by individuals to whom the proposed project is of significant concern.   The public is encouraged to review the plans and provide input by August 9 so the comments can be incorporated in the proposed plans.  For further information, contact Chris Ouellette at 715-833-9814 or chris.ouellette@dot.wi.gov 

7/17: Helpful Financial Tips

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

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

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

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

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

7/12: USDA Approves Natural Disaster Designation

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved Wisconsin’s request to declare 24 Wisconsin counties as natural disaster areas, including Pierce County.   The combined effects of excessive rain and snow, and the multiple periods of thawing and refreezing have resulted in winterkill and loss of crop, according to the USDA. 
 
There are multiple resources available for farmers to aide them because of this declaration.  Farmers impacted by the adverse weather conditions have eight months to apply for emergency loans through the Farm Service Agency (FSA).  Emergency loan funds may be used to restore or replace essential property, pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster all year, and pay essential family living expenses.  Contact your local FSA office to learn more about the program and information you will need to complete an application.
 
Another resource that may be helpful is the Farmer to Farmer program provided by UW-Extension.  This program puts Wisconsin farmers in touch with one another and is provided free of charge so you can search for hay, alfalfa haylage, corn silage, high moisture corn, corn grain, and other forages if you have experienced crop loss. 
 
You can visit Wisconsin FSA’s website for more information here and access the Farmer to Farmer page here.    

7/3: Town Halls to be held on BadgerCare Plus

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) will be holding town hall meetings throughout the state on changes under the state budget in eligibility for BadgerCare Plus.  The Governor signed these changes into law as part of the two-year budget bill on June 30th.
 
The time table for changes to BadgerCare Plus coincides with the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by the federal government.  These changes will ensure health care coverage through BadgerCare Plus to all adults with income below the federal poverty level for the first time in state history.
 
The Department will hold three public hearings around the state next month.  For a list of times and places, visit the DHS website at http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/News/PressReleases/2013/070113.htm.  The nearest public hearing to our area will be held in Eau Claire on July 10th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Chippewa Valley Technical College.
 
If you are unable to attend any of the public information meetings, but would still like information or to provide a comment please contact the department by e-mail, online, fax, or regular mail.  Contact information is included at the link listed above and the deadline to submit comments is July 30th, 2013.
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ArticleMonthNo:
June

6/28: Agricultural Exports Seminar in River Falls

On Tuesday, July 16, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) invites food and agricultural companies to attend an Export Education Seminar.  Beginning and experienced exporters can benefit from the seminar and be part of Wisconsin’s growing agricultural exports. 
 
In 2012, Wisconsin exported over $2.9 billion in agricultural products to 149 countries, a record value for the state.  Wisconsin ranked 13th in the nation in agricultural exports last year.
 
Topics that will be covered at the seminar include:
● Developing export readiness skills,
● Export pricing and quoting,
● Export documentation,
● Navigating free trade agreement,
● Finding buyers for your products, and
● Accessing resources to trade internationally.
 
The seminar is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, University Center, 500 Wild Rose Avenue, River Falls.  To attend, register by July 9th at www.foodexport.org.  For additional information, contact DATCP's Ashwini Rao at 608-224-5119 or ashwini.rao@wisconsin.gov.

6/25: New Medical Transportation Manager Town Hall Meetings

On April 11, the Department of Health Services (DHS) announced a new contract with Medical Transportation Management, Inc. (MTM) to manage non-emergency medical transportation services for certain Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus members.  This contract will take effect on August 1st, at which time MTM will take over transportation services from the current provider, LogistiCare.
 
As Wisconsin transitions Medicaid and BadgerCare transportation management from LogistiCare to MTM, town hall meetings with representatives from both DHS and MTM have been scheduled to help answer questions about the changes.  DHS is offering this meeting for members, providers, stakeholders, and advocates to learn about MTM’s plans to implement the improved Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) policy. 
 
Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus members who can get non-emergency medical transportation to covered appointments should continue to call 1-866-907-1493 (or TTY 1-866-288-3133) to schedule their rides. The phone number that members use to schedule rides to covered services will not be changing.
 
The nearest meeting in our area will be held in Eau Claire on Friday, June 28th at the Skybox Banquet Room in the Metropolis Resort, 5150 Fairview Drive.  To make reservations, please visit http://www.mtm-inc.net/wisconsin/townhall-rsvp/

6/21: New Agreement Authorizes Meat Shipments Across State Lines

Meat processors are now allowed to ship across state lines under a new agreement between the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protections (DATCP) Division of Food Safety and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Wisconsin is one of three states in the nation to sign an agreement under the USDA Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program.
 
Under the agreement, DATCP’s Division of Food and Safety will inspect meat products at participating meat processors using the same oversight and sampling programs used under the federal inspection program.  While Wisconsin’s meat inspection program, established in 1968, has equaled or exceeded the standards of the federal program for the past 44 years, meat processors were required to obtain USDA approval prior to shipping their products across state lines.  This new option will eliminate regulatory barriers to sales in other states for Wisconsin meat processors, particularly those located along or near our state’s borders.
 
State-inspected establishments wishing to apply for entry into the new program should contact Mr. Arthur Ness, DATCP Bureau of Meat Safety and Inspection, at (608) 224-4715 to begin the process.  For more information about interstate shipment of meat products, visit www.datcp.wi.gov/food.          

6/17: DATCP Consumer - Alert Work-at-Home Solicitations

The Wisconsin State Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) would like to alert consumers of a potential scam that has been reported by numerous Wisconsin residents.  While most Wisconsinites are looking for extra ways to earn a living, the DATCP states that any work-at-home proposal that requires an upfront fee is probably a scam.
 
DATCP has been alerted to a New Jersey-based company that promises cash for stuffing envelopes.  This company pledges anywhere from $10-20 for stuffing each envelope or assembling a packet.  Additionally, the company asks for up-front payments in order to supply a list of companies that would receive these packets and envelopes or additional fees before sending any further information out.
 
DATCP cautions consumers to contact them before responding to solicitations to verify their legitimacy.  Visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at http://datcp.wisconsin.gov, send an e-mail to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov or call the Consumer Protection Hotline toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.

6/11: Encouraging Job Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to meet with staff from BRIDGE for Youth and Adults with Disabilities, a non-profit organization located in Hudson.  BRIDGE provides important support for individuals with disabilities in the St. Croix River Valley.  The organization offers life skills training and social and recreational opportunities for their clients, such as cooking classes, dances, and community field trips. 
 
Additionally, BRIDGE helps those who are seeking sustainable employment within their communities.  BRIDGE is continually interested in forming partnerships with area employers, and I commend BRIDGE’s efforts to network with employers to help individuals with disabilities find valuable employment options in the community.
 
BRIDGE, along with similar organizations, plays a vital role in providing services to those in our communities with disabilities that are beneficial to participants, families, and businesses alike. 
 
To learn more about BRIDGE, please visit their website.

6/10: Wisconsin Heat Awareness Day

While temperatures have been unusually cool, summer is right around the corner, and Wisconsin Emergency Management is reminding people of the dangers associated with extreme heat and promoting community safety and health.  Thursday, June 13, is Wisconsin Heat Awareness Day. 
 
Last year, Wisconsin confirmed 24 heat related deaths, most occurring during five days of excessive heat warning from July 2-6.  None of the victims had air conditioning and did not seek shelter at one of the many cooling centers which opened around the state. 
 
Summer heat waves have been the biggest weather-related killers in Wisconsin for the past 50 years, far exceeding tornadoes, severe storms and floods combined.  Heat is also the number one weather-related killer in the United States.  Groups who should take extreme caution in the heat are the elderly, infants and young children, and those with chronic heart or lung problems.  Also, anyone who works outside during the summer months should also be aware of the heat conditions.
 
For more information, visit http://readywisconsin.wi.gov and click on the Heat Awareness section.   
 
 

6/5: Public Invited to Deer Trustee Report Meeting

On Saturday, June 8, the Department of Natural Resource is inviting citizens to attend a public meeting to receive updates and ask questions about the progress of the Deer Trustee Report (DTR).  Dr. James Kroll, the Governor-commissioned report author, will be in attendance. 
 
At the meeting, the DNR will give an update on progress made, addressing questions and collecting feedback on implementation proposals that are moving forward.  Governor Scott Walker developed the “Deer Trustee” position to review programs, activities, and efforts by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to help better manage the white-tailed deer herd. 
 
The meeting will take place from 10am to 12pm at UW-Stevens Point Dreyfus University Center, 1015 Reserve Street.  For more information, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords, “Deer Trustee Report.” 

6/3: Voter ID Law Ruled Constitutional

Last week, Wisconsin’s 4th District Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that 2011 Act 23, the voter photo identification law, is constitutional.  This decision by the Court of Appeals overturned a Dane County Circuit Court judge’s ruling against the law based upon a challenge by the League of Women Voters.  According to the court, the State Legislature has broad constitutional authority to establish a voter registration system and set in place procedures to ensure that those seeking to vote are eligible under state law. 
 
While last week’s decision is great news for ensuring election integrity, another challenge by the Milwaukee NAACP is currently pending before the 2nd District Court of Appeals.  The voter ID law will not go into effect until all injunctions against the law are resolved.  Wisconsin would join 30 other states that have laws in place that require voters to show photo ID at the polls if other legal challenges are similarly dismissed.
 
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ArticleMonthNo:
May

5/31: Find the Latest on JFC Budget Actions Here

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee is anticipated to wrap-up its work on the state budget next week, beginning with a session on Tuesday.  The remaining issues to be considered include medical assistance, income taxes, and remaining items under the Department of Public Instruction, including school aids.
 
In action to date, the Committee has reduced spending by $310 million, lowered borrowing by $433 million, and eliminated 274 positions. The following are highlights of Committee action this week:
 
Building Commission
·       Reduce the amount of bonding by $250 million and request the Building Commission to prioritize building projects.
 
Health Services
·       Authorize the creation of the Office of Children’s Mental Health to improve and coordinate initiatives to provide mental health services to children.
·       Approve additional funding and allow counties to work together in operating coordinated services teams to administer cross-disciplinary care for children.
 
Children and Families
·       Provide funding for a 2.5% increase in foster care rates and kinship care payments.
 
Public Instruction
·       Allow school districts to utilize the services of multiple software vendors for maintaining student information.
·       Create a grant program for school districts to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses.
·       Call for a comprehensive evaluation of Common Core State Standards.
 
Sporting Heritage
·       Direct DNR to utilize a federal grant program to provide $600,000 for efforts to improve outdoor education and the recruitment and retention of sportsmen.
 
 
Budget highlights for the week ending May 24th:
 
Transportation
     Created a mechanism for local governments to obtain assistance for fixing roads following damage from storms and clean-up efforts.
     Addressed a deficit in the transportation fund without raising taxes or fees.
     Increased aid for local governments for local road projects and for maintaining state highways.
 
UW System
     Enacted a two year tuition freeze and a freeze on some student fees.
     Delayed flexibility measures until further review of the System’s reserve funds is complete.
     Required the UW System to report to the legislature on how tuition is distributed to each campus and on the fees charged to students to improve transparency.
     Expanded eligibility for veterans to receive funding under the Wisconsin GI Bill by addressing residency requirements.
 
Department of Justice
     Approved a modified version of enhanced DNA collection from those convicted of misdemeanors or arrested on felony charges.
     Provided additional resources for the Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce.
 
District Attorneys
      Increased certain part-time assistant district attorney positions to full-time, including one in St. Croix County, to address increasing caseloads.
      Funded a pay progression plan for assistant district attorney positions to improve efforts to retain experienced prosecutors.
 
Other Provisions
      Increased funding for counties for child support enforcement activities to improve the collection of child support.
      Approved the Governor’s proposal to fund two additional positions to monitor sand mining operations.
      Authorized the option of a high deductible health plan and health savings account option for state employees.
 
 
Budget Highlights from the week ending May 17th:
 
Department of Workforce Development
       Increase the number of work searches from two to four per week required by those receiving unemployment  benefits.
       Provide $150,000 to support the Veterans in Piping program, which provides plumbing and pipefitting apprenticeship opportunities for veterans.
 
Public Service Commission
       Provide $4.3 million for a grant program to encourage broadband expansion in underserved areas.
 
Local Government
       Improve reporting of government spending by requiring counties and municipalities over 5,000 in population to participate in the state’s OpenBook initiative.
      Create a program to reimburse local governments that utilize private businesses to establish “lean programs” to maximize the use of taxpayer dollars.
 
Department of Natural Resources
      Address the rapidly increasing debt service costs associated with the Stewardship program, while preserving the program by adjusting bonding authority.
      Maintain the partnership with Friends of Crex for a wildlife educator at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area.
 
Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection
      End the diversion of agricultural chemical clean-up funds for other purposes and ensure that fee revenue is used for clean-up programs as intended.
      Increase aid for county fairs by $50,000 annually.
      Preserve funding for the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program.
 
Budget highlights from the week ending May 10th:
 
Property Taxes
      Continue the Property Tax Freeze to protect property taxpayers
      Encourage responsible budgeting by providing flexibility to local governments that pay down debt
 
Technical Colleges
      Enact performance-based funding initiative to encourage innovation and reward high-performing technical colleges
      Performance funding would be distributed based on a number of criteria including success in job placement for students in their field of study, number of degrees earned in high demand fields, collaboration and efficiencies, and providing courses that are responsive to needs of employers
 
Veterans Affairs
      Provide funding to Wisconsin Veteran Homes to ensure veterans receive quality care
 
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
      Ensure compliance with audit recommendations by withholding funding in second year of budget
      Require an annual independent financial audit of the WEDC
      Set aside additional funding to promote Wisconsin and encourage businesses to invest in Wisconsin
 
 
Budget highlights from the week ending May 3rd:
 
Department of Tourism
·       Provide additional $500,000 in state funding for tourism marketing
 
Department of Veterans Affairs
·       Provide additional $5.3 million in state funding to the Veterans Trust Fund
·       Ensure full funding to honor our passing veterans through military funerals
·       Provide grant funding to increase support for local county veteran service offices
 
Department of Transportation
·       Increase funding for preservation of freight rail to boost economic development
·       Provide citizens the ability to donate $2 to Donate Life Wisconsin when signing up as an organ donor
·       Strengthen efforts to address drunk driving by maintaining funding for OWI testing and increasing the penalty on OWI offenses
 
Circus World Museum
·       Removed a provision that would transfer operations of the museum to the Wisconsin Historical Society and preserved the current public-private partnership
 
 

5/22: Safe Boating Information

This week, May 18-24th, is National Safe Boating week.  With the weather warming up after a long winter, people are looking to get out on the water and head out to our beautiful lakes and rivers.  Now is the time for boaters to get up to date on their certification, which can be done online or in a classroom.  It’s also time to inspect and equip your boat before you head out.
 
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has helpful boating resources on their website, where you can register your boat, sign-up for a safety class, find a list of boat landings across the state and more.  Brush up on proper boating practices before heading out to the lake or river and have a safe and enjoyable summer!

5/16: Three-vehicle Combination Bill Moves Forward

Legislation I authored at the suggestion of a number of constituents was approved by the State Senate last week on a voice vote.  Senate Bill 75 (SB 75) would increase the allowable length of certain three-vehicle combinations from 65 to 70 feet.  Currently, some three-vehicle combinations for those seeking to camp or engage in recreational sports in our state exceed current length limits, limiting tourism opportunities.
 
Neighboring states of Minnesota and Iowa already allow three-vehicle combinations of 70 feet, while other western states and Canadian provinces allow such combinations.  SB 75 would make it easier for individuals to travel between states and would have a positive impact on the tourism industry.

5/10: Safe Spring Cleaning with Clean Sweep Events

Clean Sweep events are being held throughout the state for residents to properly dispose unwanted household or agricultural chemicals or leftover prescription drugs.  A listing of local Clean Sweep events is available on the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) websiteDATCP encourages residents to double check with the local event coordinator on the website listing to confirm the date and location because they vary county by county.  It is also important to read the information carefully regarding what will be accepted at the local site, and whether or not there is a fee or preregistration required.  Some collections accept additional items like electronic waste, tires or fluorescent bulbs.  If you do not find a Clean Sweep location conveniently located near you, contact your local solid waste or recycling department to find out about other hazardous material collections.  If you have agricultural chemicals to dispose of, it’s best to contact your county extension agent.  Many police departments have permanent drop boxes available for the collection of unwanted prescription drug disposal. 
 
DATCP’s Clean Sweep program provides grants to local governments, planning commissions and tribes to support the collections.  Clean Sweep grants have helped collect more than 3 million pounds of farm chemical waste since 1990, 16 million pounds of household hazardous waste since 2004, and more than 136,000 pounds of unwanted prescription drugs since 2008.

5/8: Act 10 Reforms Reduce Overtime Costs

The Department of Administration announced last week that state agencies reduced overtime costs by 22% in 2012, as compared to 2011.  These figures continue to show the positive benefits to taxpayers provided by the collective bargaining reforms passed under Act 10 last session.  I look forward to continuing to work with my legislative colleagues and the administration to advance efficiencies in state government.

5/6: Wisconsin Tourism Industry Makes an Impact

It’s National Travel and Tourism Week, which is a great time to recognize the impact that tourism has on our state economy.  In Wisconsin, the tourism industry continues to be an important part of the state economy with a total impact of $16.8 billion last year.  Overall, in 2012, a 5 percent growth in the tourism economy translated to an increase in tourism-related employment and personal income, according to just released economic impact figures compiled by Tourism Economics, the research firm commissioned by the Department of Tourism.  Other industry indicators included strong day traveler growth pushing recreational spending up 7 percent and a 2.7 percent daily rate increase at Wisconsin lodging properties, which helped grow overall hotel room revenues by 4.6 percent.  In Wisconsin, tourism supports nearly 184,000 jobs and $4.5 billion in personal income.  One in thirteen jobs in Wisconsin relies on tourism and that number continues to grow.  Tourism provides fun for travelers, job and small business growth opportunities, and tax savings for Wisconsin taxpayers.  In fact, last year Wisconsin taxpayers saved nearly $575 per household by the taxes generated by tourism.
 
For more information, free travel guides, listings of local events and more, visit the Wisconsin Department of Tourism website at: www.TravelWisconsin.com.
 
 

5/1: May is National Mental Health Awareness Month

May 1st marks the beginning of National Mental Health Awareness Month, which seeks to bring attention to the challenges faced by those living with mental health issues in our country.  Some have estimated that as many as one out of four adults are diagnosable with mental health disorders each year and 20% of all children will have at some point in their life a seriously debilitating mental disorder.
 
Currently, the State Legislature is considering a $29 million initiative for mental health resources proposed in the Governor’s budget.  Among the mental health provisions included in the budget are a focus on children’s mental health and increased counseling services for youth living with mental health challenges.  In addition, a Special Speaker’s Task Force on Mental Health, chaired by Representative Erik Severson, is holding hearings around the state and will be making recommendations to the Legislature regarding mental health care and services.
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ArticleMonthNo:
April

4/17: Wear Blue in Honor of Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month

Governor Scott Walker declared April Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month.  Wisconsinites are encouraged to wear blue to work tomorrow, Thursday, April 18, to promote awareness of child abuse prevention.
 
Blue is the commemorative color for national child abuse prevention and awareness.  Throughout the country, states and local agencies are hosting events featuring the color blue or using blue pinwheels, a symbol for child abuse prevention, to bring visual awareness to this important issue affecting children and families.
 
Information and resources are available at the Department of Children and Families website: http://dcf.wi.gov/child_and_family_safety.htm.
 

4/12: Seeking Student Representative for the WI Technical College System Board

The Governor recently announced that there is an opening for a student representative on the Wisconsin Technical College System Board.  This Board is the governing body for the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), which helps develop statewide policies and standards for the educational programs and services provided by the technical college districts across the state.  The Board facilitates relationships between the technical college system and employers to ensure courses are relevant for evolving careers and up-to-date with technology in each sector of our economy.
 
Eligible candidates for the student representative position must be over the age of eighteen, a Wisconsin resident, enrolled at least part-time, and in good academic standing.  Interested students should submit a cover letter, resume, and completed application by email to govappointments@wisconsin.gov or by mail to:
 
Office of the Governor
Attention: Eric Esser
Appointments Director
115 East, State Capitol
Madison, WI  53707-7863
 
To access the application, please visit www.walker.wi.gov and click on “Apply to Serve,” then “Boards/Commissions.”  Applications are due no later than Wednesday, April 17th by noon.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this position.  Applicants may also contact Mr. Eric Esser in the Governor’s office at (608) 266-1212 with any questions about the appointments process.

4/5: Avoid Tax Preparation Fraud

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has been hearing from an increasing number of Wisconsin residents about fraudulent tax filings.  Wisconsin residents working with a tax preparation service are encouraged to contact DATCP if they believe there are questionable practices taking place at a tax preparation business and file a complaint with the state.
 
Complaints can be filed online through the DATCP website www.datcp.wi.gov or a complaint form can be requested by calling the state’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-422-7128.
 
