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


Sheila's Blog
Page Content
 collapse  
ArticleYear:
2014
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
September

9/18: Think Tree Stand Safety This Archery Season

Archery and crossbow deer seasons began last weekend and the Department of Natural Resources is reminding hunters to think about tree stand safety.  While tree stands increase a hunter’s chances of spotting and bagging a deer, they can also be dangerous as tree stand accidents are one of the leading causes of injury to hunters.  Injuries from such accidents are easily preventable.
The DNR has a few tips to share with hunters about tree stand safety:
 
  • Always wear a full body harness while you are in a tree stand, as well as when climbing into and out of a tree stand.  Make sure it is worn properly.  Tree stand harnesses have an expiration date and should be replaced when they expire and/or a fall occurs.  A safety strap should be attached to the tree to prevent falling more than twelve inches.
  • Always have three points of contact when climbing into and out of a tree stand; either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand at all times.
  • Always use a haul line to raise and lower your bow or unloaded firearm.
  • Be aware of suspension trauma, which occurs when a person is held upright for a period of time and blood flow to the brain is affected.  Suspension trauma can happen in less than twenty minutes and can be fatal.  Attach an additional foot strap to the body harness to take pressure off your upper legs.
For more information about tree stand safety, please visit the DNR’s website.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
August

8/18: Public Hearing Scheduled on WIS 64 Freeway Plans

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) will be holding a public hearing to seek input on plans for a future designation and conversion of WIS 64 to a freeway and expressway between 150th Avenue and WIS 65 in St. Croix County.  The proposal seeks to authorize the Department to officially designate WIS 64 as a freeway between 150th Ave and WIS 35 and as an expressway between WIS 35 and WIS 65.  This planning process will allow the Department to replace WIS 64’s at-grade intersections with overpasses based upon traffic and safety needs with the completion of the new St. Croix River Crossing.
 
The public hearing will be held on Thursday, August 28th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Star Prairie Town Hall on 2118 Cook Drive, Somerset, WI.  Those interested in learning more about DOT’s plans or providing comments or concerns are encouraged to attend.  Written comments may be submitted to Jeffry Abboud at 718 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire, WI, 54701 or by e-mail at jeffry.abboud@dot.wi.gov.

8/5: Tips for Purchasing Propane for the Winter

Summer is half over and given our last harsh winter, no one wants to think about buying propane.  However, the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is offering important tips for buying propane to prepare for the winter season.  Last winter, Wisconsin—and many parts of the Midwest—experienced a propane shortage due to abnormally cold weather and supply issues.  The State Legislature and Governor worked to allow greater shipments of propane by truck in response to the propane shortage and to provide financial assistance to those impacted.  As unpredictable as Wisconsin weather is, we can unfortunately count on cold weather returning this winter.  
 
While it is recommended that propane users contact their propane dealer early in order to lock in a lower price, consumers should be sure to read the fine print of the purchase agreement to be aware of any stipulations in the contract.  For DATCP’s tips and information on buying propane this season, click here.

8/1: Celebrate Wisconsin Agriculture at the 2014 Farm Technology Days

Wisconsin’s Farm Technology Days will be held in Portage County this year on August 12-14 near Stevens Point.  This family-friendly event celebrates Wisconsin agriculture with over 600 commercial exhibitors offering a wide variety of farm and educational demonstrations, entertainment activities, and live performances.  During the event, there will be four areas for farmers and consumers to discuss current issues with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.  These include the Progress Pavilion (2012 Census of Agriculture and animal health information), the Applied Technology Center (business services), the Family Living Tent (consumer tips), and the Conservation Tent (pesticide and fertilizer application).  Be sure to take the whole family out to enjoy this year’s Farm Technology Days!
 
Tickets are $6 per person, children 12 and under and FFA students accompanied by their instructor have free entry.  Parking for the event is free.  More information on the event can be found at: http://portagecountyfarmtech.com
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
July

7/30: Participating in Operation Deer Watch

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) needs your help in participating in an ongoing annual effort to manage deer called Operation Deer Watch.  The program enlists members of the public to report the number of deer they see between August 1st and September 30th.  Participation in the survey is easy – during the assigned period, participants will keep track of all bucks, does and fawns they see using an online tally sheet.  This year, about 14,000 randomly selected deer hunters received an invitation to participate in the program.  Those who did not receive the invitation are still encouraged to submit their observations online.  Operation Deer Watch is a great opportunity to contribute to the management of Wisconsin’s deer herd!  For more information about participating in Operation Deer Watch, click here.

7/22: Prevent the Transmission of Rabies in Pets and Livestock

As you and your family enjoy the warm weather, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) reminds individuals that the increase in people to animal and animal to animal contact during good weather can increase the risk of rabies transmission.  Rabies can be transmitted by infected animals through bites, scratches, and saliva contact with broken skin.  In Wisconsin, bats and skunks are the most likely to carry the rabies virus, but cases have been found in dogs, cats, raccoons, fox, and livestock.  State law requires vaccination for dogs five months and older.  Though not required by state law, rabies vaccines are recommended for use in cats, ferrets, horses, cattle, and sheep.  More information on Wisconsin’s rabies control requirements can be found here.  A few tips to prevent rabies transmission include:
· Vaccinate pets and livestock
· Securely cover garbage cans
· Keep pet food inside and in a sealed container
· Prevent bats from entering your home
 
For more information on rabies and rabies prevention, visit the DATCP website or contact Dr. Yvonne Bellay at 608-224-4888 or Yvonne.bellay@wi.gov

7/15: 2015 Friends of Wisconsin State Parks Calendar Photo Contest

Do you have a photo that captures the natural beauty of Wisconsin?  The Friends of Wisconsin State Parks has announced the sixth annual photography competition and is looking for photos of scenery and activities from Wisconsin state parks, forest trails, and recreational areas.  The 2015 calendar will be available for purchase and will be distributed to subscribers of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine with the December issue. 
Photographers can submit one entry per season (spring, summer, fall, winter) for a total of four possible entries.  Submissions must be sent by Sunday, August 31, 2014. 
Rules of entry are as follows:
  • Photos will be accepted from amateur photographers ages 14 and over; photographers that earn more than half of their income from photography are not eligible. 
  • Photos must have been taken within the past three years, since January 1, 2012. 
  • DNR employees and Friends of Wisconsin State Parks board members and their immediate family members are not eligible to win. 
For more information, visit http://friendswiparks.blogspot.com/2014/06/2014-photo-contest.html or contact Patricia Loosen, Friends of Wisconsin State Parks coordinator at 608-264-8994. 

7/11: Stillwater Lift Bridge Lane Closures Scheduled

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

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

7/7: Robocalls Take On ‘Local’ Identities

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has recently received an increase in consumer reports of scams offering to lower credit card interest rates for a fee.  Caller ID displays for these calls have shown a phone number nearly identical to the consumer’s number.  The name and phone number that appears on the phone display can be changed by scammers to show a ‘credible’ name and local number to entice consumers to answer the call.  Hang up immediately if you receive a call from ‘Cardholder Services’ offering to lower your credit card rates.  Pressing keys on your phone could lead to more robocalls from scammers.  In many cases, the goal of these scammers is to charge your credit card with phony fees or to sell your phone number to other scammers. 
 
For additional information or to file a complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at datcp.wisconsin.gov, send an e-mail to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov or call the Consumer Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.

7/2: St. Croix Crossing Open for Fourth of July Travelers

The Department of Transportation is alerting motorists that all highways in the St. Croix Crossing construction area will be open for motorists during the holiday weekend.  Construction crews do not plan to work July 4 through July 6.  The following is a schedule of openings and closings in the area: 
  • The new Wisconsin State Road 35 overpass is now open to traffic.
  • Minnesota Highways 36 and 95 in Oak Park Heights and Stillwater will remain open.  Highway 36 from the Washington Ave/Norell Ave intersection to Highway 95 and Highway 95 from Highway 36 to the Sunnyside Marina north entrance will continue single-lane traffic. 
  • The Stillwater Lift Bridge, while currently closed due to high water, will reopen to vehicle and pedestrian traffic at 4PM on July 2 and resume its normal schedule, except for between 10:30PM and 11PM on July 4 when the lift bridge will remain in the down position to accommodate increased vehicle traffic. 
  • Due to high water levels, the DNR has a no wake zone on the St. Croix River.  A mile-long river channel (marked by red and green buoys) and no wake zone are in place between Stillwater and Bayport. 
  • In Minnesota, the northbound I-694 ramp to eastbound Highway 36, the ramp from Hilton Trail to westbound Highway 36, and access to Viking Drive from eastbound Hwy 36 are all closed.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
June

6/25: Preventing the Spread of Invasive Species in Wisconsin

"Clean Boats Clean Waters” volunteers and Department of Natural Resources staff will be at boat launches throughout the state during the July 4th weekend helping boaters inspect their boats and showing the necessary steps to slow the spread of aquatic invasive species.  The sixth annual "Landing Blitz" aims to educate and reward boaters for taking steps in preventing the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian water-milfoil.  Boaters spotted already practicing the important prevention steps might be rewarded with a free "Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers" towels.  For more information on preventing the spread of invasive species and boating regulations, click here.

6/20: Reducing Disaster Damage in Wisconsin

Over the last three decades, Wisconsin has incurred more than $3 billion in disaster-related property damage due to severe weather.  Natural disasters can come unexpectedly to homes and businesses.  When possible, residents should be prepared for when the unexpected comes.  The Division of Emergency Management of the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs estimates that for every dollar spent on hazard mitigation, $4 in future damages can be avoided and $5 can be avoided from flood damage.  Some mitigation solutions can be as simple as elevating a furnace in your basement.  For more hazard mitigation ideas ranging from flooding to droughts, click here.

6/17: Keeping an Eye Out for Credit Card Fraud

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has recently received a number of consumer complaints regarding fraudulent credit card charges.  These credit card charges are small and can easily be overlooked by cardholders.  Some cardholders have also said that foreign transaction fees appear on their monthly statements when a fraudulent charge occurs.  If you believe that a fraudulent charge appears on your monthly statement, immediately contact your financial provider by calling the phone number on the back of your card.
 
For additional information on credit card fraud or to file a complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at datcp.wisconsin.gov, send an e-mail to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov, or call the Consumer Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.

6/10: Email Scam Consumer Alert

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) would like to inform Wisconsin residents of an email scam regarding taxpayer information.  The email states that the recipient owes the Department of Revenue (DOR) taxes, and will face additional penalties if they do not open the attachment.  The attachment can damage your computer or give access to personal information.  DATCP warns individuals not to open any attachments and to delete the email.  DOR does not communicate to taxpayers through email nor does it ask for personal information by phone or email.  For additional information or to file a consumer complaint, please click here (http://datcp.wisconsin.gov).

6/6: I-94 Interchange Public Meeting

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) is holding a meeting for public comments on the proposed reconstruction of the County Road T bridge over I-94 near Hammond.  The meeting will take place at the St. Croix Central Middle School Small Gym on Wednesday, June 11th from 5:30 – 6:30pm.  The meeting will present information on the construction schedule, construction staging, and the right-of-way acquisition.  DOT staff will be available to answer questions and take verbal and written testimony on the project.  For more information on the proposed construction plans, please click here.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
May

5/30: Mabel Tainter Named One of Top 15 Theaters Worldwide

CNN recently recognized the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts in Menomonie as one of the 15 most spectacular theaters in the world.  The theater was first built in 1889 as a tribute to the daughter of Captain and Mrs. Andrew Tainter, a young musician named Mabel.  The theater underwent a renovation in 2007, but care was taken to ensure that its impressive historical features still remain.  To read the CNN news piece or to learn more about the truly spectacular Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts and their performances, please visit their website by clicking here.

5/23: Memorial Day – A Time to Remember

Memorial Day is our nation’s day of remembrance to honor the men and women that have sacrificed their lives to defend our country and protect our freedoms.  As we reflect on our fallen heroes during this national holiday, please consider taking time to attend a Memorial Day service in your area to pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in fighting for our country.  I wish you and your family a Happy Memorial Day!

5/15: May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, which is part of a national campaign to increase awareness and provide information on mental health issues.  The State Legislature joined in the effort this session by creating the Speaker’s Task Force on Mental Health chaired by Representative Erik Severson.   This panel produced a number of reforms that were passed and signed into law to modernize the state’s mental health laws and provide quality treatment as well as accessibility of services.  Senator Harsdorf was the Senate sponsor of one of these measures which encourages peer run respite centers enabling community-based treatment provided by individuals who are in successful recovery from mental illness or substance abuse.   For the complete mental health report issued by the task force please click here or feel free to contact Senator Harsdorf’s office for more information on the legislation suggested by the task force that was enacted into law.

5/12: Celebrating Syttende Mai

Syttende Mai celebrates the declared independence of Norway from Denmark with the signing of the Norwegian Constitution, which occurred on May 17th or “Syttende Mai” in Norwegian. Norwegian heritage can be found throughout our state as one out of every twelve Wisconsinites is of Norwegian descent. We are fortunate to have a Syttende Mai celebration close by in Woodville. The State Senate voted earlier this year to honor Syttende Mai through Senate Joint Resolution 81, which was co-sponsored by Senator Harsdorf and proclaims May 16th-18th, 2014 as Syttende Mai Weekend. For more information on the Syttende Mai celebration in Woodville and others around the state, please visit the Travel Wisconsin website at www.travelwisconsin.com.

5/7: State Website Has New Look!

The State of Wisconsin’s website recently received a makeover to adopt a more user-friendly design.  The website is the main point of access for all state agencies, boards and commissions, branches of state government, and other Wisconsin related information.  The new design includes the ability for customers to access the webpage from all smartphones, a Google search for easier navigation, and an online chat feature for assistance, among other improvements.  Check out the redesigned website by clicking here.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
April

4/30: “REGGulatory” Relief for Small Egg Producers

Legislation passed earlier this spring and recently signed into law is now easing the burden for small egg producers to sell directly to consumers.  2013 Wisconsin Act 245 allows egg producers with 150 chickens or less to sell directly to consumers without first obtaining a food processing plant license.  Farmers must still obtain a retail food establishment license to sell at farmers’ markets and follow basic food safety regulations to sell eggs directly to consumers, such as proper storing conditions and packaging.  The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is in the process of updating regulations to further assist egg producers.  For more information on food safety and regulations, visit the DATCP website at datcp.wi.gov.

4/24: Hunter and Trapper Education Courses

If you are interested in hunting or trapping for the first time this year, you may want to start preparing in advance by taking a hunter or trapper education course.  The DNR offers various options for hunter education including basic hunter education courses offered in a classroom setting, an Internet field day with an online course, and an adult online hunter education test out.  Anyone born on or after January 1, 1973 must complete a hunter education course and show the certificate in order to purchase any hunting license in Wisconsin.  This requirement does not apply to those hunting under the hunting mentorship program or those who have successfully completed basic training in the U.S. Armed Forces, Reserves, or National Guard. 
 
Additionally, trapper education courses are generally held over a weekend and a correspondence course is also available.  Those who have not previously purchased a trapping license and are not actively engaged in farming must complete a trapper education course.
 
To find a hunter or trapper education course near you, please click here.