Some tips to avoid becoming the victim of tax preparation fraud:
  • Be alert to promotions such as “quick cash loans” that can be used to gain the personal financial information needed to file an individual’s tax return.
  • Check the tax preparer’s qualifications and history. 
  • Find out about service fees.
  • Make sure the tax preparer is accessible.  
  • Never sign a blank tax form.
  • Never sign an authorization permitting a company to file your taxes if you do not want the company to do so.
  • Never sign a document without first reading it and understanding what it says.
  • Always insist upon receiving copies of all documents you are required to sign, or those that identify the terms of a transaction and the charges you will be required to pay. 
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ArticleMonthNo:
March

3/22: Joint Finance Committee to Hold Public Hearings on State Budget

The Joint Finance Committee will be holding a number of public hearings around the state on the state budget bill introduced by the Governor.  As a member of the Finance Committee, I am pleased that one of the hearings will be held in Baldwin.  This will provide area residents with the opportunity to comment on the budget provisions and share their thoughts with the budget-writing committee.  Below are the dates, times, and locations for the upcoming public hearings.
 
Thursday, April 4th, 2013
Greendale High School Auditorium, 6801 Southway, Greendale, WI 53129
10:00AM – 6:00PM
 
Monday, April 8th , 2013
Legends Club Room 4th Level
Lambeau Field Atrium, 1265 Lombardi Ave, Green Bay, WI 54304
10:00AM – 5:00PM
 
Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
Crystal Grand Music Theatre, 430 W. Munroe Avenue, Lake Delton, WI53940
10:00AM – 5:00PM
 
Thursday, April 18th, 2013
Baldwin-Woodville High School Auditorium, 1000 13th Ave, Baldwin, WI 54002
10:00AM-5:00PM

3/14: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Approval of Permit Moves St. River Crossing Forward

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved the permit application under the federal Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act for the St. Croix River Crossing bridge project.  This approval marks another step towards a new river crossing and allows bids to be sought for the bridge construction.
 
Bridge foundation work will begin next month, while construction of the main structure is expected to begin next year with a completion date of 2016.
 
The new St. Croix River Crossing will replace the 80-year-old Stillwater Bridge and will improve traffic flow and safety for area residents and commuters. 

3/8: Deer Trustee Report Meeting Webcast on Saturday

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

 
The public meeting will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at UW-Stevens Point’s Lee S. Dreyfus University Center, Alumni Room (350). It is the first of seven meetings to develop action items for moving recommendations in the 2012 report forward with the intent of enhancing deer management in the state.
 
For more information about the Deer Trustee Report visit: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/trustee.html

3/5: New fishing, hunting licenses go on sale March 6

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

For the avid angler and hunter, DNR licensing staff encourage you to take a look at purchasing a Conservation Patron license, which gives the license holder all of the basic fishing and hunting privileges at one price, $165 for Wisconsin residents and $75 for Wisconsin residents under age 18.
 
The adult Conservation Patron license includes fishing; sturgeon hook and line; small game; spring and fall turkey; archery; trapping; gun deer licenses. It also includes the early and exterior goose permits or Horicon goose application; drawing applications for spring and fall turkey, otter and fisher; state waterfowl, pheasant, turkey, inland trout and Great Lakes trout and salmon stamps; resident annual park stickers; state trail access; and a subscription to Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine. The Junior Patron includes everything except the park admission sticker, trail pass and magazine subscription.
 
License buyers also will want to let family and friends know about the first-time buyer license, offered for the second year. Several resident licenses are available for as little as $5 for those who have never purchased a Wisconsin license or those who have not done so for more than 10 years.
 
Hunting and fishing licenses, including the Conservation Patron license, can be purchased through the Online Licensing Center on the DNR website, at all authorized license agents, at DNR Service Centers (Hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation; DNR Service Centers are not open on Saturdays), or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236). DNR Customer Service staff is available to assist the public by phone and online from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Customers may reach customer service at 1-888-WDNR INFo (1-888-936-7463) or by e-mail at csweb@wisconsin.gov.
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ArticleMonthNo:
February

2/22: Referendum to Protect Transportation Fund Coming to Voters

The State Senate gave final approval to a constitutional amendment that will now go before voters on a statewide referendum that proposes to safeguard the state’s transportation fund from future raids.  The transportation fund, which is composed primarily of gas tax and vehicle registration fee revenues, is the funding source for transportation needs in Wisconsin.
 
Given the raids made by the previous administration of the transportation fund for other budget purposes, the State Legislature has proposed protecting the transportation fund in the state Constitution.  The proposed amendment will safeguard the transportation fund by preventing future diversions of funds and ensuring that future revenues are used for transportation programs and projects. 
 
In order to amend the state Constitution, a resolution must be passed by both houses of the legislature in two consecutive legislative sessions and then approved by voters in a statewide referendum.  Since the resolution was approved by the State Assembly and State Senate last session and again this session, the question will be placed on the November 2014 statewide ballot.

2/20: Governor’s Budget Address to be Live-Streamed Tonight

A joint session of the State Legislature will assemble tonight (Wednesday, February 20th) to hear Governor Walker’s budget address, which will outline his two-year budget proposal.  In addition to being available on public radio and television, the Governor’s office will be streaming the budget address live on the Governor’s website at www.walker.wi.gov.  The address will also be available live through the Wisconsin Eye website, www.wiseye.org/. 

2/14: Governor announces 'DNA at Arrest' to be included in budget

This week, the Governor toured the state with Attorney General JB Van Hollen to outline several of his public safety priorities in the upcoming budget.  I am pleased that the Governor and Attorney General have come out in strong support for enhancing our state’s DNA collection to include those arrested on felony charges.
 
I have been leading the effort to enact this law in Wisconsin, which is currently in place in over half the states and the federal government.  Enhanced DNA collection will save lives, save investigative costs and time, exonerate the innocent, and provide relief to victims and their families.
 
This proposal has been carefully drafted to respect the rights of those arrested as we provide law enforcement with the latest tools to fight violent crime. The United States Congress recently boosted enhanced DNA collection efforts by passing federal legislation providing grant funding to states for this purpose.  This bipartisan bill has been signed into law by the President.

2/6: Hudson Offers Free Fishing Clinic for Kids

The St. Croix County Sports Alliance and St. Croix County Parks Department are sponsoring a free fishing clinic for kids on Saturday, February 23rd.  This is a great opportunity for kids to enjoy the outdoors and learn how to ice fish. 
 
The free fishing clinic is geared toward youth ages thirteen and under.  It will be held at Perch Lake from 2:00 to 4:00 PM.  The clinic will be based at the public access lot in the southwest corner of Perch Lake off of Perch Lake Road in the Town of St. Joseph.  Please note that this location is not inside Homestead Park.  Please contact Buck Malick at 715.386.7010 for additional information.

2/1: Wisconsin Department of Revenue Now Accepting E-file Returns

Most Wisconsin income taxpayers are able to file their state income taxes through the e-file system found on the Wisconsin Department of Revenue website at www.revenue.wi.gov.  E-file is a faster and more convenient way to file your tax return.  The Wisconsin e-file system works in conjunction with the IRS, and as of January 30th, both Wisconsin and the IRS have started accepting e-file returns.  Due to late action on federal legislation there are some federal forms that are not yet available as they require more extensive programming and testing of IRS systems.  The IRS will announce when those forms are ready, which is expected to be between late February and March.  The key forms delayed include Form 5695 (Residential Energy Credits), Form 4562 (Depreciation and Amortization) and Form 3800 (General Business Credit).  Some of the benefits and requirements for Wisconsin e-file are listed below. 
 
Wisconsin e-file:
• Offers Wisconsin fill-in tax forms that do the math to help prevent errors
• Is secure and confidential – your taxpayer information is protected
• Sends a confirmation once a return is electronically submitted and received
• Allows you to link to e-filing options for your federal income taxes by clicking on “web-based filing”
• Refunds can be deposited directly into your bank account within days. 
 
What You Need to E-file
• Your federal income tax return
• All documents about income you received during the year, including W-2s and 1099s
• Legal names and social security numbers of spouse and dependents you’ll include on your return
• Charitable donations
• Property tax bill or rent certificate, if claiming Homestead Credit
• Bank account information for direct deposit or withdrawal
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ArticleMonthNo:
January

1/24: Senate Scholar Program Applications Available

The Senate Scholar Program provides students with an introduction to many facets of state government and the legislative process.  During the intensive week-long program, students have an opportunity to meet with legislators and staff, legislative support agencies, governor’s staff, a Supreme Court Justice, the media and lobbyists.  Students also assist the Senate Sergeant’s staff during session days and conclude the week by drafting a bill and holding a mock hearing. 
 
I encourage any high school junior or senior to apply to this rigorous behind-the-scenes experience of state government.  If you are interested, please contact my office by calling (800) 862-1092 or (608) 266-7745 or emailing Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wi.gov.  In addition, more details and a link to the application are also found at: www.senatescholar.com.  The application deadline is April 1. 

1/15: State of the State Address Tonight

Tonight, January 15th, Governor Walker will give his third State of the State address.  The easiest way for you to watch and listen is by clicking the live-stream broadcast at www.walker.wi.gov.  The address will begin at 7pm.  In addition, the broadcast will be available on Wisconsin Public Television, Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Eye.
 
I encourage you to tune-in as the Governor lays out his plan to address job creation and reform government.
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2012
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ArticleMonthNo:
December

12/28: SeniorCare Waiver Extended

Wisconsin got welcome news this week when it was announced that the federal government will renew the waiver authorizing the continuation of SeniorCare.  The waiver will extend the SeniorCare program until December 31, 2015.  SeniorCare is Wisconsin’s prescription drug program that provides affordable, comprehensive prescription drug coverage to thousands of Wisconsin’s seniors.  For more information about SeniorCare please visit www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/seniorcare.

12/14: Governor’s Business Plan Contest Open for Entries

The 10th annual Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest will be accepting entries online until Thursday, January 31st.  The contest was developed to help entrepreneurs use their ideas to launch a company and gain feedback from mentors as well as interaction with investors and other professionals.  Finalists could win more than $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.  Initial entries will consist of a 250 word idea abstract and contestants who advance will expand their plan in different stages of topics, including finance and technology.  Wisconsin residents 18 years old and up are eligible to enter, as well as businesses or teams from outside the state if they demonstrate an intent to base their business in Wisconsin.
 
For more information about the contest or to become a judge or sponsor visit http://www.govsbizplancontest.com.
 

12/5: State Snow Condition Reports Now Available

The Department of Tourism has recently started to report and update the Wisconsin Snow Conditions Report.   The reports cover conditions for snowmobilers, downhill skiers, snowboarders and cross country skiers and are rated from no report to excellent.  Currently the snowmobile trails are closed but there are some condition reports for ski hills and cross country skiing.  The Department will update the condition reports at least once a week for all 72 counties in the state.
 
To find out the snow conditions closest to you please visit: www.travelwisconsin.com
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ArticleMonthNo:
November

11/30: Successful 161st Deer Hunt Comes to an End

This year marked the 161st deer hunt in the state of Wisconsin.  The Department of Natural Resources reported that the total harvest is up 7.7 percent from 2011 and a preliminary tally of 243,739 deer registered by hunters from November 17th to 26th.  Of the deer harvested, 114,822 were bucks and 128,917 were antlerless deer.   This year there were 29,000 new registered hunters, 33 percent were new female hunters and another 33 percent were under 17 years old.  Deer hunting is a tradition that brings family and friends together to enjoy all that our great state has to offer.
 
To view a breakdown of the harvest by region and county please visit: www.dnr.wi.gov
 

11/26: DNR Extends Hours for Call Center

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Call Center has recently expanded their hours to increase access for service to Wisconsin residents.  The agency handled more than 370,000 customer contacts last year, with a quarter of those contacts occurring on nights and weekends.  The DNR has equipped the call center with highly trained representatives that can help clarify any question related to the DNR.
 
Call Toll-Free 1-888-936-7463
Chat available at http://dnr.wi.gov/contact 
7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., 7 days per week
 
 

11/19: 1.1 Million Private Acres Open to the Public

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has developed a mapping application that can be used to help find privately owned land that is open to the public for specific recreational activities.  The DNR’s application includes over one million acres of private land that is open to the public as a result of landowner incentive programs, such as the Managed Forest Law and the Forest Crop Law that promote sustainable forest practices.
 
To access the mapping tool visit the DNR web site at dnr.wi.gov, and type “MFL open land” in the Search or Keywords field.

11/12: Remembering Veterans Day

 
Each year on November 11th we honor and thank all the men and women who have served and are currently serving our country.  It is important for us as Americans to take time to commemorate all who have sacrificed and fought for our freedoms.   Let us remember our veterans not just on Veterans Day but every day!
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ArticleMonthNo:
October

10/30: Governor Small Business Summit

On November 8th the Governor and Lt. Governor will be hosting a job creation summit in La Crosse.  This is a great opportunity for small businesses to work with state agencies and state secretaries to discuss job creation in Wisconsin.  The deadline to register is November 1st; registration is $50 and includes lunch.   The Business Summit will be on:
 
Thursday, November 8, 2012
8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
La Crosse Center
300 Harborview Plaza
La Crosse, WI
 
To register for the summit or find out more information please visit: http://www.wheda.com/root/SmallBizSummit .

10/22: First Wolf Hunt in Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s first wolf hunt began just before sunrise on October 15th.  A lottery system was put in place and 1,160 people were allowed to buy a wolf permit.  Approximately 20,000 people applied and as of Monday morning, 599 state permits were purchased as well as 6 out-of-state permits.  During this season up to 201 wolves can be harvested of which 85 are reserved for Native American tribes.  The wolf hunt is set to run until February 28, 2013 but will end sooner if the quota is met.
 
For more information on the wolf hunt please visit, http://dnr.wi.gov.
 

10/19: $108.7 Million Added to the State's Rainy Day Fund

Earlier this week the Wisconsin Department of Administration announced the deposit of $108.7 million into the state’s rainy day fund as part of its annual fiscal report.  This is the largest deposit in state history, as well as the first time the state has contributed to the fund two years in a row.  Wisconsin finished the 2012 fiscal year with a positive balance of $342.1 million.  Over 75% of state tax collections are provided as aid to school districts, local governments, and individuals.
 
To see a full copy of the annual fiscal report please visit: http://www.doa.state.wi.us/.

10/11: Construction of the St. Croix River Crossing to Begin Spring of 2013

Earlier this week the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation announced they will begin construction on the river piers for the new St. Croix River Crossing foundation in spring of 2013.  By choosing to separate out the foundation work the two departments have determined they can start construction sooner. Previously the construction was set to begin in spring of 2014. 
 
For more information about the progress of the St. Croix River Crossing, visit www.mndot.gov/stcroixcrossing.

10/8: Applications for Organic Cost Share Program due October 31st

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) offers a cost share program to organic certified producers and companies that sell, process or package organic agricultural produce.  The program provides for a 75% cost share of certification expenses with a maximum of $750 per category of product.  Wisconsin ranks second in the nation in the number of certified organic farms and companies.
 
To access the application online please visit:  datcp.wi.gov/Farms/Organic_Farming/Cost_Share_Program/

10/1: October-National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is nationally recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, promoting women to get a mammography, one of the most effective tools in the fight against breast cancer.  The month also provides an opportunity to educate the public on who may be at high risk for developing breast cancer, and it encourages the raising of funds for research into the cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure for breast cancer.  The pink ribbon has become a powerful symbol to increase awareness, honor survivors, and remember those who have lost their battle with cancer.  Last year over 210,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.  Women are encouraged to get tested annually.
 
For more information about breast cancer or to find out events in our area for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, please visit: http://www.cancer.org/Involved/Participate/MakingStridesAgainstBreastCancer/index
 
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ArticleMonthNo:
September

9/25: Encouraging Citizen Involvement in State Government

The Governor’s administration offers multiple ways that Wisconsinites can have an active role in their state government.  There are over two-hundred professional boards, commissions, councils and taskforces that allow state residents to be involved in policy making, advisory roles, and advocacy efforts. These boards, commissions, councils and taskforces provide a wide variety of topics for citizens to choose from ranging from the Council on Autism to the Board of Veterans Affairs.  I encourage you to get involved by applying for open positions of interest to you.  For more information on available openings or to see a full list of the boards, please visit www.walker.wi.gov/Serve-Wisconsin.

9/14: 2012-2013 Wisconsin School Recognition Awards Announced

Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers recently announced that Frederic Elementary, River Heights Elementary in Menomonie, Webster Elementary, and Webster Middle Schools have all been selected for the 2012-2013 Wisconsin School of Recognition Award. Both Frederic Elementary and Webster Middle School have been recipients of the award for over five years.  In order to receive this award a school must be a Title I-receiving school, be in the top quartile of the state poverty rates, have above average student achievement scores in both reading and math and have a minimum of 20 full academic year students enrolled.  The schools will be formally recognized at the State Capitol on October 2, 2012 at 12:00pm.
 
Congratulations to the students, parents, teachers, staff and administrators at these schools for this recognition !

9/12: Wisconsin Submits Request to Extend Waiver for SeniorCare

 
The Department of Health Services recently submitted a formal request to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to renew SeniorCare through 2015.  Since 2002, SeniorCare has provided affordable, comprehensive prescription drug coverage to thousands of Wisconsin seniors.  In the 2011 fiscal year, SeniorCare reduced drug costs by $114 million for Wisconsin Seniors and has proven to be more cost-effective for taxpayers as compared to Medicare Part D.  For more information about SeniorCare please visit www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/seniorcare

9/4: 2012 Housing Grant Awards Announced

The Governor recently announced that $500,000 was awarded to special-needs housing providers from throughout Wisconsin to improve and build housing units. The housing grants are funded by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), and they were awarded at the annual Housing Grant Program Competition to those building new facilities or making improvements to existing homes.  In our part of the state providers in Dunn County received awards ranging from $6,000-$25,000 that will be used to enhance or expand security measures, remodel kitchens and bathrooms, replace or repair roofs, elevators and boilers, and make restrooms handicapped accessible.  Grants are awarded through WHEDA’s Persons-in-Crisis Housing Program Fund to nonprofit agencies, local governments and tribal authorities in Wisconsin whose mission includes meeting the needs of low-income or disadvantaged populations.
To see the full list of the 2012 grant award recipients, visit www.wheda.com.
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ArticleMonthNo:
August

8/27: State School Superintendent Enacts Changes to Teacher Licensure

State Superintendent Tony Evers recently enacted changes that would streamline teacher licensure and provide additional options for teacher candidates with workplace experience to become a teacher.  The new changes will provide multiple routes to meet the requirements to become a Wisconsin licensed teacher, pupil services professional or administrator.  The changes made will be available to all those seeking licensure, from recent high school graduates to current educators seeking additional licensures.  For more information please visit http://dpi.wi.gov/tepdl/licpathhome.html .

8/23: October 1st No Call List Sign Up

The next deadline to sign up or renew your number on the No Call list is August 31st.  By signing onto the No Call list, you will be identified as someone who does not wish to receive telemarketing calls.  Wisconsin residents can list both their landline and mobile phone numbers.  It is important to remember that numbers are only listed for two years and must be renewed.  To sign up for the No Call list please call 1-866-966-2255 or visit https://nocall.wisconsin.gov/web/home.asp.

8/15: Governor Awards Financial Literacy Grants to Local Schools

Governor Walker recently announced $250,000 in grants to 24 Wisconsin School Districts to support financial literacy. The grant recipients were selected by the Governor’s Council on Financial Literacy from more than 50 applicants from across the state.  The program is open to Wisconsin’s K-12 public and private schools and is intended to aid teachers and school districts in beginning new sustainable financial literacy events and programs for students.  Wisconsin is the first state in the nation to develop content and performance standards that define what a student should know about financial literacy.  School districts in our area that were awarded grants include Luck, Clear Lake, Glenwood City, St. Croix Central, Elmwood, Boyceville, St. Croix Falls, and Unity School Districts.

8/6: Local Resident Crowned Miss Wheelchair USA

Ms. Tasha Schuh, a resident of Ellsworth, recently won the title of Miss Wheelchair USA over nine other competitors from around the country.  In September 2011, Tasha was named Miss Wheelchair Wisconsin, which qualified her to compete at the national competition in July 2012.  Miss Wheelchair USA is one of three national pageant competitions for women with disabilities, showcasing the achievements that can be accomplished by women in wheelchairs.  Schuh is an inspirational speaker and devotes time to visiting schools, churches, correctional facilities and hospitals to encourage and motivate others. 
 
Congratulations to Tasha – Miss Wheelchair USA!  We are proud to have you representing Wisconsin and the USA!
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ArticleMonthNo:
July

7/31: 2012 Wolf Hunt Rules Approved by Natural Resources Board

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board recently approved the emergency wolf hunt rules in a unanimous vote.  The board approved a quota of 201 wolves to be harvested during the first hunting season.   The season will run from October 15th, 2012 through February 28th, 2013.  Hunters will be eligible to receive a wolf harvest permit in a drawing during the first year; unsuccessful hunters will be awarded a preference point for future drawings.  Permit applications may be purchased for $10 at any license vendor, online, or by telephone.  The license fee for those selected to receive a permit is $100 for Wisconsin residents and $500 for nonresidents.  For more information please visit the Department of Natural Resources webpage at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/apply.html.

7/24: Drought Emergency Expands to Entire State of Wisconsin

Governor Walker declared a state of emergency in all 72 Wisconsin counties due to the extremely dry conditions that are impacting our state.  While recent rains have eased drought conditions in some regions, in many areas the rain is too little, too late to save the crops.  This statewide Executive Order directs Wisconsin Emergency Management to coordinate all state agencies to assist Wisconsin residents affected by the drought.  The drought emergency also waives fees and expedites the permitting process to allow farmers to divert water from certain streams and lakes without causing environmental damage.  For more information please visit the Wisconsin Emergency Management ReadyWisconsin website at http://ready.wi.gov/drought/default.asp.