4/21: National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) reports that more Americans abuse prescription drugs than those who use cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, and inhalants combined.  Many people become addicted to illegal drugs due to the availability of legal drugs, such as prescription medications.  In an effort to help address substance abuse and prescription drug misuse, DOJ encourages Wisconsinites to participate in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 26th, during which you may drop off your unused or expired prescription drugs.  There will be various collection sites across the state from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.  To find the collection site nearest you, please click here.  For additional information on the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, please click here.   

4/18: Celebrating Earth Day

Wisconsin has a long history of promoting conservation and our beautiful outdoors, as evidenced our numerous parks, forests, and preserves open for recreation and outdoor sports.  This tradition of conservation leadership is exemplified by the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, which is named in honor of Governors Warren Knowles of New Richmond and Gaylord Nelson of Clear Lake.  Governor Nelson was instrumental in establishing Earth Day in 1970 as a U.S. Senator, which is celebrated every year on April 22nd.
 
Conservation is important in keeping Wisconsin’s outdoors a great place for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy our many state parks and trails.  The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will be holding their annual Work*Play*Earth Day events all across the state on April 19th, 26th, and May 3rd, including one scheduled on the Stower Seven Lakes State Trail in Amery on April 19th.  You can volunteer to help plant trees, pick up litter, remove invasive species, and much more.  For more information regarding Work*Play*Earth Day, visit the DNR website at www.dnr.wi.gov

4/15: National Library Week

This week, April 13th -19th, is National Library Week, which is observed throughout the country to celebrate the many contributions of libraries and promote their use.  This year’s theme is “Lives change @ your library®.”  Libraries are a tremendous asset to our communities as they provide people of all ages access to a variety of resources, services, and programs. They are instrumental in promoting the importance of reading, which is vital to life-long learning.  For more information on National Library Week, please click here, and for additional information on what libraries have to offer, please click here.  

4/11: An Opportunity to be involved in State Government

Every two years, the Wisconsin State Legislature along with the Legislative Council, identifies complex issues concerning state law that would benefit from further study and consideration.  Topics are then taken up by Special Study Committees made up of legislators and citizens who are interested in the issue.
 
The Joint Legislative Council recently approved study topics and is looking for citizen members to serve on a handful of Special Study Committees.  The committee topics include adoption, courts using nontraditional adjudication methods, criminal penalties, tax incremental financing laws, and the Wisconsin Technical College System.  For a complete list of Special Study Committees and the scope of their study, please click hereIf you are interested in serving, please send a letter of interest and resume to Terry Anderson by May 1st in ordered to be considered.
 
Terry C. Anderson, Director
Wisconsin Legislative Council
PO Box 2536
Madison, WI  53701-2536
 
The Joint Legislative Council hopes to appoint members so the committees can begin meeting by June.  The Special Study Committees are to complete their assignment before December 31, 2014.  Legislative Council provides a brochure that explains public member service on a Special Study Committee, which is available online here.

4/8: Wisconsin Summer Fun and Vacation Ideas

As you begin to plan summer excursions, be sure to check out the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s website at TravelWisconsin.com to find summer events, festivals, vacation destinations, and much more.  The site provides ideas on places to stay and things to do, which are accessible by city or region. 
 
Additionally, you can sign up to receive emails from TravelWisconsin.com on a variety of topics that may interest you.  By clicking here, you can choose from categories such as biking, camping, cabins and cottages, golf, amusement parks, waterparks, natural attractions, fishing, fairs and festivals, and many more.  As the Department of Tourism updates its information on the topic, you’ll be informed as well.

4/1: Save the Date for Free Fun Weekend on June 7 and 8

With the subzero temperatures we’ve had this winter, it is nice to look ahead to the summer months and plan fun, outdoor activities.  The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is hosting their annual Free Outdoor Fun Weekend on June 7th and 8th.  The Free Fun Weekend allows anyone to enjoy the many parks, lakes, and trails across the State of Wisconsin without first obtaining a sticker, license, or paying an admission fee.
 
The DNR is waiving all state trail pass fees and park admissions.  Additionally, no fishing license will be required to fish on any state waterways.  The DNR will also have free equipment located at many state parks and DNR offices.  For more information to plan your weekend, visit the DNR website at dnr.wi.gov or click here.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
March

3/25: Recognizing Dr. Norman Borlaug

Today marks the 100th birthday of Dr. Norman Borlaug, a respected agricultural scientist and leader who was known as “the man who saved a billion lives.  Among other honors awarded for his contributions, Dr. Borlaug received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his success in adapting new wheat varieties and promoting their worldwide production and his work has proven instrumental in the fight against global hunger.  Earlier this month, the State Senate passed a resolution authored by Senator Harsdorf to honor Dr. Borlaug for his contributions to agricultural science.

3/18: Loan Guarantees for Emergency Heating Assistance Approved by Legislature

Last week, the State Senate unanimously approved legislation that would create a loan guarantee program to encourage financial institutions to issue emergency heating assistance loans to those burdened with higher heating bills.  As a cosponsor of this legislation, Senator Harsdorf recognizes the importance of providing relief to those impacted by the propane shortage and high prices over the winter months.  The bill having already passed the State Assembly is now awaiting action by the Governor.

3/12: Detour Coming to Wisconsin 35 as St. Croix Crossing Project Advances

As the St. Croix Crossing project continues to advance, construction zones will be causing detours in surrounding areas.  Construction on Wisconsin 35 will begin Monday, March 17 and will include an overpass for Wisconsin 64, which will connect to the St. Croix Crossing.  Traffic will be re-routed to County Road V and County Road E from Wisconsin 35.  For a detailed map of the construction areas and detour routes, click here.  Construction crews will be working 24-hour shifts in order to complete the overpass project in approximately two months.  The St. Croix Crossing is scheduled to be completed in 2016.

3/4: Ideadvance Seed Fund

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) in partnership with the University of Wisconsin System recently launched a new initiative called Ideadvance, which is designed to encourage entrepreneurship at UW campuses.  WEDC provided $1 million from its Capital Catalyst program and UW System provided $1 million from its Economic Development Incentive Grant to create the $2 million Ideadvance Seed Fund to assist UW students, staff, and faculty as they commercialize technology and ideas.  The seed funding will support entrepreneurs by bridging the gap between ideas and creating new businesses.  UW-Extension will administer the Ideadvance Seed Fund and will be accepting applications in three rounds beginning in March and again in May and November. 
 
Ideadvance is an important partnership between WEDC and UW System that will help advance technology across the state and lead to greater job growth.  Additional information on this new initiative is available at http://uwideadvance.org/.  For assistance with the application process, please contact Idella Yamben at uwideadvance@uwex.edu or 608-263-3315.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
February

2/25: Top Ten Consumer Complaints of 2013

The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) recently released their list of “Top Ten Consumer Complaints of 2013.”  DATCP documented 10,454 new formal complaints in 2013, and telemarketing recorded the most overall complaints for the 11th straight year.  Landlord/tenant and telecommunications complaints also topped the rankings.  For the complete “Top Ten Consumer Complaints of 2013” list, or to file a consumer complaint, visit http://datcp.wi.gov/.

2/20: Nurse Aide Bill Approved by State Legislature

Earlier this week, both the State Senate and State Assembly unanimously approved Senate Bill 212 (SB 212), which will make it easier for nurse aides, or CNAs, to be employed in Wisconsin.  Currently, Wisconsin does not recognize CNA training and experience completed in other states if it does not equal Wisconsin’s standard of 120 hours of training.  This legislation will recognize a CNA’s recent past work experience and training from a different state.  It also creates a bridge training program so a CNA seeking employment in Wisconsin from another state will receive credit for the hours of training they received elsewhere.  SB 212 is now awaiting action by the Governor.  
 
The service CNAs provide is an important level of care in our health care system, and this legislation will help address the growing need for skilled health care workers in our state.  For more information on this bill, please click here.