7/10: Area Child Learning Centers Receive 5 Star Rating

The YoungStar program, established in November 2010, was created to help improve the quality of child care in Wisconsin by evaluating and rating providers, setting consistent standards throughout the state and providing parents with information for selecting a childcare provider.  Centers are rated from 1 to 5 stars based on education qualification and training, learning environment, business practices and overall child health and well-being practices, with a 5 star rating being the best.  Recently, Senator Harsdorf had the opportunity to visit KinderCare Learning Center in Hudson, one of two centers in the 10th Senate district to receive a 5 star rating.  The Child and Family Study Center in Menomonie also received a 5 star rating.  Congratulations to these centers on their commitment to excellence in child care.  Parents can go to http://dcf.wisconsin.gov/youngstar to find detailed information and rating of providers in their area.

7/3: Keeping Your Pets Safe in the Summer Heat

While we are protecting ourselves from this summer’s above average temperatures, also keep in mind precautions for our four legged friends.  The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has provided the following tips to keep our pets safe through the summer heat.
  • Do not leave pets in a car – temperatures can reach to over 120 degrees in less than 10 minutes, exposing them to heat stroke
  • Make sure to have ample sources of water for both drinking and to splash around in
  • Keep sick, elderly or overweight pets inside
  • Avoid strenuous exercise – when walking your dog, try to avoid the hottest part of the day between 12 and 4 PM
  • Take care when leaving a pet in a home without air conditioning – if you can, put them in a basement where it tends to be cooler and use fans to circulate the air
 
Please visit http://datcp.wi.gov/News/?ID=604 for more information on this topic.

7/2: Department of Natural Resources Launches New Activities Database

The DNR recently announced a new feature on their website that will allow interested individuals an easy on-line access to identify DNR lands for recreational use.   To use this new tool please visit www.dnr.wi.gov and search “Explore Outdoors.   Search to locate public lands by county, proximity to a city or by property type such as areas for bicycling, camping or wildlife viewing.  This is a great resource for families looking to get outside and enjoy all that Wisconsin has to offer.
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ArticleMonthNo:
June

6/28: Save a Life - Donate Blood!

Can you be the donor that will save a life? Every minute, someone some place in our country needs blood. That blood can only come from one source….a volunteer donor. In America today, only 3 of every 100 people donate blood. The American Red Cross needs help in maintaining a safe and stable blood supply. For more information on donating blood and to find a location near to donate, please visit http://www.redcross.org or call 1-800-733-2767.

6/22: DNR To Hold Open House on Draft Master Plan for Governor Knowles State Forest

The Department of Natural Resources will host an open house on the proposed master plan for the Governor Knowles State Forest on June 25th from 3-7 pm at the Crex Meadows Wildlife Center, 102 East Crex Avenue, Grantsburg.  This open house will provide an opportunity for the public to review and comment on the draft master plan, which includes improvements and lengthening of the trail systems for recreational use, updates to the existing campgrounds such as adding of electricity and showers, and boundary expansions for sustainable forestry. 
 
For more information or to obtain printed documents regarding the draft master plan, individuals can contact Mr. Bob Dall at the DNR, 107 Sutliff Avenue, Rhinelander, WI 54501, (715) 365-8993, robert.dall@wisconsin.gov

6/14: Flag Day to be Celebrated on June 14th

Each year we dedicate June 14th to honor the adoption of the flag of the United States of America as one of our greatest national symbols.  As we honor and recognize all that our flag represents, we also need to remember the importance of properly disposing of a flag that is worn beyond repair.  The following are instructions on the proper etiquette to dispose of a flag.  In addition, local VFW’s are also a great alternative for disposing of a flag.  To find your local VFW chapter please visit https://www.vfw.org/oms/findpost.aspx.
 

Flag Disposal:

1. The flag should be folded in its customary manner.
2. It is important that the fire be fairly large and of sufficient intensity to ensure complete burning of the flag.
3. Place the flag on the fire.
4. The individual(s) can come to attention, salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and have a brief period of silent reflection.
5. After the flag is completely consumed, the fire should then be safely extinguished and the ashes buried.
6. Please make sure you are conforming to local/state fire codes or ordinances

6/1: Celebrate June is Dairy Month

Wisconsin has a long and rich tradition in being America’s Dairyland.  To signify the importance of dairy products to Wisconsin’s economy and heritage, each year we dedicate the month of June to promote and honor dairy producers and all those who help make the dairy industry one of the most significant in our state.  Please visit http://www.dairydaysofsummer.com/ to find Dairy Breakfasts and other celebrations in your area.
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ArticleMonthNo:
May

5/29: Wisconsin Consumers Receive Refunds for Third-Party Charges

The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) recently announced that Wisconsin consumers will be refunded by U.S. Cellular for charges they received for unwanted third party text messaging services.  This case began when one Wisconsin consumer filed a complaint with DATCP when they started receiving a series of unsolicited text messages from "Gossiptexts."  The consumer ignored the texts, but was still charged $9.99 for the service.  These third party vendors are allowed to charge consumers on monthly bills, but only if requested by the consumer.  If a third party vender changes false fees or bills for services without the consumer knowing, the practice is known as “cramming.”  DATCP has provided the following tips to avoid being a victim of cramming:
·         Review monthly billing closely, looking for questionable or unauthorized charges
·         Dispute any unauthorized changes with the third party vendor through the number listed on the bill
·         If you do not get a resolution, take the issue to your cell service provider
 
For more information or to file a consumer complaint, please visit http://datcp.wi.gov/Consumer/Consumer_Complaints/index.aspx or call 1-800-422-7128.

5/24: Burning Restrictions Lifted for Northwest Wisconsin

The burning restrictions for Northwest Wisconsin have ended effective at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday May 24, 2012.  Portions of Burnett, Douglas, Polk and Washburn Counties were affected by these restrictions.  Due to significant precipitation, oak trees have leafed-out and conifers have pollinated, indicating that green-up has occurred.  Residents impacted by the wind storm should continue to be mindful of fire danger, burning permits and alternatives to burning.  You can access additional information by visiting http://dnr.wi.gov and entering the keywords “storm” or “fire.”   Thank you to everyone for complying with these restrictions.

5/21: May 20-26 is Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week

Governor Walker has proclaimed May 20th – 26th as Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Awareness Week and urges Wisconsin residents to become more informed about this growing problem.  EAB is a beetle native to Asia that attacks all species of North American ash trees, ultimately killing infected trees.  The most common way these beetles spread is through transporting firewood.  The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has provided the following tips to help slow the spread of EAB around the state:
·         Do not move firewood from the counties under quarantine (Brown, Crawford, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Vernon and Washington)
·         Buy firewood locally instead of transporting it over long distances
·         Learn about the signs and symptoms of EAB infestation, www.emeraldashborer.wi.gov
·         Report ash trees that show signs of infestation by calling 1-800-462-2803

5/10: Tourism Revenues Up in Wisconsin

Tourism is one of Wisconsin’s top industries and 2011 was a remarkable year for tourism-related businesses.  This session, the legislature showed its commitment to this industry and the thousands of small businesses impacted by tourism by investing additional dollars in promoting tourism.  Recently released data shows that we are already starting to see a return on this investment with an increase in total business sales of 7.6% over 2010.  More than 95 million people visited the state generating $1.3 billion in state and local revenue.

5/7: DNR Launches Searchable Fishing Regulations Tool on Website

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has recently launched a tool on their website for anglers to have an easier way to find fishing regulations on their favorite inland lake.  Anglers can visit the DNR website at www.dnr.wi.gov and search by either “fishing regulations” or by “find a lake” to get access to information about lakes, species present in the water and fishing regulations.  Information on regulations for rivers, Great Lakes waters, and inland trout streams are still being compiled, but will be added over time. 

5/3: Boaters and Anglers Encouraged to Avoid Spreading Aquatic Invasive Species

The Department of Natural Resources recently launched two new public service announcements directed toward anglers and boaters on what they can do to help avoid spreading aquatic invasive species.  Invasive species can harm the ecosystems and thus negatively impact the fisheries and water quality in our lakes.
The two announcements remind water users to:
·         Inspect boats, trailers and equipment
·         Remove all attached aquatic plants and animals
·         Drain all water from boats, vehicles and equipment and
·         Never move plants or live fish away from a water body, with the exception of bait minnows.
To see these public service announcements please click on Invasive Species - YouTube link. 
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ArticleMonthNo:
April

4/30: DNR Surpasses Certification of More Than One Million Students in Hunter Safety Program Since its Inception

More than 25,000 students completed a hunter safety program in 2011, bringing the total enrollment since the program’s beginning to over one million students.  The hunter safety program, which started in Dunn County in 1967, seeks to instill knowledge and skill sets to be a responsible and safe hunter.  A true testament to the volunteer hunter safety instructors and hunters practicing safety measures is evidenced by there being no gun-related fatalities during the 2010 and 2011 gun-deer seasons.  Courses for the 2012 hunting season are already underway.  To find a class near you please visit the Department of Natural Resources website at www.dnr.wi.gov. 

4/16: Wisconsin Observes Tornado Awareness Week

Ready Wisconsin and the National Weather Service have teamed up to help you and your family prepare for the upcoming severe weather season.  Wisconsin averages 23 tornados per year with the peak season lasting from April to August.  As part of this observance, a statewide tornado drill will be conducted on Thursday, April 19th with a Mock Tornado Watch to be issued at 1:00 PM and a Mock Tornado Warning to be issued at 1:45PM. For more information about tornados and how to be prepared for storms, please visit http://readywisconsin.wi.gov.

4/6: Emergency Burning Restriction for Northwest Wisconsin to Take Effect Today

 
Due to the current extreme dry conditions and high volume of wind blow from last summer's severe storms, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has placed emergency burning restrictions in portions of Burnett, Douglas, Polk and Washburn Counties in northwest Wisconsin.  The prohibition includes: combustible material in a burn pile or burn barrel; campfires with the exception of developed camping areas within a metal fire ring; smoking a cigar, cigarette, or pipe except within an enclosed vehicle or building; outdoor disposal of ashes, charcoal briquette, matches or any burning material; and all fireworks.  It is critical that all residents and visitors adhere to these restrictions in order to help prevent further disaster and economic loss in the region.  For more information and to see a detailed map of the affected area, please visit http://dnr.wi.gov. 

4/6: Cell Phones for Soldiers

Throughout the month of April, all Wisconsin state government agencies and the non-profit Cell Phones for Soldiers Inc. are teaming up to help troops call home by accepting donations of gently-used cellular phones.  Cell Phones for Soldiers is an organization that provides soldiers stationed around the world with free talk time to connect with friends and families back home.  For more information on the charity or how to donate, please visit http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com.

4/4: DNR Alert - Deer Tests Positive for Chronic Wasting Disease

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was detected in a wild adult doe found on private property west of Shell Lake in Washburn County.  In order to determine if the disease is present in other wild deer, the DNR will begin a focused disease surveillance effort within the area the deer was found.  Due to this positive test, the DNR is required to place a ban on feeding and baiting for any county within 10 miles of the site.  The ban is anticipated to begin this fall and will affect four counties including Polk and Burnett Counties.  For more information on this topic, please visit the DNR website at http://dnr.wi.gov. 
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ArticleMonthNo:
March

3/29: Legislation to improve workforce training signed by the Governor

Legislation designed to enhance education and to promote job creation in Wisconsin was signed into law this week. School boards will now be allowed to offer technical education high school diplomas for any student who fulfills the requirements for a traditional high school diploma and successfully completes a technical program in one or two subjects. This legislation is the latest step towards improving workforce training and growing jobs.

3/23: Floating Toilet Facilities OK’d on St. Croix River

​Legislation requested by the DNR to allow the National Park Service to approve a floating toilet facility on the St. Croix River passed the State Assembly last week with bi-partisan support. This legislation which previously passed the State Senate, will allow the National Park Service to locate these facilities on an island in the river that is used by campers throughout the boating season. The current lack of appropriate facilities results in not only an unpleasant situation for campers and boaters that visit the island but raises environmental concerns as well. This measure will help protect the river and provide a more sanitary and environmentally sound solution for campers. This legislation was signed into law by the Governor today.

3/14: Harsdorf Bills on Domestic Violence Move Forward

​As the State Legislature wraps up its regular session, two bills relating to domestic violence issues that were authored by Senator Harsdorf received final approval by the Legislature this week.
 
Senate Bill 127 seeks to require a sentencing court to consider the presence of a child when an individual is convicted of domestic abuse. This issue was brought forward by Investigator Chuck Golden of the River Falls Police Department given the experiences of law enforcement in seeing firsthand the impact on children that witnessed domestic violence. The State Assembly passed Senate Bill 127 on a voice vote this week, after having been previously passed by the State Senate.
 
Assembly Bill 379 seeks to provide protection to victims of domestic abuse and stalking by allowing records of name changes to be made confidentially if an individual can show a court that they are in danger. Current law requires that individuals seeking a name change to publish a notice in the local newspaper. This legislation was passed by the State Senate on a voice vote on Tuesday, after passing the State Assembly last week.
Both bills will now go to the Governor for signing.

3/9: Pier protection and wolf hunting legislation approved

In legislative action this week, the State Senate approved bills on bipartisan votes providing greater certainty for pier owners and authorizing a wolf hunting season in Wisconsin.
Senate Bill 326, which makes changes to a number of DNR regulatory processes, was passed on a 20-13 vote. One of the changes included in this legislation was to allow the grandfathering of existing piers that meet certain requirements and does not interfere with the rights of other riparian property owners. SB 326 also allows for the repair and maintenance of boathouses.
Given the growth of the wolf population, the U.S. Department of Interior recently removed gray wolves in Wisconsin and other neighboring states from the Endangered Species List. This action allows the states to now manage their wolf populations. Senate Bill 411 would allow the DNR to establish a wolf hunting season and was approved on a 24-9 vote.
Both of these bills have now been referred to the State Assembly for consideration.

3/7: Congratulations to Hudson Middle School!

Hudson Middle School is one of four middle schools in the state to be honored as a ‘School of Excellence’ by the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators. An all-school assembly last week honored those who made this special recognition possible. A big thank you to the teachers, support staff, and administrators for their dedication and commitment to the students, and congratulations to the students for their hard work and high achievement. This is the second time in three years that the Hudson Middle School has received this outstanding award. Great job Hudson Middle School!
 
This recognition was awarded by a panel composed of principals and a Department of Public Instruction official that took into account the schools’ efforts in collaborative leadership and professional learning, curriculum, instruction, student assessment, and personalization of the school environment.
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ArticleMonthNo:
February

2/9: Preco, Inc Opens New Facility in Hudson

Preco, Inc has expanded to Hudson with a new facility that opened this month.  Preco, Inc is a contract manufacturing facility that provides laser processing and die cutting services for packaging and medical industries.  The new facility is named Preco MPC and is located in the St. Croix Business Park.

2/6: DNR Learn to Hunt events

Hosting a Learn to Hunt event is a great way to introduce someone new to Wisconsin’s long standing hunting heritage.  This Department of Natural Resources program provides both classroom and field instruction for novices who will be hunting with an experienced hunter.  For those interested in mentoring, mentors must have at least 5 years of hunting experience and must complete a background check form and submit it to the DNR.  More information is available online at http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/lth/.

2/1: DHS requests input on drafted reforms to Family Care

The Department of Health Services (DHS) has released drafted documents detailing their initiatives to reform Wisconsin’s long term care programs.  The documents are available online and DHS is asking for public review and comments to help strengthen the reforms.
 
Please go online to http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/ltcreform/ to read the drafted initiatives and to submit your thoughts and suggestions.
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ArticleMonthNo:
January

1/27: St. Croix Bridge overcomes another hurdle

The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved bipartisan legislation that would provide an exemption to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act for the St. Croix River Crossing Project.  This legislation is critical in order to move the bridge project forward.  The bill now awaits action in the U.S. House, where both federal and state lawmakers hope for a timely vote. 

1/20: DOT reminds drivers to use safety zone

This month, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation wants drivers to remember to provide a safety zone for law enforcement and emergency vehicles who are stopped on the side of roadways.  These vehicles include tow truck operators, emergency responders, road maintenance workers and others who work or park on the side of roadways.
 
Drivers are required to change lanes if possible or slow down in order to create a safety zone for whoever is stopped or flashing their warning lights.  For those who violate this law, citations cost $263.50 with three demerit points added to your license.

1/17: Wisconsin specialty food processors now able to sell products across state lines

Due to a change in an administrative rule, Wisconsin’s specialty meat plants inspected by the state will soon be able to sell their products across state lines for the first time.  Currently, only meat from plants inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture can be sold across state lines while food processing plants that choose to be inspected by state inspectors cannot.  There is no difference in the food safety standards on state and federal levels. 
 
Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protect will amend a current administrative rule, ATCP 55, which will allow this change and help to expand food processor’s markets.  This is a change will benefit specialty meat and food processors by expanding their markets. 

1/12: Change in DMV driver license and ID card issuance

The Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will begin mailing all products from a central location starting this upcoming spring.  This includes all driver licenses and identification cards.  Individuals will be given a receipt with the photo that will appear on the license or ID.  The receipt will be valid for 45 days and can be used for driving, voting, and travel requirements.  Licenses and IDs will generally be received within five business days.
 
This change follows state compliance with the federal REAL ID law, which requires more substantial security features on the cards and in facilities that produce the cards.  This requirement could not be met with the current over-the-counter practice. 
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ArticleYear:
2011
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ArticleMonthNo:
December

12/30: DOR- website available for property tax information

For those of you who have questions regarding your recently received property tax bill, the Department of Revenue’s website has a section exclusively for property taxes.  This section has useful information about tax bills, assessment and equalization, and property tax credits as well as available assistance in response to your concerns.  Please visit http://www.revenue.wi.gov/propertytax/ for more information.

12/28: Funding for sexual assault victims protected

The Department of Administration was recently directed to keep funding from the Sexual Assault Victims Surcharge (SAVS), as well as the Child Pornography Surcharge, excluded from the budget lapse plans.  By securing funding, this will help to continue to support victims of sexual assault and protect children from sexual predators through Department of Justice and Department of Corrections programs.

12/22: Give the gift that saves lives

The holiday season is a time that encourages service and giving back to your community and others.  As you start preparing gifts for your friends and loved ones, remember that one of the most important gifts is the act of giving blood.  By volunteering your time to give blood, you can save at least 3 lives in less than an hour. 
 
Blood donors are needed all year long but this is a great time to embrace the spirit and season of giving by donating blood.  To learn about blood donation opportunities near you, visit www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

12/19: New law increases penalties for unlicensed drivers who badly injure or kill

Legislation was recently signed into law that will increase penalties for unlicensed drivers found guilty of causing great bodily harm or the death of another person.  This applies to drivers who knowingly drive despite the fact that their license has been suspended or revoked. 
 
Under this law, the maximum penalty for someone who causes great bodily harm to another while driving without a license is a Class I Felony, or a $10,000 fine and up to three and a half years in prison.  If someone causes the death of another person while driving without a license, this new law makes it a Class H Felony or a $10,000 fine and up to 6 years in prison.

12/14: DNR ice fishing site

Ice fishing season is fast approaching!  If you like to ice fish, the Department of Natural Resources has a site up with safety tips, regulation information and ice fishing stories and reports.  Please visit http://dnr.wi.gov/fish/icefishing/ and have a great ice fishing season!

12/9: Governor requests federal disaster assistance for soybean cop losses

Governor Walker has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to designate Burnett and Polk counties as disaster areas due to soybean crop losses as a result of cold and wet weather in September.   After a wet spring that delayed soybean planting by two to three weeks, the growing season ended prematurely after a killing frost hit in mid-September.  As much as 36 percent of the soybean crop was lost.
 
If USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack declares the disaster areas, farmers there and in adjacent counties would be eligible to receive low-interest loans to help them recover from the losses.

12/6: PSC winter energy saving tips

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has a list of energy saving tips for this winter.  The PSC wants to remind Wisconsin citizens to let natural sunlight heat your home or office, especially for rooms facing the west and south and to close the drapes and shades in the evening to prevent the heat from escaping.  They also suggest using plastic wind coverings to reduce drafts, closing fireplace dampers when not in use, closing doors and shutting off registers in rooms that aren’t being used as well as caulking and sealing leaky window and door frames.
 
For the complete list of tips, visit http://psc.wi.gov/conservation/winterEnergyTips.htm.

12/1: December 1st Listening Sessions to be Rescheduled

​Senator Harsdorf will be rescheduling her listening sessions set for Thursday, December 1st due to a family emergency.  We apologize for the inconvenience.  Please contact our office at 1-800-862-1092 with any questions. 
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ArticleMonthNo:
November

11/30: Online DOR services

The Department of Revenue provides many of their forms, instructions and guidelines online.  Property owners can go to the DOR’s website for information about property taxes, assessment and appeals processes, and other useful tips.  The DOR’s Guide for Property Owners can be found at http://www.revenue.wi.gov/pubs/slf/pb060.pdf.
 
Individuals, business owners or local governments may also go online to access many of the DOR tax and credit forms.  For those resources, visit http://www.revenue.wi.gov/html/formpub.html. 

11/22: Wisconsin to be represented in the White House

A Wisconsin tree from Schroeder’s Forevergreens in Neshkoro, WI will be the official White House Christmas Tree.  It was harvested on Thursday, November 17th and will be presented to First Lady Michelle Obama on November 25th.  It will be displayed in the White House Blue Room for the holiday season. 
 