2/17: PSC Broadband Expansion Grants

The Public Service Commission (PSC), an independent agency responsible for the regulation of Wisconsin public utilities, is currently accepting applications for Broadband Expansion Grants.  The state budget allocated up to $500,000 in grants to be used in the 2014 fiscal year.  Broadband Internet access is crucial for economic development, and these new grants will be used to improve broadband communication services in underserved areas of the state.  Grant applications are due March 21, 2014.  For additional information, please click here.

2/13: DNR Impaired Waters List Available for Public Comment

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently released a draft of their list of lakes and rivers that do not meet certain quality standards.  This list is updated regularly to reflect new information or changes in water quality status.  More information on impaired waters and a copy of the 2014 draft list update is available on the DNR’s website here.
 
The draft is available for public comment until March 6th.  Comments received before then will be forwarded onto the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which will finalize the list.  To submit your comments to the DNR, send your email to DNRImpairedWaters@wisconsin.gov or by standard mail to Mr. Aaron Larson, DNR, Water Evaluation Section (WY/3), PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.

2/10: Opportunity for Citizen Involvement on State Boards and Commissions

The Governor’s office is looking for individuals interested in applying to serve on any of Wisconsin’s over 200 state boards and commissions.  If you’re interested in getting involved in state issues and working with citizens across Wisconsin, applying for an appointment is an excellent way to provide input to help with policy-making, regulation, and advocacy efforts.
 
Although Madison is a good distance from our area, it is important to have geographical representation from across the state on these boards and commissions.  If you would like more information or want to apply for a position, please click here. 
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
January

1/30: Waste, Fraud, and Abuse Website and Hotline

While the State Legislature has passed a number of reforms in recent years to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse in state government, we continue to look at ways to save taxpayer dollars.  If you have suggestions on areas the state should look at to find cost savings, you are encouraged to share your ideas by clicking here.
 
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) within the Department of Health Services (DHS) also maintains a hotline to receive reports on waste, fraud, and abuse of public assistance programs.  OIG wants to hear from anyone who has information concerning public assistance fraud.  DHS operates many of the state’s public assistance programs including FoodShare benefits, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicaid among others.  OIG investigates fraud and reviews all tips they receive, and takes appropriate action with the Department of Justice.  If you suspect any fraudulent activity of any public assistance programs, please call the Office of the Inspector General toll-free fraud hotline at 1-877-865-3432.

1/27: Governor Takes Action to Address Propane Shortage

Today the Governor took several actions to address the propane shortage being experienced in Wisconsin after having declared a state of emergency over the weekend.  The Governor ordered the Department of Administration’s Division of Energy Services to make an additional $7 million available to counties administering the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP).  For more information and criteria on eligibility for the program, you may contact the energy assistance call center at 1-866-HEATWIS (432-8947).

The rapidly rising cost of propane has exhausted some propane retailers’ lines of credit to replenish their supplies of propane as they become available.  In response, the Governor directed the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to implement a $5 million loan guarantee plan aimed at providing these propane retailers with a new line of credit.  Under the plan, WEDC will offer 80% loan guarantees to Wisconsin propane retailers.
 
Additionally, the Governor instructed the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) to move forward with a similar $3 million loan guarantee plan for propane dealers.  While these actions seek to address the cost of propane, supply issues continue to keep propane reserves low.  Prior actions to enable companies to ship propane into Wisconsin by truck remain in place to aid in the effort to increase the supply of propane.

1/21: Watch the State of the State on Wisconsin Eye

On Wednesday, January 22, Governor Scott Walker will be delivering his State of the State address.  The broadcast will be available on Wisconsin Public Television, Wisconsin Public Radio, and you can also stream the Governor’s remarks online through Wisconsin Eye.  I encourage you to tune-in at 7 p.m. as the Governor lays out his vision for continuing to move our state forward.  

1/14: New Financial Transparency Website Launched

The Department of Administration (DOA) recently launched a new website called OpenBook Wisconsin that is part of the continued effort by the State Legislature and Governor to make state government more transparent for Wisconsin residents.  This new website can be accessed at openbook.wi.gov and provides Wisconsin citizens with information on state expenditures across various state agencies and categories.
 
In the future, DOA will be adding additional information to this website including state grants, state contracts, and salary and fringe benefits for state employees.  It is projected that the site will be updated with new information biweekly.  To explore the new site, please click here.

1/9: Atlas of Wisconsin Public Access Lands Now Available

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced the new Atlas of Public Access Lands is now available both online and in a printable format.  This is a great resource for those who enjoy the great outdoors and are looking for land that is available for hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking and other outdoor activities.  
 
The land highlighted in the new atlas is made possible through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.  The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, created by the Legislature in 1989, has been widely supported since land purchased through the program ensures public access to hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreational opportunities.  The new atlas contains 441 maps, two indexes, a glossary, and contact information to land managers, who are available to answer questions about the properties.  For more information on the new atlas, please click here.

1/3: New DNR Sticker Available for 2014

The 2014 annual Wisconsin state park admission stickers and state trail passes are now on sale through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  The stickers are available for $25 to Wisconsin residents and went on sale Dec. 1.  The vehicle stickers are required for all motor vehicles wishing to gain access to more than 60 state parks, forests, and recreation areas throughout Wisconsin.  A state trail pass is needed for all that plan to go biking, in-line skating, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, or off-highway motorcycling on a state trail and are age 16 or older.  To purchase a park admission sticker or a state trail pass, you can visit park offices, DNR service centers, or call the DNR at 888-936-7463.  The Friends of Wisconsin State Parks also offers online sales of admission stickers and trail passes with a donation to the statewide friends group through the organization’s website.
 
The 2014 sticker was designed by Ursula Reid, a junior at Cedarburg High School.  Her design was selected from 220 entries by high school students around the state.  Entries for the 2015 Wisconsin state park sticker design contest are now being accepted through April 17, 2014.  The contest is only open to high school students in public, private, or parochial schools.  For contest rules and information, visit the DNR website by clicking here.
 
 collapse  
ArticleYear:
2013
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
December

12/23: Merry Christmas!

Christmas is a special time to spend time with family and friends as we celebrate our traditions and remember the reason for the season.  May you and your loved ones be filled with peace, joy, and happiness.  Have a very blessed and Merry Christmas!

12/18: Be Cautious of New Telemarketing Scams

The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) regularly updates its website with new consumer alerts to help prevent Wisconsinites from falling victim to scams.  Here are a couple of examples of recent scams that have been reported:
 
·         Unsolicited phone calls promise individuals with a $100 gift card to be used at a major retailer for the small price of paying a shipping and handling fee of $1.95.  If you turn your financial information or a credit card number over to representatives making fraudulent calls such as this, you may likely find your account charged for much more than $1.95.
·         Scammers impersonate utility companies and try to receive payments for fictitious utility bills.  An impersonator may try to pressure a utility customer by citing an outstanding debt and threatening service will be disconnected if the bill is not paid.  Please remember not to provide credit card numbers or banking information to any suspicious callers.  Additionally, beware of emails that appear authentic but ask for your financial information, social security number, driver’s license number, other account numbers, or passwords.     
 
Please click here for additional consumer alerts reported by DATCP.  To file a complaint with DATCP’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, please click here.  

12/10: Give the Gift of Life

The holiday season encourages service and giving back to one’s community.  As you start preparing gifts for your friends and loved ones, please remember that one of the most important gifts is the act of giving blood.
 
Blood donors are needed all year long, but this is an especially great time to embrace the spirit of the holiday season by donating blood.  Below is a listing of blood drive events taking place this season in the 10th Senate District.  For more information on these blood drives or on giving blood in general, please visit the Red Cross website at www.redcrossblood.org.
 
Date
Time
Location
Address
12-Dec
8am-7pm
National Guard Armory
1245 Wall St, New Richmond
16-Dec
2pm-7pm
Family Fresh Market
2351 Coulee Rd, Hudson
16-Dec
Noon-6pm
Anytime Fitness
1700 Stout St, Menomonie
17-Dec
8:45am-2:45pm
Baldwin Area Medical Center
730 10th Ave, Baldwin
19-Dec
10am-4pm
Mayo Clinic Health System
2321 Stout Rd, Menomonie
26-Dec
Noon-6pm
River Falls Library
140 Union St, River Falls
30-Dec
9am-3pm
Bethel Lutheran Church
920 3rd St, Hudson
3-Jan
2pm-7pm
Luck Lutheran Church
510 Foster Ave E, Luck
6-Jan
Noon-6pm
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
615 Maple St, Glenwood City
6-Jan
10am-3pm
Hudson Hospital and Clinics
405 Stageline Rd, Hudson
7-Jan
11:30am-5:30pm
Webster Community Center
7421 Main St W, Webster
 

12/6: Wisconsin Rail Plan Available for Review

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) is seeking public review and input on the Wisconsin Rail Plan 2030, which takes a comprehensive look at both freight and passenger railroad service and provides a vision for future rail networks.  The plan also identifies network issues, as well as recommendations to improve the railroad system in Wisconsin.
 
Public review on the final draft of the Wisconsin Rail Plan 2030 will continue through December 30th and is available online by clicking here.  You may call 608-266-8108 to register comments or send written comments to:
 
Wisconsin Rail Plan 2030
WisDOT Division of Transportation Investment Management
Bureau of Planning and Economic Development
PO Box 7913
Madison, WI 53707-7913
Fax: 608-267-0294

12/6: View Capitol Christmas Tree and Visit Executive Residence

If you will be visiting Madison in the coming weeks, you are encouraged to stop by the State Capitol to view this year’s Christmas tree, which has been beautifully decorated with ornaments made by school children from all across the state.  The State Capitol is open weekdays from 8:00 to 6:00 p.m. and weekends from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Free tours are offered daily and start at the information desk, which is on the ground level.  For more information on visiting the State Capitol, please click here.
 
Also, you may be interested in visiting the Governor’s Executive Residence for a guided tour during which time you will be able to hear a brief history of the Executive Residence and view rooms on the first floor with many uniquely decorated Christmas trees.
 
2013 Holiday Tour Schedule
·         Saturday, December 7:  9 a.m. – Noon
·         Wednesday, December 11:  Noon - 2 p.m.
·         Thursday, December 12:  Noon - 2 p.m.
·         Saturday, December 14:  9 a.m. - Noon
 
Governor’s Executive Residence
99 Cambridge Road
Madison, WI  53704
 
While tour admission is free, participants are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items and/or new or gently used winter coats, scarves, mittens, hats, earmuffs, snow pants, or sweaters to be donated to those in need.  Please note that groups of 20 or more must call ahead and make a reservation at 608-246-5501.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
November

11/28: Happy Thanksgiving!

Our country has been celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday officially since 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War, proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”  About 250 years earlier and long before Thanksgiving became an official Federal holiday, it is recorded that Pilgrims celebrated and feasted with Native Americans to give thanks for their first harvest upon arriving in Plymouth. 
 
Today, Thanksgiving is still a special time of the year to take a moment to reflect on all we have to be thankful for and to count our many blessings as we spend time with family and friends.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

11/27: Tips for Smart Shopping

With the busiest shopping days upon us, the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) provides the following tips to keep in mind as you shop:
 
·         When looking at store ads, pay attention to the price, not the discount.
·         Be sure to understand a store’s return and exchange policies before you make a purchase.  Retailers may have different policies in place for Black Friday purchases.
·         Be sure to keep your receipts.
·         Keep an eye on the register when checking out to ensure you are charged the advertised or sale price.
·         Make sure you understand the terms and conditions that accompany any deals in which you are interested.
·         If you find a pricing discrepancy and a store will not correct an error, you may file a pricing complaint with DATCP’s Measures Bureau by calling (608)224-4942, emailing datcphotline@wisconsin.gov, or online.

11/22: DNR Launches New Outdoor Sporting App for Smartphones

With Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer hunting season opening this Saturday, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced the launch of a new mobile app for sportsmen and women compatible with iPhone and Android smartphones.
 
Although the launch is timed with the opening of deer hunting season, the app has comprehensive information relating to all outdoor sporting activities, including fishing, trapping, and wildlife viewing.  The app can be used to access a wide range of information, including hunting hours, sporting rules and regulations, and fish species identification.  The DNR has indicated that the app will be continuously updated with the latest information.
 

11/20: Growing Wisconsin Magazine Showcases Wisconsin Agriculture

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is presenting a color publication to connect readers with our state’s agricultural community.
 
This privately funded publication showcases Wisconsin’s diverse agricultural industry, which currently contributes nearly $60 billion to the state’s economy.  Growing Wisconsin includes stories about family-owned farms, local breweries and wineries, and Christmas tree farms.  Also featured is Wisconsin’s leading role in agricultural exports, technology and research. 
Magazines will be distributed throughout the state and will be free of charge.  You can also read the digital edition by going to www.wiagriculture.com.      

11/18: Bill to Increase Math and Science Credits Clears State Legislature

During the fall session the State Legislature passed a bill that will require students to take three credits of math and science instead of two to graduate from high school.  As manufacturing jobs become more technical, companies increasingly need employees who have a higher level of knowledge and skills.  This legislation takes another step towards preparing students for the workforce after graduation and closing the skills gap.  Learn more about this legislation at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2013/proposals/sb51.  The bill now heads to the Governor for his signature.

11/14: Wisconsin Officially Designates Honor and Remember Flag

A resolution designating the Honor and Remember Flag as Wisconsin’s emblem of service and sacrifice by those in the United States Armed Forces who have given their lives in the line of duty received final approval by the State Legislature earlier this week.  The resolution was introduced by Senator Harsdorf and Representative John Murtha at the request of a number of constituents who have lost loved ones in military service to our country.
 
Those interested in the Honor and Remember Flag may visit www.honorandremember.org for more information or to request a flag.  One personalized flag is available at no financial cost to the family of every fallen service member.

11/11: Help Decorate the Capitol Christmas Tree

Each year, young people are invited to submit ornaments to help decorate the Capitol Christmas tree.  Governor Walker is again inviting youth from across the state to submit homemade ornaments.
 
With this year’s theme being “Wisconsin Traditions,” ornaments should reflect Wisconsin’s rich history, unique pastimes, and traditions that make our state such a wonderful place to live.  The deadline for submitting “Wisconsin Traditions” themed ornaments is Friday, November 22nd.  Ornaments can be sent to the Department of Administration at the address listed below.
 
Claire Franz
DOA/Division of Facilities Management
17 West Main Street, Suite 119
Madison, WI 53703

11/7: Apprenticeship Bills Pass State Legislature

Two bills seeking to spur apprenticeship opportunities through private-public partnerships passed both the State Senate and State Assembly this week.  These bills are part of the ongoing efforts by the State Legislature to bolster workforce development and address the skills gap.  Senate Bill 336 provides additional funding for the Youth Apprenticeship program, which matches high school students with employers to provide on-the-job training and technical college-level instruction, allowing more students to benefit from this proven program.  Senate Bill 335 creates an apprenticeship completion award for those participating in the Wisconsin Apprenticeship program.  Those eligible are able to receive an award upon completion of the program equal to 25% of the cost of tuition and fees, up to $1,000. 
 
Please click here for additional information on Senate Bill 335 and here for Senate Bill 336.