This is a great honor for Wisconsin, where our state Christmas tree growers produce over 1.8 million trees each year on 36,000 acres.  Be sure to visit the tree if you find yourself in Washington D.C. this holiday season!

11/18: Environmental study approved for St. Croix County highway by the Transportation Projects Commission

The members of the Transportation Projects Commission (TPC) approved an environmental study for the six-mile segment of I-94 between US 12 and WIS 65 in St. Croix County.  Approving this study is a necessary and crucial step forward in addressing safety and mobility concerns.  Currently the Average Annual Daily Traffic volume along this corridor is 49,000 and is expected to grow to 71,000 by 2030.
 
This segment of I-94 provides interstate access for Hudson and Roberts and is also an important route for freight transportation for the state and region.    The crash rate here is above the statewide average at 31 crashes annually.

11/16: Hunters - Be aware of trespassing laws

Deer hunting season is coming up and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation is reminding hunters to be mindful of Wisconsin’s trespassing laws.  The state’s trespassing law states that you must have hand written or verbal permission from the landowner to hunt on private land.
 
Inholdings are the only exception to this law.  An inholding is private land that is surrounded by public land.  In this case, the landowner must post a sign to prevent public hunting.  Hunters are also not allowed to trespass to retrieve game they have killed or injured. 

11/8: Emergency Alert System test to take place on November 9th

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) will conduct the first-ever national test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on November 9th at 1:00 pm CST.  EAS is a public alert and warning system that allows the President of the United States to address the American public during a national emergency.  It also is used by state and local authorities to deliver important information, most commonly used for emergency weather alerts and advisories by the National Weather Service.
 
This test will last for around 30 seconds and will be used to examine the effectiveness and reliability of the federal warning system.  It will be conducted on all TV, radio, cable and satellite systems throughout the United States.  For more information about the test or the EAS, go to http://transition.fcc.gov/pshs/services/eas/.

11/4: DNR seeking small business ideas

The Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp announced a new DNR website for collecting small business owners’ thoughts and suggestions for improving business and environmental performance in Wisconsin.  Their goal is to improve the regulatory process for business owners while maintaining environmental standards. 
 
The website has an email address where small business owners can submit their ideas and suggestions as well as a survey aimed at addressing any questions they might have.  Go online to http://dnr.wi.gov/environmentprotect/summit.html to offer your thoughts. 
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ArticleMonthNo:
October

10/27: Website highlights reforms and their results

The Governor’s office released a website this week that will document the results from the Administration’s enacted reforms.  The information is collected from media reports and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s estimates on pension savings.  To date, local governments have saved over $450 million due to the reforms passed so far this session. 
 
The savings go beyond employee pension and health care contributions and factor in the ability to design plan changes and shop around for better rates.  The website will be updated as more data and results are reported.  Please visit www.reforms.wi.gov to see how the reforms have impacted local governments and school districts across our state.

10/25: Legislation promotes manufacturing skills training

Senate Bill 40 (SB 40) was approved last week by the State Senate and seeks to provide additional support for advanced manufacturing skills training.  Manufacturers have identified access to skilled workers as one of their top concerns when they try to fill positions.  This program encourages and allows for collaboration between employers and technical colleges to improve workers’ manufacturing skills. 
 
This training partnership between businesses and technical colleges provides valuable employee training and ensures that workers are prepared with the skills to work with the latest technology.  SB 40 had bipartisan support in the Senate and now awaits action the State Assembly.

10/19: “Warden Wire” answers your DNR questions

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently unveiled the ‘Warden Wire’, an information service that provides conservation tips and information.  The service answers the most-asked questions that come through the DNR’s telephone hotline but also provides information about outdoor recreation and law enforcement issues.
 
You can subscribe to this service by visiting http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/es/enforcement/warden_wire.htm.  Just click “Subscribe to DNR Updates” at the top right corner of the page.  If you’d like to call with a question, the DNR’s Call Center number is 1-888-936-7463. 

10/17: TB test no longer required to import Minnesota cattle

Until recently, anyone importing cattle from Minnesota was required to test them for tuberculosis (TB).  This was a result of a TB-infected herd in 2005 that led the U.S Department of Agriculture to lower Minnesota’s TB status and as a result, Wisconsin began imposing import requirements. 
 
However, this month the USDA approved Minnesota’s application to restore their status as a TB-free state and Wisconsin will no longer require TB testing on cattle coming into our state from Minnesota.  Now the only requirements will be official identification and certificates of veterinary inspection.  Minnesota is one of Wisconsin’s biggest cattle trading partners, with over 69,500 head imported last year. 

10/13: Efforts underway to reduce fraud within public assistance programs

The Governor recently announced the creation of a new Office of the Inspector General (OIG) within the Department of Health Services (DHS).  This new office will focus on consolidating DHS public assistance programs and improving integrity and fraud prevention efforts.  The goal is to improve communication and coordination as well as streamline efforts to ensure that taxpayers' money is used appropriately.
 
DHS is responsible for many of the state’s public assistance programs, including FoodShare, SeniorCare and Medicaid.  Every public assistance program has individual integrity and anti-fraud efforts.  The OIG will consolidate these individual efforts under one office and report their findings directly to the DHS Secretary.  The new OIG Director will be Alan White, who served as Director of Wisconsin Bureau of Program Integrity for 13 years.

10/7: DHS outlines proposed cost savings

The Department of Health Services (DHS) is working to improve and stabilize Wisconsin’s medical assistance programs, including BadgerCare, SeniorCare, and Family Care, and is seeking your input. DHS recently unveiled a new website that provides detailed information about proposed changes to medical assistance programs. Included on the website is a form you can fill out to share your thoughts, concerns and experiences. The suggested reforms are part of the Department’s effort to address a $500 million deficit in our medical assistance programs.
 
You can submit your thoughts and suggestions through the DHS website or by mail. All submitted comments will be considered by DHS before they formally submit their proposed changes to the federal government. For more information on their plans and reforms and to share your thoughts, go online to www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/MAreform/index.htm.
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ArticleMonthNo:
September

9/30: State Veterinarian announces expansion of Eastern equine encephalitis

State Veterinarian Dr. Robert Ehlenfeldt recently announced that twenty-five cases of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) have been confirmed in Wisconsin since the middle of August.  Most of these cases have been reported in north central Wisconsin in Dunn, Price, Lincoln, Taylor, Clark and Marathon Counties. 
 
This disease is carried by mosquitoes and attacks the horse’s central nervous system with a mortality rate of 90 percent or higher.  There are several signs of infection to watch for: drooping eyelids and lower lip, blindness, loss of appetite, depression, aimless wandering and sometimes paralysis.  If your horse shows any of these signs, call your veterinarian for a diagnosis. 
 
If your horse has already been vaccinated for EEE, booster shots are another form of protection.  It may be too late for initial vaccines since it does require several weeks for immunity to build up.  In order to limit horses’ exposure to mosquitoes, owners should eliminate any standing water and keep horses in barns from dusk to dawn. 
 

9/28: “Back to Work Wisconsin” special session announced

Governor Walker announced today his intention to call the Legislature into a special session in order to continue efforts to encourage economic growth in Wisconsin.  There are 26 bills or proposals on the “Back to Work Wisconsin” special session’s agenda.  Included among the proposals and legislation up for consideration during this special session are bills authored by both Democrats and Republicans.
 

9/12: US Highway 8 public information meeting September 28th

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation Northwest Regional Office announced that a public hearing has been scheduled to discuss the US Highway 8 study. The purpose of this study is to identify the preferred route for a future four-lane US Highway 8 from 15th Street to the Hay River in Polk and Barron Counties.

This public information meeting will be held September 28th at Turtle Lake High School from 5-7 pm. At 5:30, there will be a brief presentation. Members of the public are encouraged to attend this meeting to provide input and ask questions about the study.

For those who are unable to attend this meeting, they can call 715-838-8391 for more information. More public information meetings will be held as the project progresses.


9/8: Rules not yet finalized regarding concealed carry training programs

Senate Bill 93, which allows for the concealed carry of firearms by law-abiding citizens, was passed and signed into law in July as 2011 Wisconsin Act 35. Act 35 requires that a person be trained and receive a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon in Wisconsin. However, the law does not go into effect until November 1st and the Department of Justice (DOJ), the state agency in charge of the rule-making process for this bill, has not finalized what the acceptable training requirements will be.

With this in mind, Wisconsin citizens interested in carrying concealed weapons are encouraged to avoid spending money on training courses until the DOJ finalizes the training requirements. The DOJ has provided a useful website with answers to many frequently asked questions and concerns regarding concealed carry. To access this, click here.

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ArticleMonthNo:
August

8/26: Wisconsin Department of Tourism announces new grant program to help convention and meeting sector of tourism industry

The Wisconsin Department of Tourism announced a new grant program that will assist hotel and convention centers while they bid for national or Midwest regional meetings and conventions. The goal is to generate increased visitor spending through these events and encourage greater hotel occupancy, meeting space rental and food and beverage expenditures.

The funds will be awarded through the Meetings Mean Business grant program. This program also aims to provide more stability for the state’s hospitality industry through potential growth opportunities and developments in meetings and convention infrastructures across the state. In 2010, traveler spending from meetings and conventions accounted for 11 percent of the state’s $12.3 billion in traveler expenditures.

The first deadline to apply for this program is December 1, 2011. More information about this program is available online at travelwisconsin.com.

8/24: Patients Compensation Fund Restored

Earlier this week, the state finally paid back the illegal $200 million raid on the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund made in the last two-year budget bill under the Doyle administration. A court ruling found that this raid was illegal and required the state to pay back the $200 million with interest and penalties.

This payment was made possible by the passage of Assembly Bill 148, also known as the “Bill to Pay the Bills”, which authorizes the state to pay $235 million to cover the cost of repaying the raid as well as any interest and penalty payments owed by the state. The State Budget Office estimates that this legislation could save taxpayers up to $70 million by repaying the fund now instead of allowing interest payments to add up.

States without a reliable Patients Compensation Fund have seen their number of doctors practicing in their state dwindle due to less protection against lawsuits, and rural communities lose the most when they are unable to keep doctors. I am pleased that this payment was made and that the Patients Compensation Fund has been restored.

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ArticleMonthNo:
July

7/8: Schools Across the State Using Budget Repair Bill Reforms to Save Money

School districts are already saving money as a result of the reforms included in 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, the budget repair bill. The Kaukauna School District in the Fox River Valley reported that they were facing a deficit of $400,000 before Act 10 went into effect. Now, the district has announced that they are looking at a $1.5 million surplus thanks to the reforms enacted by the State Legislature.

The district stated that they were able to negotiate with WEA Trust, a health insurance provider run by WEAC, the state’s largest teacher’s union, to reduce health insurance premiums. Additionally, $1.2 million of the school district’s savings came from the increased contributions by employees into their health insurance and pension.

The Kaukauna School District also reported that they anticipate smaller class sizes, from 31 to 26 students in high school and 26 to 23 students in elementary school, as well as the possibility of more one on one time with teachers.

Other school districts are using these cost-saving tools to save taxpayer money and be more efficient as well. The Menomonee Falls School Board recently announced that they approved new contracts last month that saved $2.4 million by switching to a new health insurance provider. The Hartland-Lakeside district also reported that they switched their health insurance provider from WEA Trust to United Healthcare, saving their district $690,000.

7/1: Minnesota Government Shutdown

While Wisconsin successfully passed its budget on time, political strife has led to an unfortunate government shutdown across the river. Minnesota state government officially shut down on July 1 due to a bitter impasse between Democratic Governor Dayton and the Republican Legislature.

The government shutdown means only critical functions will be funded until a compromise can be reached. Over 20,000 non-essential Minnesota state employees will be laid off for an unknown length of time. While it is Minnesota state government that is shut down, the impact will be felt by Wisconsinites as well. Wisconsin residents working for the State of Minnesota or using Minnesota services may be affected. Fortunately, due to a court ruling, the Stillwater Bridge will remain open. Earlier, the Minnesota Department of Transportation had indicated that the bridge would remain in the lift position to allow for boat passage, requiring motorists to travel down to the Hudson Bridge to cross the river.

The Minnesota DOT has a notice on their website that most of their state government services will be closed to the public and all but two of the state's rest stops will be shut down as well. State parks and camp grounds will also be closed. Unfortunately, this interruption in services and programs will inconvenience Wisconsin citizens who work across the river or had plans to visit a Minnesota state park or campground.

Below are some websites that provide information about what services are closed or still available during the shutdown.

https://www.bereadymn.com/

http://www.dot.state.mn.us/

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ArticleMonthNo:
June
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ArticleMonthNo:
May

5/6: Supporting Crex Meadows Wildlife Area

Crex Meadows Wildlife Area is a beautiful and unique natural area that attracts area residents as well as visitors from across the country and around the world. Known for its bird watching, it’s estimated that more than a 100,000 people visit Crex every year.

Crex Meadows is generously supported by a 700 member strong organization known as the Friends of Crex. Friends of Crex were instrumental in building a visitors' center and have been staffing the center with a part-time natural resources educator who is on hand to provide insight and information to the thousands of visitors. In order to address a high turnover of individuals they have had in this position and create more stability, the Friends of Crex are interested in funding a full-time position.

I am pleased that the Joint Committee on Finance approved a motion that I brought forward at the request of the Friends of Crex that will enable them to fund a full-time position.

This provision will be part of the two year budget bill which the Joint Finance Committee is expected to complete their work on by the end of May. The budget bill will then be acted on by both the State Assembly and State Senate before heading to the Governor for final approval.

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ArticleMonthNo:
March
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ArticleMonthNo:
February

2/9: Be Wary of Instant Tax Refund Services

Getting an instant tax refund can sound like a good opportunity, but the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is warning that these services are often actually very expensive loans. These loans generally carry annual percentage interest rates ranging anywhere from 70% to over 700%, which is a high price to pay to borrow money that belongs to you.

If you do decide to use one of these services, you should ask the following questions:

1. What is the interest rate?

2. What fees are you being charged?13103. What happens if your tax refund is less than you thought it would be?

To get more information, click on the link provided.

2/4: 3M Celebrates Milestone in Menomonie

I am excited to be on hand today Friday, February 4th as 3M celebrates laying the 1,000th mile of their new high-voltage overhead electricity conductor. The cable, which has been recognized by R&D Magazine with an R&D 100 Award as a technologically significant product, is manufactured at 3M’s facility in Menomonie. The plant employs over 640 workers.

The new cable enables the upgrade of lines in areas with environmental or aesthetic barriers, including lines over bodies of water, on public lands, and in heavily populated urban areas. The new lines have up to two or more times the current-carrying capacity than standard conductors.

The innovation being celebrated by this local business is a great example of what fuels our state’s economy, and keeps Wisconsin working.

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ArticleMonthNo:
February

1/27: Traveling Smithsonian Exhibit Comes to River Falls

“Key Ingredients,” a traveling exhibition on the history and culture of food in America, will open Friday, January 28th at the River Falls Public Library. I am looking forward to joining community members in welcoming the exhibit to our area at a kick-off celebration at the library on Friday at 1:00pm.

Visitors will have the opportunity to experience the evolution of food production and consumption throughout the history of America and also discover how food has impacted our culture right here in Western Wisconsin. Special events will include cooking demonstrations, film screenings for adults and children, etiquette classes, and off-site activities including fitness level assessments, food samplings, and a brewery tour. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, visitors will be encouraged to participate in a recipe exchange by submitting a favorite family or local recipe and taking home a new favorite.

The exhibit is being brought to Wisconsin by “Museum on Main Street,” a partnership of the Smithsonian Institution and state humanities councils. River Falls will host the exhibit January 28 - March 11, 2011 before it travels to Westfield, WI.

1/25: Public Meeting Scheduled to Discuss Proposed Roundabout in Siren

Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials plan to hold a public meeting to discuss the proposed change to the intersection of WIS 35 and WIS 70 in Burnett County. The project would include building a roundabout at the intersection of WIS 35 and WIS 70 to address safety problems and improve traffic flow. Construction is currently scheduled to start in 2013.

Citizens are encouraged to attend the meeting, learn more about the proposed project, and provide input. The meeting is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011 from 5- 6:30 p.m. in room 165 of the Burnett County Government Center, 7410 County Road K, Siren. Officials will provide a brief project overview presentation starting at 5:30 p.m.

1/20: “Move Over Law” Protects our Officers

During our snowy season, it is especially important that we ensure the safety of law enforcement, emergency and maintenance vehicles on our roads. Wisconsin’s “Move Over” law requires drivers to shift lanes or slow down in order to provide a 34safety zone34 for a squad car, ambulance, fire truck, tow truck or highway maintenance vehicle that is stopped on the side of a road. Although not required by law, it is also advised that drivers also move over for any other stopped vehicle that may be experiencing mechanical difficulties.1310Drivers have two options for creating a safety zone:

1. If the road has more than one directional lane, like the Interstate, and it is possible to switch lanes safely, you must move over to the lane farthest from the stopped vehicle.

2 . If the road has a single directional lane or you can't safely move over, you must significantly reduce your speed and maintain extra vigilance.

Moving over and slowing down are easy ways to keep our officers and other public servants safe while they’re in the line of duty.

1/18: Governor Walker Visits Hudson Today

Governor Walker will be in Hudson today, unveiling a new border sign reinforcing his message that “Wisconsin is Open for Business.” The sign is one of several that will go up at border crossings throughout the state in an effort to encourage businesses to bring jobs to Wisconsin.

The signs are going up after the Governors of Illinois and Minnesota proposed to balance budget deficits with significant tax increases. In contrast, Governor Walker called a special session on job creation on his first day in office. He has introduced several proposals currently being considered by the Legislature that are aimed at making Wisconsin more job-friendly, saying “in these challenging economic times while [other states are] raising taxes, we are lowering them.”

Today’s sign unveiling will begin at 1:45pm at the Hudson Welcome Center, 2221 Service Road. Members of the public are welcome.

1/11: State Reaches Settlement with DirecTV

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced recently that Wisconsin has reached settlement with DirecTV regarding allegations that the company engaged in deceptive advertising. As part of the settlement, DirecTV has agreed to provide restitution for injured Wisconsin customers; pay the state $185,000 in penalties; and change its marketing practices. Wisconsinites affected since January 1, 2007 who have been enrolled or reenrolled in programming packages without their consent; did not receive promised cash-back incentives; or were not adequately informed about the availability of pricing promotions are among those eligible for restitution under the settlement. Affected customers should try to resolve disputes with DirecTV first, which is required to resolve consumer complaints under the settlement, and if unsuccessful, can file a complaint by June 9, 2011 with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection by calling 1-800-422-7128. For more information about the settlement and those eligible for restitution, click the link above.

1/6: Lions Foundation License Plates Now Available

Members and non-members of Lions and Lioness Clubs alike are now able to support the work of the Wisconsin Lions Foundation (WLF), Inc. by purchasing a specialty license plate. WLF annually runs a free one-week summer camp for children and adults with disabilities; collects and distributes used eyeglasses and hearing aids to those in need; and promotes diabetes awareness, among other activities. The specialty plate requires an annual $25 donation to support the WLF and an initial $15 fee in addition to the regular annual registration fee. For more information on the WLF plate and other specialty plate programs, click the link above.

1/4: Oil Filter and Absorbent Recycling Took Effect January 1, 2011

2009 Wisconsin Act 86 took effect on New Year’s Day and created a recycling requirement for used oil filters and oil absorbents. Those who change their own oil or clean up after a non-routine spill are exempt from this requirement. Recycling oil filters and absorbents increases protection of groundwater and reduces the need for crude oil. The DNR released the following facts that the recycling of oil filters and absorbents will affect:

 • Each year, Wisconsinites throw away an estimated 187,000 gallons of oil in used oil filters and 1.6 million gallons of oil in oil absorbents.

• Recycling the approximately 9 million oil filters that now go to Wisconsin landfills would return over 4.5 million pounds of steel to the marketplace annually.

• It takes 42 gallons of crude oil, but only one gallon of used oil to produce 2.5 quarts of new, high-quality lubricating oil.

• A single gallon of used oil, if improperly managed, has the potential to contaminate up to one million gallons of drinking water.

For more information about the new recycling requirement, click the link provided.

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9/27: Military Ballot Deadline Compromise Reached

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) and the federal Department of Justice (DOJ), representing the Department of Defense, have reached a compromise to ensure military members serving overseas will have their ballots counted in the November 2 election. Last month, the Department of Defense refused Wisconsin’s request for a waiver of the 45-day time period for military ballots to be returned to local clerks. The agreement reached by GAB and DOJ allows for all military and overseas ballots that are mailed by Election Day to be counted if received by November 19, instead of previous deadline of arrival by November 12. Additionally, GAB must communicate with military members overseas to inform them of the new deadline and provide reports to the federal government certifying that military absentee ballots were mailed by October 1. For more information about military voting procedures and the GAB/DOJ compromise, click the link above.

9/23: Fall Color Report

The Autumnal Equinox was September 22 at 11:09 P.M., but the trees are not waiting for the official start of the season to show their fall colors. TravelWisconsin.com, the official website of Wisconsin’s Department of Tourism, has activated its Fall Color Report page. Travelers can view an interactive map to see where colors are their most vibrant with regular updates provided from every county in the state. To view the Fall Color Report, click on the link above.