11/1: Uncovering and Stopping Waste, Fraud, and Abuse

The Department of Health Services (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigates waste, fraud, and abuse of state-funded public assistance benefits such as trafficking Foodshare benefits, billing Medicaid for services or equipment not provided, and filing a false application for medical assistance and food program.  Fraud in government programs is a significant issue that costs taxpayers and jeopardizes safety net programs by diverting resources from those most in need.  DHS updated its OIG website to make it easier for the public to report suspected fraud. 
 
If you suspect an individual or a provider of fraudulent activity in public assistance programs under DHS and would like to file a complaint, please call the OIG Fraud Hotline toll-free at 1-877-865-3432 or visit the OIG website and click on the red “Report Fraud” button.  For more information on the OIG’s monthly results and efforts to prevent fraud, please click here.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
October

10/24: Certificates to Honor Successful First-Time Deer Hunters

Starting with the 2013 archery season and continuing through the gun deer hunt, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is providing first-time successful deer hunters with a free certificate to help preserve the memories and commemorate the occasion. 
 
Information such as when and where the deer was harvested, who they were hunting with, and more can be displayed on the certificate.  The certificate will be customized to the individual and can include a submitted photo.
 
Certificates will be sent electronically back to successful hunters.  To fill out the certificate, please visit the DNR website.

10/18: Bill to Update ATV and UTV Definitions Moves Through Legislature

Legislation updating the definitions of all-terrain and utility terrain vehicles (ATVs and UTVs) passed both the State Senate and State Assembly earlier this week.  The bill makes several changes to the definitions to accommodate technological innovations by the ATV and UTV manufacturing industry.  Making these changes will address market demands and help foster growth in this industry.  For example, current state law requires that ATVs and UTVs must be equipped with low-pressure tires.  However, manufacturers have designed a new type of airless tire for use on these vehicles.  These new tires offer riders the benefits of enhanced durability, and because they are airless they cannot go flat and do not need to be aired-up.  The bill was developed with the input of various stakeholders involved in ATV and UTV recreation and was authored by Senator Harsdorf and Representative Erik Severson.  It now awaits the Governor’s signature.

10/16: State Surplus Grows to $760 Million

The Department of Administration (DOA) announced this week that our state ended the 2012-2013 fiscal year with a $760 million surplus. This figure was $90 million higher than previous estimates, due to an increase in revenue and lower than anticipated spending. As a result of the growth in revenue, a $153 million deposit was made into the state’s rainy day fund, the largest such deposit in the state’s history. The rainy day fund now stands at $279 million dollars which is also the highest balance the state of Wisconsin has ever seen. For more details on the DOA’s final budget figures, please visit their website.

10/11: This Week’s Legislative Action on Harsdorf Bills

There was much action in Madison this week on a variety of issues.  Below are a number of bills introduced by Senator Harsdorf that received public hearings this week. 
 
Addressing the Skills Gap – Two bills that are part of the fall legislative agenda to improve job training and workforce development—Senate Bill 335/Assembly Bill 403 and Senate Bill 336/Assembly Bill 402—received public hearings this week.  SB 335 seeks to create an apprenticeship certificate award for those that complete an apprenticeship program, providing 25% reimbursement of tuition and fees, up to maximum of $1,000.  SB 336 would provide additional funding for the Youth Apprenticeship program that encourages schools to partner with local businesses to match students with employers to provide on-the-job training and technical college-level instruction.
 
Honor and Remember Flag – Senate Joint Resolution 45/Assembly Joint Resolution 45 would designate the Honor and Remember Flag as Wisconsin’s emblem of service and sacrifice by those in the United States Armed forces who have given their lives in the line of duty.  This resolution was introduced at the request of a number of parents of fallen soldiers in Harsdorf’s district.  AJR 45 received a public hearing before the Assembly Committee on Veterans this week.   
 
Keeping Synthetic Drugs Off Our Streets – Senate Bill 325/Assembly Bill 406 closes loopholes in our state’s ban on synthetic drugs to keep these dangerous substances out of the hands of our kids and helps district attorneys prosecute offenders.  This week, public hearings were held on this legislation in both the State Assembly and State Senate.

10/8: Safe Driving Reminders

Now that the new school year is underway, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) reminds drivers to be even more vigilant around school buses, as well as students walking or biking to school.
 
Under Wisconsin law, when the red flashing lights are activated on a school bus, drivers are not allowed to pass and must stop a minimum of 20 feet from the school bus.  School bus drivers are authorized to report violations to law enforcement who can then issue a citation.
 
State law also requires drivers to yield to pedestrians who have started crossing an intersection or crosswalk.  In addition, drivers may not legally pass any vehicle that has stopped for pedestrians at an intersection or crosswalk.  Drivers are also reminded to maintain at least 3-feet of clearance while passing bicycles. 
 
More information about driving tips can be found on the DOT website.

10/2: Keep Safe Online Through Cyber Security

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

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

Here are a few tips from ReadyWisconsin to help keep you safe while using your computer or mobile device online:
  • Keep a Clean Machine: Keep your security software current by turning on automatic updates.
  • Protect Your Personal Information: Do not use the same password for your email, social media, and bank accounts. 
  • When in Doubt, Throw it Out: Links in emails, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often used by cybercriminals to compromise your computer.  If it looks suspicious, it is better to delete or not open the link. 
  • Think Before You Act: Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately, offer something that sounds too good to be true, or ask for personal information.
  • Get Savvy about Wi‐Fi Hotspots: Limit the type of business you conduct and adjust the security settings on your device to limit access.  Criminals may be able to access personal information when you use free Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or hotel.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
September

9/27: Public Hearing Held on Nurse Aid Training Bill

Currently, federal law requires CNAs receive a minimum of 75 hours of training, but individual states are allowed to require additional training hours.  Wisconsin requires 120 hours of training, while Minnesota, Michigan, and Iowa use the federal standard of 75 hours.  Currently, a CNA who received training in a state with lower requirements than Wisconsin has to start from the beginning and complete a training program in Wisconsin for the full 120 hours to become licensed.
 
Senator Harsdorf has introduced Senate Bill 212 (SB 212) to help address this regulatory barrier for CNAs that received training outside of Wisconsin to obtain their license without having to redo all of their training.  SB 212 would allow individuals who have completed CNA training in another state to combine that training with instructional programs approved by the Department of Health Services (DHS) in order to make up the difference in training hours required in Wisconsin.
 
Both nursing homes and home care agencies rely heavily on the important services and care that CNAs provide.  SB 212 would increase access to the nurse aide profession and meet a need in a high-demand field by providing an opportunity for CNAs relocating to Wisconsin or those living in border communities to make up the difference in training hours required.
 
SB 212 received a public hearing last week in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.  It is anticipated that SB 212 will be voted out of committee soon, at which point it can be scheduled to come before the full State Senate for consideration.  Please click here to view a copy of SB 212.

9/23: Tips for Maintaining Children’s Vision and Eye Health

With the school year underway, many children have headed back to classrooms that are equipped with innovative equipment to enhance their learning experience.  Schools are employing smart boards, tablets, and other types of electronics to enhance their daily curriculum.  The Wisconsin Optometric Association recently cautioned parents on their children’s overexposure to electronic screens and has a few tips to help prevent or reduce vision and eye health problems.
 
Eye discomfort, fatigue, blurred vision, and headaches are some of those challenges along with long-term issues that may impact children that have overexposure to electronic devices.  Parents and teachers are encouraged to coach students on the 20-20-20 rule when looking at electronic screens for a prolonged period of time.  Individuals should take a 20-second break every 20 minutes from watching or working on an electronic device and view something 20 feet away.  Other tips include blinking frequently while using a computer to avoid dry eyes and keeping computer screens about 4-5 inches below eye level.
 
For a complete list of tips and ways to prevent vision and eye health problems, visit the Wisconsin Optometric Association’s website.