9/15: Radio Road / Highway 35 Interchange (St. Croix County) Meeting September 21

The Northwest Region of the Department of Transportation (DOT) is hosting a public information meeting on Tuesday, September 21 from 5:00 P.M.-7:00 P.M. at the River Falls Public Library, 140 Union Street, to discuss the construction of the Radio Road Interchange at the existing intersection with Highway 35 in St. Croix County. As part of this project, the DOT is planning to extend Paulson Road to connect with Radio Road and build a roundabout at the intersection of Highway 35 and Radio Road. Maps and information about the project will be available, and DOT staff will be on hand to discuss the project on an individual basis as well. Residents unable to attend the meeting may submit comments and ask questions by calling Ms. Wendy Maves at (715) 836-3902.

9/3: Voter Information Available Online

Wisconsin’s Primary Election is rapidly approaching on Tuesday, September 14, and voters are encouraged to utilize the Government Accountability Board’s Voter Public Access Program. Voters can check their registration status, view sample ballots, and get polling place information by utilizing the Voter Public Access Program. Voters can also review their registration data and voting history to help ensure accuracy and prevent fraud. Click the link above to learn more.

9/1: Federal Health Care Bill Continues Implementation in Wisconsin

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently provided a $1 million grant to the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) to review health insurance rate changes. OCI’s rate review process is part of the federal health care reform bill that passed earlier this year. OCI plans to use information gleaned from rate reviews to make recommendations on whether a health plan should participate in the upcoming health insurance exchange, which the federal health care bill also created. Additionally, OCI has announced plans to use the grant money to make its reviews available to the public. To read more about the grant and OCI’s plans, click the link above.

8/25: Nominate a Veteran for Lifetime Achievement Award

The Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs is seeking nominations to honor a resident of northwest Wisconsin as this year’s Veteran Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Individuals and organizations are encouraged to submit nominations to the Board to recognize veterans who have compiled, “a record of exemplary service as a military service member, a veteran, and as a citizen during the veteran’s lifetime.” Nominations must be postmarked by September 15th and mailed to: Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs Lifetime Achievement Award, 30 W. Mifflin St., P.O. Box 7843, Madison, WI 53707-7843. For more information and for nomination forms, click the link above or call toll-free 1-800-WIS-VETS (947-8387).

8/23: LinkWISCONSIN Broadband Access

The Public Service Commission (PSC) unveiled the new interactive LinkWISCONSIN map this week, which details broadband Internet access and providers throughout the state. The interactive map is intended to help identify gaps and underserved areas of the state with the ultimate goal of developing regional broadband investment plans to increase availability of broadband services. The interactive map is a “beta” version and is still undergoing development. However, the PSC chose to make the “beta” version available to the public in order to give Wisconsin residents an opportunity to provide feedback about usefulness and accuracy of the map. For more information about the LinkWISCONSIN initiative and to view the interactive map, click the link above.

8/17: Invasive Species in Wisconsin

The Chinese Mystery Snail and Mile-A-Minute Vine are among the dozens of non-native animal and plant species threatening Wisconsin’s ecosystem. While invasive species have been an ongoing problem, eradication and identification of new populations are critical in helping to minimize the negative impact and growth of these threats to native plant and animal life. For tips on how to combat and avoid spreading invasive species, click the link above. To report a discovery of a new invasive species, visit http://dnr.wi.gov/invasives/aquatic/whattodo/.

8/13: Employment Search Resources

Those affected by the current recession, entering the workforce, or looking to change careers have access to free employment search resources. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) runs the free Job Center of Wisconsin online search tool, which provides job listings for private and public employers throughout the state. Job seekers can search for careers via location, qualifications, shift, and several other categories. To use the online search tool, visit their website at https://jobcenterofwisconsin.com/presentation/JobSeekers/JobSearch.aspx. Additionally, DWD runs Job Centers in 57 communities throughout the state. To find the office closest to you, click on the link above.

The Wisconsin Office of Employee Relations runs WiscJobs.net, which provides job listings for those looking for employment in state or local government or at a university campus. Users can customize work searches and sign-up for e-mail notifications for jobs meeting their interest areas online at http://wisc.jobs/public/index.asp.

8/10: DFI Unveils Top Ten Investor Traps of 2010

Low savings account interest rates and weakened stock portfolios have led to individual investors becoming more susceptible to investment scams according to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). Schemes involving current events like the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and foreign exchange promotions that often are Ponzi schemes in disguise are two of the Top Ten Investor Traps of 2010 released by DFI. Financial deals that seem to use valid practices that deliver too-good-to-be-true results are often hallmarks of the latest trend in investor traps. For the complete Top Ten list and more information, click the link above.

8/5: Wisconsin Again Misses Race to the Top Funding

For the second time this year, the US Department of Education did not select Wisconsin as a finalist for the “Race to the Top” program, which provides competitive grants totaling $4.35 billion to states to enhance and reform education standards. Wisconsin sought $250 million in its application to improve student testing, teacher quality development, and education performance benchmarks. 18 States and the District of Columbia were selected as finalists out of the 35 states that applied. Wisconsin’s application grade and analysis will be released after winners are selected in September. The Department of Education selected Tennessee and Delaware as Round 1 winners earlier this year. For more information, click on the link above.

8/3: Public Hearings Set for Initial Ag Enterprise Areas

The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection is hosting public hearings to discuss the approval of the State’s first Agricultural Enterprise Areas (AEA). The meeting for our region will be held at the Town of Washington Town Hall, 5750 Old Town Hall Rd., Eau Claire on Thursday, August 12 from 2:00-6:00 P.M. Groups of farmers with the support of local government form an AEA to preserve agricultural land for farming. Once an area is designated as an AEA, landowners receive tax credits in exchange for keeping their land for agricultural usage for at least fifteen years. Those unable to attend a public hearing regarding the approval of an AEA may submit their comments online at: DATCPWorkingLands@wisconsin.gov.

7/30: Honor & Remember Flag Tour Visits Wisconsin

The nationwide Honor & Remember Flag tour visited the State Capitol and High Ground Memorial Park in Neillsville on July 20. The tour is part of a campaign to create, establish, and promote a nationally recognized flag that serves as a tribute to military members who lose their lives not only in action but also in service. For more information about the Honor & Remember Flag or to get involved in this effort, visit their website.

7/28: Public Information Meeting on Highway 35/70 Roundabout in Siren

The Northwest Region of the Department of Transportation (DOT) is hosting a public information meeting at the Burnett County Government Center from 5:00-6:30 P.M. on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 to discuss the proposed conversion of the intersection of Highways 35 and 70 into a single lane roundabout. DOT staff will give a brief project overview at 5:30 P.M. Members of the public are encouraged to attend to ask questions and provide input regarding the project scheduled to commence in 2013. Maps and information about the project will be available, and DOT staff will be on hand to discuss the project on an individual basis as well. The Burnett County Government Center is located approximately 3 miles north of Siren off Highway 35. Residents unable to attend the meeting may submit comments and ask questions by e-mailing Ms. Jane Olson at Jane.Olson@dot.wi.gov.

7/27: Summer is Opportune Time for Hunter Safety Courses

The Department of Natural Resources is reminding those who are interested in hunting for the first time this fall that this summer is the best time to register and take hunter education certificate courses. Instructors are oftentimes hunters themselves, and therefore, very few courses are offered during the fall hunting season. Anyone born after January 1, 1973 is required to complete a hunter education course in order to obtain a hunting license. Also, hunter education students must have a Wisconsin DNR Customer ID Number before the completion of any hunter education course. To obtain a Customer ID Number and register for an upcoming class in your area, visit the link above.

7/21: Family Care Audit Approved

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee has recently approved an audit of the Family Care Program, which provides long-term care services to individuals with physical and developmental disabilities and the elderly in 55 of the state’s 72 counties. Family Care has a budget of nearly $1 billion with funding provided by a mix of federal and state tax dollars. The scope of the audit is wide-ranging and covers topics including participation levels, administrative costs, care quality, and cost comparison with alternative care delivery methods. For more information regarding the Family Care audit, click on the link above.

7/15: Legislative Council Study Committees Set

Every other year, during non-budget summers, the Legislature convenes Legislative Council Study Committees, which are comprised of Legislators and Wisconsin residents to study issues and opportunities before the state. These committees draft legislation in response to their extended study of their assigned topic areas to be introduced when the new session begins in January. This year, I will be serving on the Special Committee on Nanotechnology. The two main purposes of this committee are to: 1) develop strategies to facilitate the development of nanotechnology to create and retain jobs in Wisconsin, and 2) examine health and environmental concerns related to the manufacture, use, and disposal of nanomaterials and develop legislation to address these concerns. For a complete listing of Study Committees and membership, click on the link above.

7/13: Reminder: Fines Double in Work Zones

Road construction season continues, and drivers are reminded that fines for traffic violations are doubled when in construction zones. Driving through construction zones presents challenges to motorists, and increased speeds and unsafe driving habits put both road construction workers and motorists in danger. In fact, the Wisconsin State Patrol notes that three out of four people killed in work zone crashes are drivers and their passengers. Fines are double whether or not workers are present in a marked work zone. For a list of state road construction projects in our area, click on the link above.

7/6: Wolf Activity Alert System

Pet owners, hunters, and others interested in wolf activity can now sign up for automatic e-mail alerts sent to their computers or electronic devices from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Wolf pups begin to venture out of their dens this time of year, which causes adult wolves to become increasingly defensive and territorial. Unfortunately, pets and hunting dogs have a higher incidence of encountering wolves and can be injured or killed as a result. The DNR’s alerts provide timely information and maps of wolf depredation events to help owners avoid areas where conflicts arise. The DNR estimates the current wolf population in Wisconsin to be between 690 and 733. Attempts by the DNR to delist wolves as an endangered species in the Great Lakes region have so far been unsuccessful. To sign up for alerts, click on the word “Subscribe” at the top of the web page linked above.

7/1: Drunken Driving Reforms Take Effect July 1

On July 1, most of the drunken driving reform provisions passsed by Legislature in 2009 will take effect. Among the reforms that those convicted of OWI will now face is the ignition interlock device requirement for repeat offenders and for first-time offenders with a blood alcohol concentration of .15% or greater. An ignition interlock device requires a driver to blow into a mechanism that detects alcohol in a person’s breath. If alcohol is present, the vehicle will not start. Other changes taking effect in July include an increase in fines and maximum jail terms for repeat drunken drivers. For more details on OWI changes going into effect on July 1, click on the link above.

6/24: Mandatory 10-Digit Dialing Coming Soon

Beginning on Saturday, July 17, 2010, all local calls originating from the 715 area code will require 10-digit dialing. In response to available phone numbers running out, the Public Service Commission has created an “overlay” in the 715 region, which means that soon both the current 715 and new 534 area codes will serve our area. Current phone numbers will not change as a result of the “overlay,” and all local calls will remain local calls. Similarly, 911 and 211 services are not affected. For more information, click on the link above.

6/22: Caught the Big One? Tips for Reporting Record-Breaking Fish

Fishing season is in full swing, and already 7 state fishing records have fallen since 2010 began. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) compiles official records and recognizes anglers with remarkable catches. If you catch a fish that may be a state record, the DNR advises the following steps:1310Don't clean the fish 1310Freeze the fish if possible or keep it cool, preferably on ice 1310Get the fish weighed as soon as possible on a certified scale (usually found in grocery, hardware stores, etc.) and witnessed by an observer 1310Contact a fisheries biologist at the nearest DNR Service Center to get the fish species positively identified and to find out whether the fish is actually a state record. 1310Obtain and complete a record fish application, downloadable from the DNR website or available from a DNR service center. 1310If possible, take a photo of you holding your prize catch and e-mail it to [Karl.Scheidegger@wisconsin.gov] or send a print to his attention at the DNR Bureau of Fisheries Management, Box 7921, Madison, WI, 53707.

6/16: Wisconsin’s Energy Statistics

The Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence has a wealth of statistics and other information available online, which detail the sources and trends of energy use in the state. Among the findings, coal continues to be the top source of energy, followed by petroleum and natural gas. Renewable fuel usage increased by 8.2% in 2008, the most recent year with data available; however, renewable energy represents only 4.5% of total energy consumed in Wisconsin. Among renewable fuel usage, wood and other biomass continues to represent the largest portion (60.5%) with ethanol (23.3%) and biogas (8.4%) following. Wind-generated electricity was responsible for only 1.1% of renewable energy production. For more information and to view the entire report online, click on the link above.

6/10: TravelWisconsin.com

Summer offers a host of seasonal tourism options both in our area and throughout the state. The Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s website, www.TravelWisconsin.com, is a convenient one-stop portal that allows visitors to discover a wide variety of things to do and see this summer. TravelWisconsin.com has tools to search vacation options by geographic area, activity, or date. Additionally, users can create their own “travel planner” to map out an itinerary or view others created by fellow website visitors. For vacation ideas and to learn more, click on the link above.

6/8: New Richmond, Somerset, and Osceola Schools Honored

Several area schools were honored recently at the Governor’s School Health Awards. The Department of Public Instruction and Governor’s Office recognize schools that have implemented programs and policies that support and promote healthy eating, physical activity, substance-free lifestyles, and parental and community involvement. Out of the 42 schools recognized statewide eight were from our area, including:

Gold Level1310Starr Elementary, New Richmond1310Hillside Elementary, New Richmond1310Paperjack Elementary, New Richmond1310New Richmond Middle School1310New Richmond High School1310Somerset Elementary School1310Somerset High School

Silver Level1310Osceola Middle School

Congratulations to these schools for their commitment to healthy students and communities!

6/4: BadgerCare Plus Basic Enrollment Begins

Beginning on June 1, those on the waiting list for the BadgerCare Plus Core plan, which provides health insurance to low-income adults, are eligible to enroll in the BadgerCare Plus Basic plan. Premium payments by individuals and co-pays for services are the only funding provided for this program. The Department of Health Services will report quarterly to the Joint Finance Committee regarding the solvency of Badgercare Plus Basic. The Basic plan is designed as a temporary program to provide coverage for those on the waiting list for the Core plan and will terminate on January 1, 2014. For more information about the BadgerCare Plus Basic plan, click on the link above.

6/2: Highway 65 / County K (Polk County) Meeting on June 8

The Northwest Region of the Department of Transportation (DOT) is hosting a public information meeting at the Garfield Town Hall from 4:30-6:30 P.M. on Tuesday, June 8, 2010 to discuss the proposed reconstruction of Highway 65 in Polk County near the intersection with County K. Department of Transportation (DOT) staff will give a short presentation beginning at 5:00 P.M. Members of the public are encouraged to attend to ask questions and provide input regarding the project scheduled to commence in 2011. Maps and information about the project will be available, and DOT staff will be on hand to discuss the project on an individual basis as well. The Garfield Town Hall is located at 690 Minneapolis St., Amery. Residents unable to attend the meeting may submit comments and ask questions by writing to Jane Olson, WisDOT, 1701 N. 4th Street, Superior, WI 54880-1068.

5/28: No Call List Deadline is May 31

The next deadline for signing up for Wisconsin’s No Call List is Sunday, May 31. Telephone numbers registered on the No Call List by this date will go into effect on July 1. The next effective date for registering on the No Call List is October 1.

The No Call List is updated four times a year, to allow new numbers to be listed and to provide the opportunity for numbers that are expiring from the No Call List to be renewed. Telephone numbers remain on the No Call List for two years and can be renewed without limit.

To register your telephone number, visit the website linked above or call 866-966-2255.

5/26: Agricultural Exports Show Increase in First Quarter

The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection has released first quarter agricultural trade statistics for 2010, which show 18% growth from the same period in 2009. Among the biggest growth drivers were increases in beef exports to South Korea, which increased 148%, and the export category including dairy, eggs, and honey, which increased by 51%. The top five international destinations importing Wisconsin agricultural products, in order, are Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, and the Netherlands. Wisconsin exports agricultural products to over 100 countries around the world.

5/24: Superintendent’s Advisory Council on Rural Schools, Libraries, and Communities

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Advisory Council on Rural Schools, Libraries, and Communities held their quarterly meeting recently in Turtle Lake. As a member of this Council, this is an opportunity to not only discuss some of the challenges facing rural schools and communities but also share information and success stories. Meeting highlights included:

Webster School District: Leaders in Community Partnership Career Training

Webster Superintendent Jim Erickson, teacher Roy Ward, student Cody Drier, and community member Chris Engler presented regarding Tiger Manufacturing, the partnership forged between the Webster School District and Nexen Group, Inc. The career training partnership involved the purchase of a wood cabinet-making machine, which allows students at Webster High School to gain experience making cabinets and use the proceeds from the sales to pay for the equipment. Partnerships like these are critical to provide students with real-world job training.

Technology Vital for Rural Educational Opportunities

Over 30,000 Wisconsin students attend over 1,500 events via video learning networks in a typical year. Technology enables Wisconsin students to extend their education to classes and events located virtually anywhere in the world. The top reason that students participate in online courses is because the course is not otherwise offered at their school. Access to technology continues to be a vital tool for rural schools as a vehicle to expand learning beyond the classroom. Free online resources are available for schools, including Badgerlink.net, Ideas.Wisconsin.edu, and Thinkfinity.org.

5/20: Common School Fund Aid Payments Released

The Board of Commissioners of Public Lands released $32 million to school districts across the state for the purchase of library materials from the Common School Fund. The $32 million averages $25.85 per student. The Common School Fund receives money from civil and criminal fines and forfeitures, timber revenue from public trust lands, and revenues from the state’s Unclaimed Property Program. For a detailed listing of the amount that each school district receives, click on the link above.

5/18: 2010 Clean Sweep Locations Announced

The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection this week announced local grant recipients for the 2010 Clean Sweep Program. Residents can bring unused pharmaceutical products, household waste, and agricultural waste to Clean Sweep sites, which will properly dispose of the waste. Proper disposal of these waste products helps prevent environmental contamination, including groundwater pollution. Grant recipients for Clean Sweep in our area include Siren, Hudson, New Richmond, Menomonie, and Boyceville. For a map of statewide participants, hours, and contact information, click on the link above.

5/14: Straight Lake Park Tour

This week I had the opportunity to take a tour of Straight Lake State Park and Wildlife Area with Department of Natural Resources staff. The Straight Lake property, located northeast of Luck in Polk County, was purchased using funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund in 2005. The nearly 3,000 acre property provides a valuable resource for citizens to enjoy the outdoors in a quiet and pristine setting. Camping sites and trails are being planned for the park to expand recreational opportunities. Thanks to Americorps workers and volunteers from across the country, a portion of the Ice Age Trail is also currently being constructed on the property.

5/11: Tick-Borne Illness Prevention

Now that warmer weather is here, risks for acquiring tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, have increased. The Department of Health Services advises that limiting exposure by using repellants, dressing appropriately, and doing “tick-checks” after leaving wooded areas are important preventative practices. If a tick is discovered on the skin, immediate removal of the tick helps limit the chances for contracting tick-borne illnesses. Prevention and treatment information is available on the Department of Health Services’ website by clicking the link above.

5/7: Posters in the Rotunda

The 7th Annual Posters in the Rotunda event took place on May 5 and featured undergraduate research projects conducted by students throughout the University of Wisconsin System. The event held in the Capitol Rotunda consisted of students displaying posters describing their research projects and presenting their findings to the public. Among the presenters were students from UW-River Falls and UW-Stout, whose research projects covered a wide array of disciplines from studying the optimal method of recycling collection in Dunn County to neutrino research in Antarctica. Neutrinos are elementary particles that are difficult to detect. Congratulations to the student presenters for their hard work and worthwhile presentations.

5/5: Board of Regents Webcast May 6

The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents’ next meeting will be broadcast live over the Internet on May 6 from 9:30 A.M. until noon and again from 12:30 until 4:30 P.M. Among the items that the Board of Regents will consider are an accountability report on the UW System’s Growth Agenda and capital planning at various UW campuses throughout the state. The meeting’s webcast and full agenda are available at the link above.

5/3: Mandatory Auto Insurance To Take Effect

A provision included in the state budget bill that was passed last summer relating to mandatory auto insurance will take effect on June 1st. Beginning on that date, drivers and owners of motor vehicles are required to show proof of insurance at traffic stops and accidents if requested by law enforcement. A fine up to $500 may be levied for operating a vehicle without insurance. Failure to show proof of insurance at a traffic stop or accident may result in a fine of $10. Additional court fees will also apply. More information on this change can be found on the Department of Transportation website linked above.

4/20: Last Week for Legislation to Move Forward

This week marks the final days of the State Legislature’s legislative session when bills may be taken up. While the Legislature does have a limited floorperiod scheduled in May, any legislation that has already been introduced needs to pass both the State Senate and Assembly this week to be enacted this session.

Given the limited time remaining, both the Senate and Assembly are expected to have long sessions this week. You can follow the actions taken at the State Legislature’s website linked above and then clicking on Senate Session or Assembly Session.

4/15: Spring Valley Receives Grant

Spring Valley recently received a $250,000 grant from the Department of Commerce Community Development Block Grant-Public Facilities program. This grant will be used to help reconstruct the Village’s wastewater treatment plant. The total cost of the reconstruction is estimated to be $3.6 million.

For more information on the Community Development Block Grant-Public Facilities program, including application forms, visit the Department of Commerce website at the link above.

4/5: 2010 Wisconsin Fishing Report Released

The regular inland fishing season opens on May 1, and the 2010 Wisconsin Fishing Report is now available to help anglers plan their fishing trips for the upcoming season. The report contains information from local fish biologists and technicians about forecasts and prospects for fishing in our many lakes, streams and rivers across Wisconsin. Anglers can use the report to find the waters most likely to host the biggest catches or confirm the types of fish found in their favorite spot. The full report is available online at the link above on the Department of Natural Resources website.

4/1: Farm Garnishment Bill Public Hearing

On Thursday, April 1, the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 574, which I authored. Senate Bill 574 would create a garnishment exemption for family farms that are organized as a limited liability company or other legal entity.

Current state law provides a 75% exemption from garnishment of an individual’s net income. In addition, 75% of the income from the sale of agricultural products is also exempt from garnishment. However, this exemption is not extended to farms structured as a legal entity. SB 574 would provide the same protections to family farms organized as a legal entity as current law provides to farms operated as sole proprietors. This issue was brought to my attention by area residents.

3/25: Long-Range Rail Plan Input Sought

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is seeking public input to help determine recommendations for the Wisconsin Rail Plan 2030, which encompasses passenger, freight, and commuter rail. Wisconsinites can share their views about their railroad by participating in the online questionnaire linked above or by e-mailing RailPlan2030@dot.wi.gov . For more information about the DOT’s rail plan, click here: www.wisconsinrailplan.gov.

3/19: Harsdorf Statement on Rhoades Retirement

“Kitty Rhoades is an accomplished leader who I will miss as an ally in the State Legislature. Kitty was a great coalition builder and enormously effective lawmaker who fought to hold the line on taxes and for the interests of western Wisconsin. I wish her the best and continued success in her future endeavors.”

3/12: Wisconsin ChalleNGe Academy Now Accepting Applications

The Wisconsin ChalleNGe Academy, run by the National Guard (the NG is ChalleNGe) is accepting applications for at-risk teens to enroll for the next class of cadets entering on July 22, 2010. The ChalleNGe Academy is a no-cost alternative program for teens who have dropped out of school; been expelled; or have become at least a year behind in credits. The Academy, located in Ft. McCoy, provides students at risk of not graduating the opportunity to earn a High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) while learning valuable life and career skills. For more information and to apply, call (608) 269-4605 or visit online at: http://www.ngycp.org/site/state/wi/ .

3/9: State Income Tax Questions?

April 15 may be more than a month away, but getting a jumpstart on filing income taxes is the best way to speed your refund and avoid last minute uncertainty.1310The Department of Revenue (DOR) is providing taxpayer assistance at several public library branches throughout the state, including Hudson and Superior in our area. Staff will be on hand to answer questions about state income tax returns and the homestead tax credit program, but staff will not be preparing individual returns. No appointment is necessary.1310The Hudson Library (911 4th St.) and Superior Library (710 N. 8th St.) will both host DOR staff from 9:00 A.M. to 2:30 P.M. on the following days:1310Monday 3/15/2010 1310Monday 3/29/2010 1310Monday 4/5/2010 1310Thursday 4/15/2010 1310DOR is also available to answer questions via phone at (608) 266-2486 or e-mail: income@revenue.wi.gov.

3/5: Veterans Job Fair & Benefits Information Schedule Set

The Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Workforce Development, and the American Legion have teamed up to host a series of 18 job fairs and benefits information sessions for veterans throughout the state. In addition to employment opportunities, assistance will be available for veterans looking to improve interview skills and updating resumes. The sessions in our region will be held on March 25 in Chippewa Falls and October 15 in Superior. For a complete listing of job fairs and contact information, click on the link above.

March 25, Thursday (9:00-5:00 pm): Chippewa Falls 1310 Army National Guard Armory, 2811 East Park Avenue 1310 Contact: Tim Moore, (715) 836-2909 or Dave Tesch, (715) 836-3299

October 15, Friday (9:00-2:00 pm): Superior 1310 Army National Guard Armory, 32 North 21st Street 1310 Contact: Tim Moore, (715) 836-2909 or (715) 456-5790

3/3: Senate Session Floor Period Continues

Senate Session Floor Period Continues

The Senate continued its winter floor period on Tuesday, March 2nd and passed several pieces of legislation. Among the bills the Senate passed are:

Senate Bill 418: would require health care providers to publicly post good-faith median cost and out-of-pocket expense estimates for the top 25 most common procedures. Hospitals would be required to provide a copy of this information to consumers upon request at no cost.

Senate Bill 431: individuals or institions that knowingly create or use fake academic credentials that use terms “college” or “university” would be subject to penalties under this legislation.

Senate Bill 458: local municipalities, the University of Wisconsin System, and professional sports teams could establish ticket re-sale zones under Senate Bill 458. This legislation is in response to aggressive ticket scalpers who have pulled patrons out of normal ticket lines and sold unsuspecting sports fans phony tickets.

Assembly Bill 230: would allow law enforcement officials to view driver’s license photos through their computer system in cases of traffic stops and for criminal justice administration. Public dissemination of the photos or use as part of a photo lineup would continue to be prohibited.

Assembly Bill 579: fans and alumni of Marquette University could purchase a specialty license plate for their vehicles under this bill. Motorists are already able to purchase specialty plates promoting UW System institutions, including River Falls and Stout.

1310Senate Bills 418, 431, and 458 now head to the Assembly for consideration. Assembly Bills 230 and 579 have now passed both houses of the Legislature and go to the Governor.

2/25: Senate Adjourns Session in Honor of Siren Native, Molly Engstrom

After legislative business has concluded for the day, Senators are allowed the privilege of adjourning the body in honor of an individual or noteworthy event. On February 23, I adjourned the Senate in honor of Siren native, Molly Engstrom, a forward on the United States Olympic Women’s Hockey Team. Molly has scored three goals and has four assists already in the Olympic Tournament and will be playing for the gold medal with her teammates against Canada on February 25. Good luck to Molly and the rest of Team USA!

2/23: Sheila's Town Halls

_Sheila's Town Halls

Monday, March 15

--Siren13102:30-3:30 PM1310Burnett County Courthouse1310Room 1651310--Balsam Lake13105:00-6:00 PM1310Polk County Justice Center Community Room

Tuesday, March 16

--Ellsworth1310Noon-1:00 PM1310Pierce County Courthouse1310County Board Room1310--Hudson13105:00-6:00 PM1310St. Croix County Courthouse1310Community Room

Wednesday, March 17

--Menomonie13105:00-6:00 PM1310Dunn County Judicial Center1310Multi-Purpose Room

2/18: DHS Seeking Input on Medicaid Savings

The 2009-2011 biennial budget directed the Department of Health Services (DHS) to indentify over $300 million in General Purpose Revenue savings over the next two years. DHS is seeking public input on ideas for achievable savings to help reduce Medicaid costs to the state. The deadline for submitting ideas is February 26. If you are interested in sharing your input, click the link above to participate.

2/12: Governor Doyle Signs Electric Bicycle Bill

Governor Doyle signed legislation this week that will enable the use of low-speed electric bicycles in Wisconsin. I authored this legislation, Senate Bill 137 (SB 137), which brings Wisconsin statutes into line with federal law relating to low-speed electric bicycles. SB 137 allows for the use of these emissions-free vehicles by licensed Wisconsin drivers. This legislation received broad, bi-partisan support in the State Legislature.

The advantages of enabling the use of environmentally-friendly transportation through low-speed electric bicycles were recently highlighted in a USA Today article. For consumers, low-speed electric bicycles offer an affordable option for local transportation, particularly given high gas prices. These vehicles also provide environmental benefits by reducing the use of cars for short trips and traffic congestion through the use of rechargeable battery-operated motors. Additionally, since these vehicles can operate on human power as well as the electric motor, they provide a valuable option for seniors and others that would like to get more exercise, but are unable to pedal up hills or steep inclines.

2/9: Special Deer Hunting Option for Returning Veterans

Returning service members who were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan during the 2009 deer hunting season will have the opportunity to hunt using agricultural deer damage shooting permits. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has reached out to farmers who hold these tags to share them with returning veterans. The National Guard is working in conjunction with the DNR to inform service members of this new voluntary program. Farmers interested in sharing permits and returning soldiers interested in participating can contact the DNR by phone at 888-936-7463 or by sending an e-mail to: laurie.fike@wisconsin.gov . The DNR will match interested hunters and sharing farmers up for hunts starting this month.

2/4: School Open Enrollment Period is February 1-19

Under open-enrollment, parents have the ability to send their children to any public school district in the state, space permitting. The February 1-19 enrollment application period is the only tuition-free time of the year for parents to apply to send their children to a school district other than where they live. An online application is available until 4:00 P.M. on February 19. Paper applications are available at local schools or from the Department of Public Instruction and MUST be received by 4:00 P.M. on February 19. For more information, call DPI at (888) 245-2732 (toll-free) or visit http://dpi.wi.gov/sms/psctoc.html for more information and to apply.

12/9: Federal Government Removes High Speed Rail Funding

The federal government has chosen to take back funding awarded to Wisconsin for the development of a high speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison. Funding for improving and building high speed passenger rail was included in the stimulus bill passed by the U.S. Congress in 2009. The U.S. Department of Transportation allocated $810 million to Wisconsin to establish a high speed passenger rail line from Milwaukee to Madison.

Governor-elect Scott Walker expressed his opposition to this project during the recent gubernatorial campaign, citing the potential for ongoing costs to state taxpayers to maintain the rail line. Governor Jim Doyle stopped further action on this project following the November election. It is expected that this funding will now be redistributed to other states.

11/29: Election Observer Input Sought

The Government Accountability Board (GAB), which oversees the state’s elections and ethics laws, is seeking input from the public regarding GAB’s current rules covering election observers. Among other requirements, the current rules require election observers to meet with the chief election inspector, sign in, and wear distinguishing name tags to avoid voter confusion between election observers and poll workers. GAB is seeking to make the current rules permanent and is asking for members of the public, especially those working as election officials and observers, regarding their experiences with the current rules. Members of the public have until December 12 to submit their comments electronically via e-mail at gabpubliccomment@wi.gov . To view the current rules, click the link above.

11/23: Deer Donation 2010 Drop-Off Locations

Entering its eleventh year in 2010, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is again coordinating a deer donation program with regional partners for hunters to drop off harvested deer to be processed for individuals in need. The regional partner for our area is the Wisconsin Venison Donation Program. Hunters can donate any legally harvested deer taken outside the Chronic Wasting Disease Zone at participating processing centers until January 10, 2011. After field dressing and registering the deer at a Wisconsin DNR registration station, participating hunters should call a nearby processing center to verify that the center has space to accept the deer. The venison will then be distributed to charitable organizations. Several processors are again participating in our area. To find an updated statewide list of drop-off locations, click the link above.

11/16: Governor Proclaims November as Adoption Month

Governor Doyle recently proclaimed November as Adoption Month in recognition of adoptive families and to promote awareness of the importance of children being able to live in a safe and loving permanent home. In addition to events held in the State Capitol, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) is sharing adoption stories from families throughout the state and promoting adoption resources available to those interested in adopting a child of any age. For more information on Adoption Month and becoming an adoptive family, click on the link above.

11/12: Veterans Town Hall Meeting this Saturday in River Falls

All veterans and family members are invited to attend the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) Town Hall Meeting / Listening Session held on Saturday, November 13, 2010 on the UW-River Falls Campus. Secretary Ken Black will be joined by other officials from DVA to learn from veterans about their experience working with the Department and how the DVA can better serve veterans in our area. The meeting will be held from 10:00 A.M. – 11:30 A.M. at the University Center, 3rd Floor in the Kinney Theater located at 410 South Third Street in River Falls. For more information, call 1-800-WIS-VETS (947-8387).

11/9: Pickle Bill Hearings Set

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has scheduled public hearings on proposed rules to implement the “pickle bill,” which will exempt small-scale canners from state licensing requirements.

These new rules would apply to home canners of foods that are naturally acidic or made acidic by processing with annual sales less than $5,000. Examples of such products include pickles, salsas, jams, and jellies that are sold only at farmers’ markets or community events. The rules would also apply to maple syrup producers.

In our part of the state, the closest hearings will be held at the following locations:

Altoona on November 15 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m at the Eau Claire County University of Wisconsin Extension (227 First St. W.)

Spooner on November 16 from 9 a.m until noon at the Spooner Agricultural Research Station (W6646 Hwy. 70)

A copy of the proposed rule can be found online on DATCP’s website at the link above. You can also receive a copy by calling DATCP at 608-224-4707 or e-mailing Kathy Roach at kathy.roach@wi.gov. Written comments can also be directed to Ms. Roach’s e-mail address and are due by 4:30 p.m. on November 30.

11/4: 2011 Agricultural Enterprise Area Materials Available

Farmers seeking to preserve their farmland are able to apply to become one of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s (DATCP) 2011 Agricultural Enterprise Area (AEA) designees under the Working Lands Initiative. An AEA is comprised of contiguous farmland whose owners agree to keep in agriculture for at least 15 years in exchange for tax credits. Landowners work together with local town and county governments to petition DATCP to become an AEA.

DATCP’s goal for 2011 is to designate 250,000 acres as AEAs and will prioritize designating parcels between 1,000 and 30,000 acres. DATCP is currently finalizing the initial 12 AEAs from 2010. For more information about DATCP's Working Lands Initiative and applying to become an AEA, click the link above.

10/28: Long-Range Rail Plan Seeks Public Comments

This past March, the public was able to participate in surveys to help determine the direction of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Rail Plan 2030. The DOT has now released the draft of Rail Plan 2030 and is seeking the public’s input again. Rail Plan 2030 covers freight, intercity passenger, and commuter rail and seeks to establish a comprehensive vision of Wisconsin’s railroad maintenance and planning for the next 20 years. Wisconsin residents can comment on the Plan any time before November 15 via e-mail at railplan2030@dot.wi.gov. To view the draft Rail Plan 2030, click the link above.

10/12: DOT’s Law of the Month: Headlight Usage

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has selected the state’s headlight law as October’s “Law of the Month.” The DOT reminds motorists that state law requires headlight use during the hours of darkness, which the law defines as the period of time from thirty minutes after sunset to thirty minutes before sunrise and other times when natural light is not sufficient to clearly see other vehicles or pedestrians at a distance of 500 feet. Headlight laws vary from state to state, and motorists are expected to follow the laws of whatever state they are in while driving. An easy way to generally ensure abidance of the laws’ variations is to have your headlights on any time that the windshield wipers are operating. To read more about the DOT’s guidelines for headlight use, click the link above.

10/7: Chronic Wasting Disease Plan Approved

The Natural Resources Board approved a new plan at their September meeting to combat the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) among Wisconsin’s deer herd. Key features of the plan approved according to the DNR are:

-Continued surveillance and testing statewide and in the CWD-Management Zone.1310-Focused sharpshooting along the periphery of the disease.1310-Stable hunting season structure if deer numbers are moving toward the established population goal at a sufficient rate.

CWD is a fatal prion disease caused by an infecting protein which affects the nervous system of deer, moose, and elk and is present in both wild and captive deer in the upper Great Lakes and plains region of the country. For more information about CWD and the adopted plan, click the link above.

10/5: 2010 Wisconsin Homeland Security Report Released

Wisconsin’s Homeland Security Council was created in 2002 to prevent and respond to threats to the state’s residents from a wide array of natural and man-made threats from cyber attacks on critical information technology infrastructure to pandemic influenza to terrorism threats. The Council’s membership is made up of representatives from law enforcement, state agencies, and the National Guard. The Homeland Security Council recently released their 2010 report summarizing their activities, use of federal and state dollars, and progress on initiatives. The report is available online at the link above.

1/27: Public Comments Wanted on Livestock Siting Rule

The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is holding public listening sessions throughout the state on the Department’s current livestock siting rule. Enacted in 2006, the livestock siting rule established standards for local governments to follow when issuing licenses for new or expanded livestock operations. Now that the rule has been in place for four years, DATCP is seeking public input to determine the effectiveness of the current standards. The listening session for our region will be at the Town of Washington Hall, 5750 Old Town Hall Road, Eau Claire on Tuesday, February 23, from 3:30-7:00 P.M. The public can also submit written comments any time via mail by writing: DATCP, Attn: Mike Murray, P.O. Box 8911, Madison, WI 53708-8911 or via e-mail to: Michael.murray@wisconsin.gov .

1/22: Electric Bicycles Legislation Passes Assembly

The State Assembly on January 20 passed on a voice vote Senate Bill 137, which allows the use of low-speed electric bicycles. This legislation, which I introduced at the request of constituents, is intended to clarify the ability of licensed drivers to utilize low-speed electric bicycles as a mode of transportation. SB 137 previously passed the State Senate on May 13 and now must be signed by the Governor before becoming law.

1/21: Senate Bills Passed on January 20, 2010

The State Senate resumed session on Tuesday, January 20, and passed several bills as the winter floor period got underway. Bills passed and now pending action in the State Assembly included:

Senate Bill 43

This bill would require independent groups that produce issue ads within 60 days of an election to submit campaign finance registration and reporting.

Senate Bill 203

Medical malpractice liability would increase under this bill, which allows an adult child or the parent of an adult child to sue for the loss of society and companionship.

Senate Bill 274

Victims of domestic abuse could require that their landlords change or permit the tenant to change their locks if they provide the landlord with a qualifying court order that indicates that the tenant is a victim of domestic abuse.

Senate Bill 308

Employers would be required to permit volunteers serving as firefighters, EMTs, and first responders to be late or absent from work without pay if the lateness or absence is due to serving as a voluntary emergency worker prior to their shift beginning. This bill ensures that a volunteer emergency worker does not have to weigh whether to complete his/her assistance in an emergency or suffer adverse work consequences.

The Senate also confirmed nominees to serve on the Wisconsin Technical College System Board, Wisconsin Aerospace Authority, Credit Union Review Board, and other panels.

1/15: Committee Seeks Public Members for Dog Breeding Standards

This past November, the Legislature passed and Governor signed 2009 Wisconsin Act 90, which creates standards of care for dogs raised by commercial breeders. The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP), which is in charge of implementing this law, is seeking members for an advisory committee that will recommend rules to carry out Act 90. Committee members will include retail dog sellers, breeders, sporting groups, humane societies, and animal control groups. Groups that work with dogs can nominate members for this committee; DATCP will not consider self-nominated members. Groups interested in nominating members have until February 10 to call 608-224-4872 or e-mail DATCPanimals@wi.gov with nominations.

1/13: Senate Committee Votes to Update Plumbing Standards

This week, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail voted in favor of Senate Bill 267 (SB 267), which will update the State’s plumbing code. These standards were largely written in 1913. Since then, advancements in water treatment and plumbing needs have expanded and changed. SB 267 updates definitions to meet these changing needs. One reason that supporters sought this update is the growing trend to reuse non-drinkable water for other household purposes; for example, using water from a shower to flush a toilet. The next step for SB 267 is consideration by the full Senate.

1/4: Dairy Management Pilot Program Applicants Wanted

25 spots remain for dairy producers to participate in the Dairy Farm Management Team program, which is a collaboration of several state agencies and institutions to provide expert advice and analysis with the goal of improving dairy farming. The pilot program brings dairy farmers together with teams consisting of lenders, agronomists, nutritionists, and other experts to provide individualized, farm-specific support and advice. The pilot program is a cost-share that covers up to $2,000 of various non-capital costs, including milk quality, veterinary testing, consultant fees, and other related activities. Participating farmers contribute 10% of the cost.

 expand  2009

9/29: Income Tax Reciprocity

Working with my Minnesota counterpart across the river, Minnesota State Senator Kathy Saltzman (D), we have scheduled a meeting for border state legislators on October 12th to discuss the income tax reciprocity issue. The goal is to develop a strategy to reinstate the income tax reciprocity agreement.

Income tax reciprocity is a long-standing agreement that benefits tens-of-thousands of taxpayers in both states. While I am deeply disappointed that Minnesota has decided to end this agreement, I am hopeful that a bipartisan effort will yield an effective plan to restore income tax reciprocity.

9/24: Felons Could Vote under Bill

Under current law, those convicted of a felony cannot legally vote if they are incarcerated or on related probation or parole. Upon completion of their sentence, a person is again able to vote. Senate Bill 240 and Assembly Bill 353 would allow those on probation, parole, or extended supervision to resume voting immediately upon release of incarceration, even if the sentence is not complete. Assembly Bill 353 advanced out of the Assembly Committee on Corrections and Court on a 6-5 vote earlier this month.

9/24: Board of Regents Bill Advances

This week, the State Senate Agriculture and Higher Education Committee passed Senate Bill 223, which would require the Board of Regents to have at least one representative from each of seven geographical areas in the state. Northwest Wisconsin would comprise one of these geographical areas. Currently, the Board of Regents has a heavy concentration of members from the Madison and Milwaukee areas.

9/23: Senate votes to require Mandatory Kindergarten for 5-Year-Olds

This week the State Senate passed Assembly Bill 119 on a 17-15 party-line vote that requires five-year-olds complete kindergarten in order to enroll in first grade. Current law requires compulsory school attendance for children 6 to 18 years of age. Having passed the State Assembly on September 16, the bill is now before the Governor for his approval.

9/21: Minnesota Ends Income Tax Reciprocity

Minnesota acted late last week to end the income tax reciprocity agreement between our states effective at the end of this year. This action now means that beginning in 2011 the 80,000 taxpayers that live in one state but work in the other will be required to file an income tax return to both states. Wisconsin residents will be credited for the taxes they pay in Minnesota on their Wisconsin tax returns.