9/18: Olson’s Woodville Meats Receives International Honors

Congratulations to Olson’s Woodville Meats of Woodville who was honored this week through the approval of a Joint Resolution by the State Senate acknowledging the accomplishments they achieved at this year’s 2013 IFFA International Quality Meat Competition.  The company was awarded nine gold medals, three silver medals, and the prestigious Ehrenpokal Trophy for their custom meat products.  They were recognized for their dried beef, beef jerky, bison summer sausage, and bockwurst among many other types of meats.  Olson’s Woodville Meats was the only United States company to win at the international competition.
 
The IFFA is the leading international meat trade fair held once every three years in Frankfurt, Germany.  The six-day competition represents 19 different countries featuring 1,700 products from over 200 butcher shops.
 
Olson’s Woodville Meats was founded in 1962 by Roger Olson, and has remained with his family for over 50 years.  Kevin and Cory Olson, grandsons of Roger Olson, now run the family business as third generation butchers.
 
Following approval by the State Senate this week, the Resolution is now pending in the State Assembly.  A link to the resolution can be found at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2013/proposals/sjr41

9/10: BadgerCare Non-Emergency Medical Transportation

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

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

Please visit the DHS website for more information on eligibility, scheduling, or to view the informational videos.

9/3: Back-to-School Tax Tips

As the summer comes to an end and students head back to college, there are certain federal income tax credits and deductions available to help offset some college costs and relieve some of the financial stress associated with continuing higher education.
 
The American Opportunity Tax Credit is available for qualified expenses, including tuition and fees, course related books, and other educational supplies.  This credit can be up to $2,500 per eligible student and is available for the first four years of post-secondary education.  Recently, this federal credit has been extended to the end of December 2017.
 
Another credit available is the Lifetime Learning Credit, where individuals may be able to claim up to $2,000 for qualified education expenses on your federal tax return.  There is no limit on the number of years you can claim this credit for an eligible student, which can include either yourself, your spouse, or a dependent for whom you claim an exemption on your tax return.  This credit is very useful for graduate students, students who are only taking one course, or those who are not pursuing a degree. 
 
Individuals can only claim one type of education credit per student on the federal tax return each year.  For more information, visit the Tax Benefits for Education Information Center at IRS.gov.     
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
August

8/21: UWRF on Best in the Midwest List

University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF) was recognized earlier this month as one of the “2014 Best in the Midwest" by the Princeton Review.  The Princeton Review released their annual list of best colleges by region, and UWRF made the list in the “Best in the Midwest” category along with three other University of Wisconsin System institutions, including UW-Eau Claire, Madison, and Milwaukee.
 
The Princeton Review is an educational service known around the nation for its prep courses, tutoring, and other resources for students.  Robert Franek from the Princeton Review stated, “we chose it and the other terrific institutions we name as ‘region best’ colleges mainly for their excellent academic programs.”
 
The Princeton Review compiled their list based on data from the schools, opinions from students and staff, plus college counselors and advisors input.  There are approximately 2,500 four-year universities in the nation and 155 four-year colleges were selected from the Midwest for the list.
 
Congratulations to the professors, staff and administrators on receiving this recognition!

8/13: Tax Tips for Newlyweds

With the summer months being a popular time for weddings, it’s important to remember how your marital status can affect your taxes. 
 
It’s important the names and Social Security numbers you record on your tax return match the Social Security Administration (SSA) records.  Changed names should be reported to the SSA to avoid any complications when filing your taxes.  Also, report the name change with your employer to ensure you receive your W-2 at the end of each year. 
 
If you file jointly, your combined incomes may move you into a higher tax bracket.  You should check the amount of federal income tax withheld from your pay and calculate the tax burden both individually and jointly to determine which filing status is in your best interest.  In most cases, it’s beneficial to file jointly. 
 
Also, if individually you didn’t qualify for itemized deductions before you were married, that may have changed, allowing you and your spouse to save money by itemizing as opposed to the standard deduction on your tax return.
 
For more information about this topic, visit IRS.gov.  IRS forms and publications are also available at IRS.gov and by calling 800-829-3676.

8/6: Public Meeting Scheduled for I-94 Expansion

A public meeting has been scheduled to discuss the expansion study for the I-94 corridor between Hudson and Baldwin.  The roadway improvements included in the plan will bring safety and economic growth to the area as the I-94 corridor is a crucial transportation route for both freight and passenger traffic.  The meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 13th, at the Roberts Community Park Building, located at 312 North Park Street from 5 to 7 p.m.   
 
Currently, the study area includes reconstruction of the deteriorated pavement while expanding I-94 with three travel lanes in each direction to improve freeway operations.  Also, bridges over Kinney Road, 100th Street, and 130th Street would be reconstructed.  Construction is projected to begin in 2018. 
 
Public input is encouraged at the meetings.  Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) representatives will be available to discuss the project at the meeting.  If you are unable to attend the meeting and have questions or concerns, contact Mohamed Hayek of WisDOT at 715-836-2065. 

8/1: Wisconsin State Park Photo Contest

Remember to take your camera along while fishing, hiking, boating, biking, picnicking, swimming, or camping in one of Wisconsin’s many beautiful state parks. 
 
The Friends of Wisconsin State Parks (FWSP) is asking all interested individuals to submit photographs taken of any of Wisconsin’s state parks in the fifth annual photography competition.  FWSP asks that the photographs include beautiful scenery or any other great outdoor activity.  Selected winners will be featured in the upcoming Friends of Wisconsin State Parks 2014 Calendar being released this October.
 
Friends of Wisconsin State Parks is a non-profit organization that was created to preserve and enhance Wisconsin’s State Trails, Parks, and Forests so that future generations can experience the stunning scenery all around Wisconsin.
 
The deadline for submissions is August 30th.  All photographs must have been taken within the past three years (January 2011), and must portray a specific Wisconsin State Park, Forest, or Trail.  Winners will be notified in September 2013.
 
For specific details and guidelines, or to enter a photo into the competition, please visit FWSP’s website.  You can also contact Patricia Loosen, Friends of Wisconsin State Parks coordinator at (608) 264-8994 for additional information.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
July

7/24: Relief Options for Farmers

For farmers dealing with feed shortages this summer, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is allowing hay harvesting and animal grazing from selected state-owned lands in counties where natural disasters have been declared, including Pierce and St. Croix counties.  This is offered free of charge and will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. 
 
Farmers who graze animals will have the responsibility of setting up their own temporary electric fencing and water tanks for animal grazing.  Also, farmers participating in the program must sign an agreement that the hay taken from state-owned property will be used for livestock and not sold.  Individuals will be limited to using 20 acres.
 
If interested, contact the property manager assigned to the property to find out about availability and to complete an agreement.  To find out if there is a location that works for you, call DNR toll free at 1-888-936-7463, seven days a week from 7am to 10pm. 

7/18: St. Croix River Crossing Traffic Pattern Changes

If you commute or travel to or through the Stillwater area, there will be a number of changes to traffic patterns in Minnesota as construction for the new St. Croix River Crossing bridge proceeds.  Construction, excavation, and utility crews are all likely to be working simultaneously, resulting in lane closures and traffic slowdowns for the remainder of the construction season.    
 
The changes currently being implemented include traffic on eastbound Hwy 36 crossing over and using a single lane on the westbound Hwy 36 lanes, creating head-to-head traffic.  This crossover to the westbound lanes will occur west of Osgood Avenue.  Additionally, Hwy 36 ramps to and from Beach Road will remain open for the time being but are expected to close at the end of July or early August.
 
Also, temporary traffic signals will be placed at the junction of Hwy 36 and Hwy 95, affecting traffic going southbound on Hwy 95 and eastbound on Hwy 36 to northbound Hwy 95.  Hwy 95 traffic will use a single lane in each direction from Point Road to Lookout Trail through the end of the 2013 construction season.
 