I am disappointed that Minnesota has chosen to take this action that will inconvenience many taxpayers. Earlier this year, I circulated a letter among state legislators to request Governor Doyle’s attention to preserving the income tax reciprocity agreement. The letter can be read through the above link.

9/17: Legislation to Strengthen No-Call List Passes Senate

On September 15, the State Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 218 (SB 218), which increases fines for telemarketers that violate the 34No-Call34 list. SB 218 increases fines for violators from a minimum of $100 to a minimum of $1000 and allows a person who suffers damage to seek injunctive relief of $500 per incident. SB 218 now moves to the State Assembly for consideration.

In this month’s constituent survey, I appreciated those who took time to share their views on the 34No-Call34 list. To participate in the survey, click the link on top.

9/15: WisconsinEye Holds Panel Discussion on Health Coops

WisconsinEye recently held a panel discussion on health care cooperatives. Health care cooperatives are being considered by the U.S. Congress as part of federal health care reform. In Wisconsin, I authored legislation in 2003 to allow the formation of health care cooperatives in our state. Health care cooperatives have been proven effective at lowering premiums and expanding access.

9/11: Leadership Wisconsin

As a graduate of the Wisconsin Rural Leadership Program, I wanted to highlight this great program and encourage interested individuals to consider applying. While the program's mission remains the same, its name has been changed to 34Leadership Wisconsin.34

Leadership Wisconsin seeks to develop local leaders through a two-year program of seminars, real-world learning experiences, and classroom activities. Leadership Wisconsin continues the 25 year tradition of WRLP of preparing Wisconsin residents to participate in and meet the challenges in their communities.

9/3: DNR Secretary Appointment Bill Advances

The bill changing the appointment process for the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources was approved by Assembly and Senate committees this week.

The Senate Committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources passed the bill on a 5-2 vote today, while the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources passed the bill on a 10-4 vote yesterday.

The bill would shift the authority for appointing the DNR Secretary from the Governor to the Natural Resources Board.

9/1: New Phone Tax Takes Affect

The new 75-cent per month tax on landlines and cell phones takes affect today. The new tax was initially approved by the legislature’s budget writing committee to fund 911 call center technology upgrades and was originally scheduled to be phased out. However, it gained new life when Democratic Leadership needed more revenues to balance the budget. The funds will now go into the general fund rather than for 911 call center upgrades.

8/27: Stillwater Bridge Funding Before Budget Committee

The State Legislature’s budget committee will be considering a request by the Department of Transportation today to spend $4.6 million over the next two years for planning and engineering work related to the new Stillwater Bridge.

A provision was included in the state budget bill that created a new funding mechanism for paying for major interstate bridge projects, which was inserted specifically to target the new Stillwater Bridge. Due to this provision, the DOT must request funds for planned project design costs from the budget committee prior to spending them. I have urged committee members to support the appropriation in order to keep moving forward on this project.

8/25: Hudson Hospital Wins Arts Award

Hudson Hospital and Clinics has been awarded the 2009 Governor’s Award in Support of the Arts in the Corporate/Business category. Hudson Hospital is being recognized for it’s Healing Arts program. Through this program, the Hospital has entered into a unique collaboration with the Phipps Center for the Arts to promote regional artists and provide art to patients as an aid to healing and wellness. Hudson Hospital and the Phipps Center acquire, exhibit, and commission work by local and regional artists to bring creative and visual arts to patients, families, visitors, and staff.

This program not only benefits the patients and staff at the hospital, but helps to facilitate art in the community. Art is on display in waiting areas, conference rooms, patient and staff corridors, procedure rooms, and patient rooms. The hospital, which also allows the use of its conference rooms for community meetings, provides opportunities for artists to showcase their works while utilizing the art to assist in the healing and wellness of patients and staff.

A ceremony will be held on October 22nd at the Governor’s Residence in Madison to present the 2009 Governor’s Awards. I congratulate the Hospital on being recognized for its support of the arts!

8/20: No-Call List To Be Updated August 31

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will be updating Wisconsin’s No-Call List and is encouraging consumers to sign up by August 31st. The state’s No-Call List allows individuals to register their phone numbers on the list for two years. The List is updated every three months.

If you are on the No-Call List it is important to remember you must renew every two years in order to stay on. To renew or sign up for the No-Call List, you may call 1-866-9NO-CALL (1-866-966-2255) or go online at the website above.

You may now also register your cell phone number on the No-Call List. The State Legislature expanded the No-Call List to include cell phone numbers last session. Cell phone numbers now account for nearly 40% of the numbers on the List.

8/18: Frankenstein Veto Erased

In signing the state budget bill earlier this summer, Governor Doyle violated the constitutional ban approved by voters last year, which prohibited “Frankenstein Vetos” that are created by combining words and numbers from two or more sentences into one sentence.

Last week, the Joint Committee on Legislative Organization voted to have the budget republished, erasing the Governor’s unconstitutional veto. While Governor Doyle acknowledged that his veto was in error and stated that he would abide by the language passed by the State Legislature, I am pleased that the Committee took action to ensure that the official record is correct.

8/13: Governor Doyle Declares Drought Emergency

Governor Doyle signed an executive order yesterday declaring a drought emergency in Wisconsin. The executive order includes 41 counties, including Burnett, Dunn, Polk, Pierce, and St. Croix Counties.

Declaring a drought emergency allows the DNR to expedite temporary irrigation permits, which allow farmers to divert water from streams and lakes for crops. A USDA report issued earlier this week indicated that more than half of the state is experiencing short or very short soil moisture. Governor Doyle cited the economic impact of agriculture in Wisconsin that accounts for $59 billion in economic activity and over 350,000 jobs in announcing the executive order.

8/11: GAB Approves Election Plan

The Government Accountability Board (GAB) approved a five year plan this week on conducting state elections. GAB is the state agency responsible for administering election and ethics laws in Wisconsin.

The State Election Administration Plan approved by GAB seeks to improve election administration, voter participation, administrative efficiency, and protect voting integrity. The Plan is designed to ensure Wisconsin’s compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requirements. Also included in the Plan is a proposal to study the use of the Internet in voting and early voting rather than the current absentee ballot system.

8/6: Protecting Kids Against Online Predators

The Wisconsin Department of Justice offers a number of helpful tips for parents to protect children from online predators. These tips include:

Ensuring open communication between parents and children1310Place computers in common areas1310Sign an Internet safety pledge with your children1310Create and post Internet rules1310Know your children’s passwords, screen names, and account information1310Be aware of the websites your children are visiting

To learn more, visit DOJ’s website on Internet Crimes Against Children at the link above.

8/3: 25th Anniversary Memorial Ride in New Richmond

The Highland Hero’s Tribute Ride traveled through Western Wisconsin this past weekend. I had the opportunity to visit with some of the riders as they made a stop in New Richmond, and stops were also made in Clear Lake and Menomonie.

Mr. Tom Kingsbury has volunteered to re-create a ride that Mr. Tom Miller first made back in 1985. That first ride covered 1,244 miles - one mile for each person from Wisconsin that died in Vietnam. In that same tradition, the 25th Annual Memorial Ride will cover 1,244 miles plus 1 mile for each person that has died in action from Wisconsin since Vietnam. Starting from the Highground on July 31, 2009, Tom Kingsbury will peddle around the state - touching each border and many communities in between. It is a remarkable endeavor for a great cause.

8/3: New Study Shows Impact of Ag in Wisconsin

A new study on the value of agriculture to Wisconsin’s economy was recently released by the University of Wisconsin-Extension. According to the study, agriculture generated over $59 billion in economic activity and provided jobs for nearly 354,000 Wisconsin workers.

7/31: Taxes on Tourists Prove Damaging

As state and local governments look for ways to address budget deficits, one area that is being commonly looked at is taxes on visitors and tourists. Raising funds through car rental fees, hotel room taxes, and tourism-related sales taxes have the potential to bring in additional revenue, but also carry the danger of damaging the tourism economy.

In Wisconsin, the recently passed state budget bill includes a significant tax increase on car rental fees in Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Racine Counties to provide funding for light rail transit. While such taxes might not directly impact local residents, they discourage visitor sales that provide positive economic effects to local businesses and our state. What they buy and where they go is impacted by the level of taxation, and recent new 34visitor34 taxes in other states have already been shown to depress tourism expenditures. The Legislature’s focus should be on helping our tourism industry and avoiding excessive taxes on visitors that spend money in our state.

7/24: Farm Technology Days Coming to Pierce County

It was great to have the opportunity to attend this year’s Farm Technology Days this week that was held at the Crave Brothers Farm in Dodge County. The Crave Brothers Farm is an impressive operation that milks a herd of 950 cows, operates a 20,000 square foot cheesemaking facility, and employs 145 workers. Crave Brothers Farm has won several awards for their quality cheeses.

It’s exciting that Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, the largest agricultural exposition in the state, will be coming to Pierce County in 2010 and will be hosted by the Roger and Bev Peterson Family farm. The annual three-day event showcases the latest technology in agriculture and is a collaborative effort by Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, UW-Extension, and the host county.

More than 1,000 commercial exhibitors were featured at this year’s exhibition, with an estimated 80,000 attendees. There is a lot of excitement in our area for next year’s Farm Technology Days, as it will provide an opportunity to showcase agriculture in our area and will bring in many visitors and exhibitioners to Pierce County and the region.

7/21: Spring Valley School Board Visit

Last night I had the opportunity to address the Spring Valley school board on education issues, particularly in relation to education provisions included in the state budget bill. The budget as passed by the Majority Legislative Democrats and signed into law by Governor Doyle reduces state aid to school districts by $294 million.

In addition to the funding reductions, several policy items were included in the budget that negatively impact the ability of school districts to address costs. At a time when tax revenues are falling, the State Legislature should not be enacting measures that make it more difficult for school boards to balance their budgets and provide quality education.

7/16: Biotech Company Moving To St. Croix County

Encouraging news was reported last week when VitalMedix Inc. announced its move from Minnesota to St. Croix County. The company is working on a drug that seeks to aid first responders in keeping trauma victims alive.

VitalMedix was attracted to Wisconsin due to our state’s favorable environment for angel investments. Angel investments are when an individual or group provides significant capital investment in a business start-up. Legislation that I supported created an angel investment tax credit in Wisconsin in 2003, which provides tax incentives for angel investors. Wisconsin now has 22 angel investment groups, whereby individuals pool their investment funds to provide angel investments to businesses.

Minnesota currently does not have such tax incentives, although legislators there are considering enacting such laws due to the success of Wisconsin’s programs.

This news follows the move of Rapid Diagnostek last year to Hudson from Minnesota, which was also the beneficiary of Wisconsin investments due to our tax incentives for angel investments and early stage seed investments. It is encouraging to see this pro-growth legislation helping to attract jobs and businesses to Wisconsin. Expanding on these successes and recognizing the impact of tax structures on business growth should be priorities of the Wisconsin Legislature.

7/14: Bear Study Indicates Larger Population

A study completed by wildlife ecologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison estimated that Wisconsin’s bear population to be over 33,000 bears. This estimate is 2.5 times larger than previous DNR estimates. The DNR agreed that their prior estimates had been too low.

The primary method that is used to control the bear population is public hunting. In response to the updated bear population numbers, the DNR will be increasing the number of bear permits available during the 2009 bear hunting season by 56%. The bear hunting season begins on September 9th.

7/9: LFB Releases Memo on Tax and Fee Increases

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has released its compilation of tax and fee increases in the state budget. The total increase in taxes and fees, combined with enhanced tax collection measures, is calculated to be over $2 billion.

7/7: Budget Update: Property Tax Estimates

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has released its estimate of average property tax increases, given the impact of the recently enacted state budget.

According to LFB’s estimates, property taxes on a median-valued home will increase by $93 for tax bills due next year and another $123 for tax bills due in 2011. These increases represent 3.3% and 4.2% increases, respectively.

7/3: Have a Safe and Happy Fourth of July!

The Fourth of July is upon us and there will be a number of celebrations and festivals in the area to commemorate our Independence Day. I will be taking part in the Fourth of July parades in Siren and Webster on Saturday and will be participating in the Balsam Lake Freedom Festival parade on Sunday. Prior to the Balsam Lake parade, I will be speaking at the ceremony for the Deaver Addition to the Polk County Historical Museum.

Other area events include:

Parades in Wanderoos, Clam Falls, and Hudson

Fireworks in Amery, Hudson, Spring Valley, Menomonie, and Siren

Please contact local chambers of commerce or visit county tourism websites for more information on local events!

7/1: UW System’s Growth Agenda Targets Efficiency and Value

The University of Wisconsin System has set accountability standards for their Growth Agenda in an effort to increase efficiency and improve quality.

A report completed by the UW System found that recent UW graduates are earning their degrees with fewer excess credits than their counterparts in the past. Total graduates system-wide has increased. Additionally, the percentage of students graduating within six years of initial enrollment has also improved by approximately five percent.

These goals have been accomplished as the UW System continues to work to control costs. The report indicates that the UW System’s administrative costs are over thirty percent less than our neighboring states’ systems. The UW System has also decreased energy consumption to reduce costs.

The UW System has also identified the need to continue expanding formal and informal partnerships with Wisconsin businesses, non-profits, local chambers of commerce, and governmental agencies. Partnerships are a critical link between relevant classroom learning and the needs of the changing workforce. A better trained workforce creates a stronger economy for Wisconsin.

6/30: Gov. Doyle Can't Break Old Habits

The Frankenstein Veto was given life when Governor Doyle combined sentences to spend $427 million the Legislature never authorized. Thankfully, such egregious vetoes are not evident in this budget bill, due to the people's ratification of the ban of the Frankenstein Veto last spring. I am, however, greatly disappointed that Governor Doyle still managed to violate the ban in one part of the budget bill with his partial vetoes, in direct contradiction to our state's Consititution.

6/29: Budget Passed by Legislature, Signed by Governor Today

The State Assembly approved the state budget bill on Friday night on a 51-46 vote, following action by the Senate on Thursday. Governor Doyle signed the bill this morning in a ceremony at the Governor’s Residence.

6/26: Democrats’ Budget May Force UW Staff Unionization

A budget provision added by Democrats, could force UW academic staff to be unionized without a vote. Governor Doyle’s budget contained a provision that would allow UW faculty and academic staff to form unions and collectively bargain. However, a vote would be required, as is typical in forming unions, before any UW faculty or staff would be made members of a union. The provision added by Legislative Democrats would allow the state’s Employment Relations Commission to consider petitions by existing unions that UW staff should be members of their union given their job duties. This provision could require UW staff to be members of unions without their input or even a vote.

I opposed the inclusion of non-fiscal policy items such as this in the budget. Regardless of one’s position on whether UW faculty and staff should be allowed to unionize, the rights of academic staff to vote on joining a union, rather than being forced to join through a bureaucratic process, should be a minimum requirement. Now, UW staff could be forced into unions with subsequent paycheck deductions.

6/26: Capital Gains Exclusion Changed in Final Budget Bill

The Conference Committee changed the exclusion amount in the final budget bill. The capital gains exclusion will now go from 60% to 30%, except for gains on certain assets used in farming. Previously, the Senate Democratic budget bill sought to remove this exclusion entirely. This change from 60 to 30 percent will result in an estimated increase in taxes collected by over $115 million in 2009-10 and $127 million in 2010-11.

6/24: Harsdorf Urges Removal of Stillwater Bridge Provision

I joined with Representative Ann Hraychuck on Monday to request the leadership of the State Senate and State Assembly to remove the provision in the state budget that would delay construction of a new Stillwater Bridge.

During the budget process, a provision was slipped into the budget that would place limitations on the construction of a new bridge. This provision was removed by the State Assembly, but was reinserted by the Majority Senate Democrats.

6/23: Impact of Capital Gains Tax Increase

The Majority Senate Democrats’ plan to eliminate the state tax exclusion on capital gains would cost Wisconsin taxpayers $315 million over the next two-years. Governor Doyle had proposed reducing the exclusion from 60% of gains to 40% in the budget he presented to the Legislature in February. When the Governor’s proposed change is added to the Senate Democrats’ proposal, $485 million in additional taxes would be taken from Wisconsin investors. If enacted, this change would be retroactive to January 1, 2009.

Punishing Wisconsin investors during an economic downturn is exactly the wrong prescription to balancing our state's budget. As an increasing number of taxpayers utilize their retirement investments in response to decreased income during the current economic slowdown, we should not be raising the taxes on capital gains. Small businesses - the lifeblood of our economy - would also be hit especially hard with such a tax increase.

6/22: Assembly and Senate Democrats Address Budget Differences

Due to differences in the budget bills as passed by the State Assembly and Senate, leadership of both houses will be meeting this week to negotiate the final budget package. The biggest area of disagreement between the two houses is whether to enact a new gas tax or to make all capital gains taxable. Senate Democrats voted to tax all capital gains, which are currently only taxed at 40% of gains, as part of the budget passed last week. Assembly Democrats and Governor Doyle support a new gas tax.

It is not clear yet whether the Democratic leadership will resolve the differences through a conference committee or behind closed doors.

6/19: Earmarks in the State Budget – Assembly

6/18: Senate Democratic Budget Passes 17-16

The Senate Budget bill passed, with all Republicans and one Democrat voting against. It included another $40 million in new taxes.

6/18: Reckless budget bill did get better in some parts

After much public pressure, non-fiscal policy changes that would have allowed illegal immigrants to obtain a drivers license, reversed important tort reform measures enacted in the 1990’s, and eliminated guarantees of access to public lands purchased through the Stewardship Program for hunting were all eliminated.

6/17: Assembly Committee Passes Campaign Finance Reform Measure

Yesterday, the Assembly Committee on Elections and Campaign Reform voted to impose reporting requirements on all political ads, as are currently required of candidates. I have supported making the funding sources for all political ads accessible to Wisconsin citizens so that voters can make informed decisions. Shadowy special interest groups should not be exempt from being accountable for the influence they exert in our political process. Last campaign cycle, we had groups like “Building a Stronger Wisconsin” purchase huge amounts of air time to launch negative attacks, yet they did not have to report funding sources as required of candidates and other political action committees.

We see the influence of special interests in the current budget bill. One provision I am fighting is the provision that would restrict building options for a new Stillwater Bridge. It is clear powerful Madison special interests are playing a role in this issue, using the budget bill as a vehicle to enact non-fiscal policy changes. Transparency in campaigns and government can be an effective tool to giving “the people” more power.

6/16: Senate Deliberates on Budget

The budget bill is now before the State Senate. Senate Democrats and Republicans have been meeting in caucus today to discuss changes to the state budget bill. Press reports indicate that there is opposition from some members of the majority Senate Democrats relating to the tax on oil and reversing common-sense tort reforms. Senate Republicans await word on the Democratic proposal. The Senate is scheduled to be in session to vote on the budget bill Wednesday.

6/12: Health Care Cooperatives Gain National Attention

Discussions in the U.S. Congress on health care reform have recently turned to health care cooperatives as a component of pending legislation. U.S. Senators of both parties are considering the use of health care cooperatives in their deliberations on federal health care legislation.

Health care cooperatives are proving successful here in Wisconsin. I authored the state legislation passed in 2003 allowing this option to allow individuals, small businesses, self-employed, and local governments to join together to obtain health care coverage. A statewide cooperative for farmers and agri-business has proven to provide better coverage and lower premiums for its members. A cooperative for small businesses in the Green Bay area has also seen results in delivering health care to its members. In our area, Cooperative Health Choices of Western Wisconsin is planning on providing health coverage beginning this fall. For more information on CHC, contact William Rubin at the St. Croix EDC at 715-381-4383.

6/11: Assembly Removes Stillwater Bridge Provision

The State Assembly is poised to adopt an amendment to the state budget that would remove the restriction on the new Stillwater Bridge. This is welcome news and a credit to the bipartisan effort to move this critical regional infrastructure project forward.

State Represenative Ann Hraychuck successfully offered the amendment in her caucus. Now we need to ensure that a provision is not added back in by the Senate.

6/10: New Area Code to Begin October 17

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) has acted to create a new area code within the current boundaries of the 715 area code. Called an “overlay,” this action will require individuals within the current 715 area code to begin dialing the appropriate area code for every call made, including local calls. This action was taken to provide additional telephone numbers in our region.

It is recommended that callers in the 715 area code begin using the ten digit number (area code and 7-digit number) beginning October 17th. However, if you forget and only dial the 7-digit local number, your calls will continue to be connected until July 17, 2010. Numbers for the new area code (534) will begin to be assigned on August 14th, 2010. Your current telephone number will remain the same and calling areas and rates will not change.

6/10: Provision Seeks to Impede New Stillwater Bridge

The wording and placement of the Stillwater Bridge provision in the budget bill is highly suspect. It appears that special interests have found someone to do their bidding in Madison. This amendment would simply remove options for our two states as they face the challenge of building a new Stillwater Bridge.

Ongoing delays, fueled by lawsuits filed by the Sierra Club, are costing taxpayers literally hundreds of millions of dollars. It's time to stop putting up roadblocks.

It is ridiculous to suggest taxpayers are served by limiting options for construction. It is clear that some Madison lawmakers do not fully understand how imperative a new bridge is for western Wisconsin.

6/9: Auto Insurance Coverage Requirements to Rise

Governor Doyle’s budget provision calling for an increase in minimum coverage amounts for motor vehicle insurance has been adopted by the Legislature’s budget writing committee, with a few modifications.

The Governor's proposal would increase liability coverage from $10,000 to $25,000 for property damages, from $25,000 to $100,000 for bodily injury coverage, and from $50,000 to $300,000 for bodily injury of two or more people. The Governor also called for raising uninsured and underinsured coverage amounts to $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident.

These changes were adopted by the Legislature’s budget writing committee, with one change that phases in the liability coverage requirements of $25,000/$100,000/$300,000 over three years. The Wisconsin Insurance Alliance estimates that this provision would raise premiums between $96 and $309.

While this provision is expected to increase auto insurance premiums, which are currently some of the lowest in the country, there is no reason to include such non-fiscal policy items in the budget. It should come out and be debated on its own merits.

6/8: State Legislature Expected to Vote on Budget

The State Assembly is expected to be in session on Wednesday and Thursday of this week to take up the state budget. After the budget is approved by the Assembly, it will move to the State Senate, which is expected to take up the bill next week.

Once the Assembly and Senate approve the budget bill and any changes between the two houses are agreed to, the budget bill will go to Governor Doyle to sign and modify through the use of his partial-veto authority. The state’s fiscal year ends on June 30th.

6/4: Cooperative Health Choices of Western Wisconsin Extends Deadline

Cooperative Health Choices of Western Wisconsin (CHC), the state’s second regional health care cooperative for small businesses, self-employed, and local governments, has extended their deadline for returning health care questionnaires to June 19th. CHC is urging those who are interested in possibly seeking health insurance through CHC to fill out a questionnaire. CHC is on track to provide coverage to Cooperative members over a 17 county area in Western and Northwest Wisconsin beginning in October. For more information on CHC, contact William Rubin at the St. Croix EDC at 715-381-4383.

6/3: 'Wisconsin Jobs Now Report' Released

The Wisconsin Jobs Now Report was released on Tuesday, which is a compilation of suggestions and ideas provided by small business owners and employers throughout Wisconsin. A Wisconsin Jobs Now task force held a roundtable discussion in Eau Claire on March 30, which was attended by employers throughout the 10th Senate District and Western Wisconsin. I was pleased to take part in that discussion and assisting in organizing the roundtable.

The Wisconsin Jobs Now Report includes such recommendations as streamlining state permitting processes, increasing the use of the Internet in working with the state, improving collaboration between business and higher education, greater utilization of the technical college system, and addressing health insurance costs.

6/2: Elmwood Legislation to Receive Committee Vote

The Assembly Committee on Urban Affairs today voted unanimously for passage of Assembly Bill 173, legislation I authored with Representative John Murtha. This legislation would allow the Village of Elmwood to move forward on a tax incremental district that has been delayed due to unique circumstances involving the calculation of telecommunications property within the Village. AB 173 is now available to be scheduled for a vote before the State Assembly.

5/29: Budget Writing Committee Cuts Education and Local Aids

The Legislature’s budget writing committee acted this morning to approve Governor Doyle’s proposal to address the state budget deficit. The committee cut state aid to schools by $314 million, increased reductions to local government aids to $30 million, and expanded the recently adopted tax on hospital patients by over $200 million.

The committee also approved state spending reductions, including repealing scheduled 2% pay raises for state employees and approving state employee furloughs, while also restructuring debt.

The committee's actions to cut state aid for schools, while also repealing cost controls on salaries and wages, will be particularly devastating for schools. The committee passed the Governor's proposal to repeal the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO). Repealing the QEO in 2010 will reduce school boards' ability to negotiate teacher contracts. To further make salary deliberations difficult for school boards, the committee passed a measure to remove consideration of local economic conditions by arbitrators when making contract decisions between schools and unions.

Unfortunately, the Democratic-controlled budget writing committee was reckless in ignoring the harmful effect that the reduction in state aid along with removing the economic factors from arbitration would have on school districts. As government revenues diminish, we need to take steps that help local governments deal with difficult budget realities, not place additional hardships on them.

5/28: Renew Your Number on No-Call List

If your phone number is on the Wisconsin’s No-Call List, you may want to renew your number by June 1st. The No-Call List keeps phone numbers for two years, after which the number must be re-registered with the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP). You can renew your number for another two years on the No-Call List by visiting DATCP’s website at www.nocall.wisconsin.gov or by calling 866-966-2255 (toll-free).

5/26: Honoring our Fallen Soldiers

I had the honor of taking part in the Memorial Day ceremony at Clear Lake Veterans’ Memorial on Monday. It is a privilege to participate in Memorial Day ceremonies that serve to remember and honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. Let us remember each and every day, all those who continue to serve our great country in order to protect our freedoms.

5/20: Citizen Input Increases as Budget Moves Forward

As the Legislature’s budget writing committee moves forward on its work on the state budget, there has been an increasing number of citizen contacts to my office. In the last 30 days, I have received over 1100 contacts from residents of the 10th Senate District. Over 500 e-mails have been sent on issues before the State Legislature.

I appreciate and value the input from citizens on the issues facing our state. Please feel free to contact me at sen.harsdorf@legis.wi.gov or at 800-862-1092.

5/18: Governor Doyle Expected to Unveil Deficit Plan

Governor Doyle stated that he hopes to present his plan to address the state’s growing budget deficit this week. The Governor has announced that he is looking at reductions to aid to local governments, K-12 education, and lay-offs of state employees. Governor Doyle is also considering additional borrowing to address the budget deficit, which has risen to $6.6 billion.

5/11: Harsdorf Committee Update: Commerce, Utilities, Energy and Rail

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy and Rail, which I serve on, has scheduled a hearing this week on the issue of siting windmills. As wind energy becomes more prevalent, challenges arise in where to construct wind energy systems. Utilities often build large windmills in clusters, which can create conflict with adjoining property owners and local governments. Legislation to establish a statewide process for siting wind farms will be held for a public hearing on May 12 at 11:00 am in the State Capitol. Contact my office if you would like more information on this legislation or the public hearing.

5/6: Senate InSession: Green Tier Program Reauthorized

Wisconsin’s ground-breaking Green Tier program received a vote of approval by the State Senate last week. The State Senate took action on Senate Bill 126 (SB 126), which would reauthorize and extend the Green Tier program. I am a co-sponsor of this legislation.

Green Tier is an innovative program that takes a collaborative approach to environmental protection. Green Tier participants in western Wisconsin include 3M Company – Menomonie, Federal Foam Technologies, and Phillips Plastics. Green Tier is a voluntary program that involves annual audits of environmental management systems and encourages self-reporting of violations.

Check out my News page to see my recent press release on Green Tier.

5/4: Hot Topic: Swine Flu (H1N1) in Wisconsin

Swine Flu is receiving a great deal of attention as it spreads into our local communities. Important information on Swine Flu can be found at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Pandemic Flu Resource website at http://pandemic.wisconsin.gov/. This website will provide you with the latest updates, frequently asked questions, preventative and planning resources, and information on what to do if you contract this virus.

12/29: Snowmobile Safety Courses Now Online

All Wisconsin residents born after 1985 are required to take a snowmobile safety course before operating a snowmobile on land not owned by the operator. The Department of Natural Resources sponsors safety classes throughout the state and now also provides safety training via an online class for interested operators ages 16 and over. The goals of the snowmobile safety course are: to reduce the potential for snowmobile accidents, injuries and fatalities; to reduce the potential for conflict between snowmobilers, landowners, and other resource users; and to promote safe, responsible, and ethical use of the environment and our resources.

12/23: Senate Bill 382 Would Require Headlights Use During Rainy Weather

Current law requires drivers to have their headlights on during hours of darkness. Failure to follow the current headlight law results in a fine between $10 and $200. Senate Bill 382 / Assembly Bill 581 would also require drivers to use headlights when climatic conditions, such as rain or fog, limit visibility to less than 500 feet for objects on a highway. Non-compliance would result in the same fine schedule as under the current darkness headlight law. Both the Senate and Assembly bills were introduced in November; neither bill has had a public hearing or committee vote.

12/21: Department of Health Services Lifts H1N1 Vaccine Restrictions

Local health care providers and public health departments are now allowed to vaccinate requesting members of the general public with the H1N1 vaccine. Previously, the Department of Health Services limited H1N1 vaccinations to certain groups at high-risk, including those with chronic health concerns, young children, pregnant women, and those that work with young children. If you are interested in receiving the H1N1 vaccination, you can find a clinic online at http://pandemic.wisconsin.gov/ or call 2-1-1 for a flu shot clinic locator.

12/16: Government Accountability Board Recommends Against Early Voting

After last November’s election, the Government Accountability Board (GAB) assigned staff to research early voting as a potential remedy to the administrative delays that in-person absentee balloting creates. After researching other states’ experience with early voting and holding listening sessions throughout the state, GAB’s report recommends against instituting early voting in Wisconsin. Instead, the report recommends streamlining existing in-person absentee balloting protocols, including: a 20 instead of 30 day window for absentee voting; allowing clerks to conduct in-person absentee voting in multiple locations; and simplifying application and ballot envelope signature requirements. The Board will consider these recommendations at a future meeting.

12/14: Governor Vetoes Board of Regents Bill

As expected, Governor Doyle vetoed Senate Bill 223, which would have required a governor to appoint at least one member for each of the seven regions of the state to the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents. The current Board of Regents’ membership includes 10 of its 14 citizen members from either Dane or Milwaukee Counties. No citizen Regent currently resides near the River Falls, Stout, Superior, or Eau Claire campuses.

12/11: Blood Donation, a Great Gift

Holiday giving often reminds us of shopping, standing in line, and wrapping presents. This year, consider blood donation as part of your holiday giving. The gift of blood is more precious than any mall find and its need is truly great. The American Red Cross is sponsoring local blood drives with several community organizations in the moth of December. Below is a partial listing of community blood drives in our area. To schedule an appointment, call 1-800-GIVE LIFE (800-448-3543).

December 14: New Richmond – 1:00 P.M. - 6:00 P.M. 1310New Richmond American Legion Post 1260 Wall St.

December 15: Hudson – 1:00 P.M. – 6:00 P.M. 1310Bethel Lutheran Church 920 3rd St.

December 17: New Richmond – 8:00 A.M – 7:00 P.M.1310National Guard Armory 1425 Wall St.

December 22: River Falls – 9:00 A.M – 2:00 P.M.1310St. Bridget’s Catholic Church

December 28: Prescott – 1:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M.1310Prescott EMS 1603 Pine St.

December 30: Hudson – 10:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M.1310Hudson Hospital and Clinics 405 Stageline Rd.

December 31: River Falls – 10:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M.1310National Guard Armory 815 W. Division St.

12/9: Senate Committee on Agriculture and Higher Education Hearing This Week

NOTE: This hearing has been rescheduled for January 7th.

On Thursday, December 10, the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Higher Education will hold a public hearing on a number of gubernatorial appointments and bills. Among the bills that the Committee will hear testimony on are:

1310Assembly Bill 229: would create an exemption for a food processing license for a seller of canned goods earning less than $5,000 in sales.

Assembly Bill 418: would require the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection to designate an employee of the Department to serve as county fair coordinator. This bill previously passed the full Assembly by a unanimous vote in October.

Senate Bill 268: would give local control in decisions about location of rendering plants, which is a power currently held by the State.

Senate Bill 419: would create standards for labeling products as Wisconsin certified honey.

12/7: 2010 Spring Turkey and Black Bear License Application Deadline Nears

Hunters have until the close of business on Thursday, December 10 to apply for available spring turkey and black bear permits. Applications are for permit drawings for each of these respective seasons and cost $3. Interested hunters can apply at a local authorized license agent or call the DNR, toll free at 1-877-LICENSE (877-945-4236). For a list of local authorized license agents, click the above link.

12/1: Hearing Today on DNA Saves

DNA Saves, legislation that I have drafted with Rep. Ann Hraychuck calling for the collection of DNA samples from offenders at the time of felony arrest, will be held for a public hearing today before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing.

Jayann Sepich, a victim’s advocate that is leading the national effort to enact such legislation in every state, will be testifying at the hearing. Currently, 21 states and the federal government have enacted legislation requiring the collection of DNA samples from offenders at felony arrest.

11/24: Governor Signs Several New Laws

The Legislature wrapped up its regular floor period for the year earlier this month and passed several bills through both houses. As a result, Governor Doyle has signed several new laws in the past few weeks. Among the recently enacted laws were the following:13102009 Wisconsin Act 55 strengthens protections against invasive species traveling from one waterway to another by prohibiting vehicles, watercraft, sea planes, or other objects from changing waterways if an invasive animal or plant is attached. These strengthened prohibitions do not apply if only traveling within a single navigable water system.13102009 Wisconsin Act 62 eliminates a loophole in the State’s hit-and-run law that prevented prosecution of hit-and-run offenses on private parking areas. This law is in response to the tragic case of Frances Suitor, who died in 2005 while sleeping in her Oregon, WI home when a drunken driver crashed through her house and killed her. 13102009 Wisconsin Act 64 requires all approved driver education courses to 34acquaint each student with the hazards posed by railroad highway grade crossings and provide at least 30 minutes of instruction in safely dealing with these hazards.3413102009 Wisconsin Act 72 allows law enforcement to collect a fee from a convicted person that law enforcement must transport via ferry to jail after the time of an arrest. This situation arises in island communities in the state where the county jail may not be accessible from the point of arrest via a normal roadway or bridge13102009 Wisconsin Act 76 restricts those convicted of serious criminal offenses from obtaining certification to become a child care provider. Convictions that permanently bar a person from becoming a licensed child care provider include: a felony against a child, felony battery, first or second degree murder or reckless homicide, felony sexual assault, armed burglary or robbery, felony depiction of nudity; and closely related offenses.

11/24: Capitol Christmas Tree from River Falls

The 2009 State Capitol Christmas Tree will be leaving Mr. Snowman’s Christmas Tree Farm in River Falls on Tuesday, November 24, en route to Madison. Owner Charles MacDonald has donated the tree. The Capitol Christmas Tree stands in the rotunda throughout the season and is the centerpiece of the Capitol’s holiday decorations. Per tradition, school children throughout the state create ornaments for display on the tree.

11/20: Phosphorus Limited Further in Dish Soap

Governor Doyle signed into law 2009 Wisconsin Act 63 on November 12, which further limits the amount of phosphorus contained in dishwashing products. The former allowable limit for dish soap was 8.7% of phosphorus by weight, and Act 63 reduces that amount to 0.5% of phosphorus by weight. Eliminating unnecessary phosphorus waste is critical in controlling algae blooms, which have threatened lakes throughout the state.

11/18: Alice in Dairyland 2010 Applicants Wanted

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection is seeking applicants for the 63rd Alice in Dairyland. This position serves a spokesperson for the state’s agricultural industries, including food, fiber, and biofuels. Alice travels over 40,000 miles during the year; conducts more than 100 media interviews; and visits with thousands of students throughout the state. Interested individuals can find more information and application materials at the link above. Applications are due by 4:30 on Friday, January 15, 2010.

11/16: The Apprentice: Dunn County

Taking a cue from the hit reality television series, Visioning Dunn County has created a new program that links student-led teams with the business world to provide plausible solutions to real world challenges. Juniors and seniors from Dunn County high schools and freshmen at UW-Stout and Chippewa Valley Technical College comprise the student-led teams. Participating businesses present the teams with current project goals that are in need of effective proposals for completion. The student teams will work from December through April to develop proposals. A culminating ceremony will occur on April 29, at which time businesses will 34hire34 the winning team idea. The Apprentice: Dunn County is a great example of the private sector linking with educational institutions to provide real world experience for students while benefitting from the creativity of young people.

11/12: Legislature Honors Harvey Stower

This past legislative floor period, both houses of the Legislature paused to honor the late Mayor Harvey Stower of Amery, who passed away in October. Legislators from both parities spoke fondly of the service and life of Harvey Stower. In addition to serving as the Mayor of Amery for the past 14 years, he served as State Representative from the 28th Assembly District. His devoted service to Northwest Wisconsin is appreciated and will be greatly missed.

11/5: Prominent bills pass in state Senate

November 5th marked the last day of Floorperiod for 2009 in the State Senate. While committees will continue to meet and hold committee votes, the Legislature will not convene until January unless the Governor calls a special session. 1310A number of prominent bills moved through the State Senate, including:1310Assembly Bill 138, which would change the appointment process of the secretary of Natural Resources from a gubernatorial one to one appointed by the Natural Resources Board, was passed by a 21-11 vote. The bill is now before the Governor, having been concurred in as amended by the Senate to require the consent of the State Senate.1310Assembly Bill 258, which prohibits disposal of oil filters and oil absorbents into landfills. Having already passed the State Assembly, the bill is now before the Governor for his signature. As the lead Senate author of this bill, I am pleased that we are taking additional steps to prevent oil from entering our landfills and ultimately getting into our water supply. I have worked on this legislation for years, and believe new technologies make recycling oil filters and absorbents easier and more convenient.1310Senate Bill 244, which requires geographic representation on the University Of Wisconsin Board of Regents. Currently, 10 of the 14 appointed citizen regents reside in either Dane or Milwaukee County. This legislation would break the state up into 7 geographical regions, and require that at least one member of the 14 members reside in each region of the state by 2015. As a co-sponsor of this legislation, I believe geographical representation is important on the Board of Regents. The bill is now before the Governor, as it already passed the State Assembly 59-34.1310A number of bills intended to make Wisconsin eligible for the Presidents 34Race to The Top34 education funding were passed in the Senate as well. You can learn more about the bills from this session here:

http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/AB138hst.html Assembly Bill 138

http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/SB244hst.html Senate Bill 244

http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/AB258hst.html Assembly Bill 258

http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/SB370hst.html Senate Bill 370

http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/SB371hst.html Senate Bill 371

http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/sb372hst.html Senate Bill 372

http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/sb373hst.html Senate Bill 373

10/30: Osceola Area Airport Technology Upgrade

Governor Doyle has designated three state airports, including the L.O. Simenstad Municipal Airport near Osceola, to receive funding to develop localizer precision with vertical guidance technology (LPV), . LPV technology increases safety at airports by providing guidance information to allow planes to fly closer to the airport before deciding if it is safe to land. The project is scheduled for completion by September 2010.

10/30: Regional Tourism Website Launched

The St. Croix Area Promotional Committee, which is a multi-county tourism and promotions collaboration for Barron, Burnett, and Polk Counties, has recently unveiled an updated tourism website for our region. The website provides information on a variety of interests including lodging, recreational activities, shopping, and events. This is a great way to promote small businesses and tourism in our region. Check out the new website above and share it with your friends!

10/27: Tele-town Hall Tonight

On Tuesday night (October 27) from 7:30 p.m until 8:30 p.m., I will hold my second tele-town hall, which provides a forum to answer questions and receive feedback from thousands of residents of the 10th Senate District. Tele-town halls are particularly useful in creating an opportunity for individuals that may not be able to attend a traditional town hall to have their input heard.

You can take part in the tele-town hall by calling 877-229-8493 and enter the code number 13620. If you are unable to take part in the tele-town hall, but have a comment, question, or concern, please feel free to contact me through my 34Ask Sheila34 contact form that is linked above.

10/23: Senate to Vote on Labor Education Mandate

Next Tuesday, the full Senate will vote on Assembly Bill 172, which would require public schools to teach the history of organized labor in America and the collective bargaining process. This bill passed the full Assembly in April by a 61-38 vote.

10/21: Text Messaging Ban Passes

The State Senate passed Senate Bill 103 on Tuesday, which would ban text messaging by drivers in Wisconsin. Studies have shown that text messaging while driving significantly impairs a driver’s response time and attentiveness, creating a safety hazard. I supported and co-sponsored this proposal. The bill will now be sent to the State Assembly for consideration.

10/15: New Area Code Requirement Takes Effect

Starting on Saturday, October 17, 2009, residents in the 715 area code should begin dialing the full 10-digit telephone number for all calls. Available numbers in the 715 area code are running out, which means that new numbers in our area will have a 534 area code. What is a local call now will remain a local call, regardless of the number of digits dialed.

Calls that do not include the area code will still go through until July 2010, when 10-digit dialing becomes mandatory. At that time, local numbers will include those with both the 715 and new 534 area codes.

10/14: DNR Proposing New License Plate Designs

Next year, Wisconsinites seeking to purchase the optional Endangered Resources License Plate will have a choice between the traditional 34wolf plate34 and one of four new proposed designs. The new license plate will feature endangered wildlife, and DNR is welcoming public input on which design to select. Those that choose an Endangered Resource License Plate contribute $25 to support the DNR’s fund that seeks to identify, protect, and manage endangered native plants, animals and natural communities.

10/12: Oil Filter Legislation Advances

The Senate Committee on Environment passed Assembly Bill 258, which would require the recycling of oil filters and oil absorbent materials, by a 5-0 vote on October 7, 2009. This legislation will help save resources and keep contaminants out of our ground water. The bill passed the full Assembly in June, and the final legislative step is full Senate approval before going to the Governor.

10/6: BadgerCare Plus Core Plan Enrollment Suspended

The BadgerCare Plus Core Plan, which opened enrollment to provide health insurance for adults without children meeting certain income and residency requirements, has received nearly 60,000 applications for the plan since beginning on June 15, 2009. The federal government approved this plan with the condition that it be cost neutral and enrollment not exceed the budgeted amount of 54,000 participants. Starting at noon on October 9, enrollment will be suspended; however, individuals may still apply but will be put on a waitlist.