I urge you to use caution when driving through these areas.  To keep up to date on current construction progress and future lane closures, you can visit my website, harsdorfsenate.com, and click on the St. Croix Crossing link.

7/17: Area County Fair Season Begins this Week

One of the great summer traditions I look forward to every year are the local county fairs.  These events, which highlight and remind us of our rural heritage, bring families and friends together to celebrate what makes Wisconsin great.  Whether it was some friendly competition in the show ring or serving food in a fair food stand, it is always a fun time with friends and neighbors.
 
As a 4-H’er and fair exhibitor, I have experienced firsthand the benefits fairs provide to our communities and our youth.  Fairs not only provide valuable opportunities for learning life and career skills, but also instill the values of family and working together. 
 
I encourage you to visit one or more of the upcoming county fairs in the region to experience these wonderful events!  Here is this year’s local county fair schedule.
 
St. Croix County Fair - Glenwood City - July 17-21
Dunn County Fair - Menomonie - July 24-28
Polk County Fair - St. Croix Falls - July 25-28
Central Burnett County Fair - Webster - August 1-3
Pierce County Fair - Ellsworth - August 8-11
Burnett County Fair - Grantsburg - August 22-25
 
For a complete list of county fairs throughout the state please visit www.wifairs.com/wifairs.asp.
 

7/8: New Online Resource for Ag Industry Jobs

The Department of Workforce Development’s (DWD) Job Center of Wisconsin has launched a new Agriculture Industry page on their website.  This page includes information about agriculture careers, training resources, reports, and other information about working in the agriculture industry. 
 
Highlighting a wide variety of jobs, the agricultural industry page was developed in partnership with the Wisconsin Agricultural, Education & Workforce Development Council.  This website is designed to make it easier for agricultural job seekers to find opportunities in Wisconsin’s important agricultural industry, which currently contributes nearly $60 billion to Wisconsin’s economy.
 
The website is free to use and can be found at www.jobcenterofwisconsin.com/Agriculture/Default.aspx. 

7/1: Celebrating the Fourth of July

Independence Day is an important time to reflect on the freedoms we enjoy in our nation and to recognize the courage of members of our armed services throughout our history in protecting those freedoms.  The Fourth of July is also a great day for celebrating with family and friends, including parades, cookouts, and fireworks.
 
If you plan on including fireworks in your family’s celebration, the Department of Health Services (DHS) provides a number of tips for safely setting off fireworks.  Please visit http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/health/InjuryPrevention/Fireworks.htm for more information on enjoying fireworks while avoiding injuries.
 
I wish you and your family a safe and happy Fourth of July!
 
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
June

6/26: Governor Declares State of Emergency in Seven Counties

Due to the amount of rainfall this spring that has resulted in widespread flooding and prevention of spring planting, Governor Walker has declared a state of emergency in St. Croix County and six other counties around the state.  The Governor’s declaration is a step towards obtaining federal recognition of the conditions in the affected counties.
 
Farmers who have crop insurance are encouraged to get in touch with their agents with questions about what is covered by their plan and what recording needs to be done in order to receive payment on a claim.  Farmers should also report crop damage, failed acres, and any damage to conservation structures such as dams, buffer strips and side waterways to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) office in their county.  Visit www.fsa.usda.gov/wi for more information on FSA and reporting crop damage.   

6/24: DOT Launches New Wisconsin 511 Construction Project Website

Some say that in Wisconsin there are two seasons—winter and road construction.  With the beautiful months of summer upon us, it seems that orange construction cones are springing up all over our state resulting in challenges as families and individuals navigate to their destinations.
 
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) launched a new project called Wisconsin 511.  This program creates two new tools that travelers can use to remain informed on construction projects. The new Wisconsin 511 construction project website gives visitors details on closures, travel times, project news and updates, schedules, and maps.  The DOT has also launched a new Twitter page @511WI where you can follow a real-time update of construction projects.  Twitter accounts for regional DOT offices have also been set up to keep drivers informed on local construction projects.
 
Easy links to the various 511 Twitter sites, as well as to other DOT social media sites are available on the DOT’s Stay Connected website, http://www.dot.wi.gov/util/stayconnected.htm, or visit the DOT’s construction project website for more in-depth information.

6/20: State Senate Passes WEDC Reforms

A package of reforms to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) moved forward this week on a unanimous, bipartisan vote in the State Senate.  The legislation proposing the reforms, Senate Bill 205 (SB 205), was drafted by the co-chairs of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee in response to the disappointing results of a recent WEDC audit.  These reforms are intended to address concerns raised with financial management, program administration, and accountability at the agency.
 
SB 205 includes two reforms that I proposed in separate legislation, including requiring an annual financial audit of WEDC and set term limits for WEDC Board members.  Other reforms included in the bill require one of the WEDC Board members to be a certified public accountant, require WEDC to adopt transparent procurement procedures, and expand the annual reports WEDC must submit to the State Legislature.
 
SB 205 has now been referred to the State Assembly for consideration.

6/14: June 14th is Flag Day

Join in on celebrating Flag Day, a holiday that traces its origins to right here in Wisconsin!  The origin of Flag Day is traced to Waubeka, a small town north of Milwaukee.  In 1885, Stony Hill School teacher Bernard John Cigrand displayed a 10-inch flag in an inkwell and had his students write essays on what the flag meant to them.  He told the students that June 14th was the birthday of the flag and it has been so ever since.
 
As we commemorate our flag, we revere the stars and stripes as the living symbol of our national principles of liberty, justice, and freedom that we hold most dear.  We thank the brave men and women who have fought and continue to fight to preserve our freedom, and we remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice protecting these values.  Please take a moment to consider the history of our national flag, and the meaning it has for all of us as Americans and our veterans.    
 
Wisconsin offers a statewide sales tax exemption on the sale of United States and Wisconsin flags as an incentive for communities, veterans and everyday citizens to honor our national and state flags.

6/11: Celebrating June as Dairy Month

The dairy industry is a vital part of Wisconsin’s economy, contributing more than $26.5 billion in economic activity each year.  Wisconsin has more than 140 cheese plants and 11,000 dairy farms.  In total, our state produces over 600 varieties of cheese!
 
Events are continuing all month to celebrate dairy products and those who contribute to this wonderful industry.   For more information and to check for June Dairy Month events in your area please visit www.dairydaysofsummer.com and help celebrate Wisconsin’s strong tradition of dairy products!

6/6: Spare Key Expands to Wisconsin

Spare Key, a Minnesota-based non-profit that has made mortgage payments for Minnesota families since 1997, has expanded to Wisconsin.  Spare Key makes mortgage payments for families whose child is seriously ill or critically injured and in the hospital. 
 
Since it was founded, Spare Key has made mortgage payments for more than 1,500 families totaling nearly $1.6 million.  Executive Director Erich Mische said northern Wisconsin will be the first part of the state to benefit from the expansion. 
 
If your family or a family you know may qualify and benefit from this program, visit www.sparekey.org for more information and application details.
  

6/4: Bill to Make No Call List Permanent and Prohibit Robocalls Advances

Legislation I have authored to make the No Call List permanent and prohibit robocalls for those registered on the no call list passed out of the Senate Committee on Energy, Consumer Protection, and Government Reform on a unanimous 5-0 vote last week.  Senate Bill 97 (SB 97) would remove the current requirement for Wisconsin residents to sign-up for the No Call List every two years by adopting the federal No Call List in Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) would still be responsible for investigating complaints and enforcing state laws relating to telemarketing calls.  In addition, SB 97 would prohibit robocalls to those on the No Call List with very limited exceptions such as school and emergency notification messages.  The bill is now available to be taken up by the full State Senate.  Find out more about this legislation at here.

6/17: 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.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
May

5/31: Free Fun at State Parks This Weekend

This weekend, June 1-2nd, enjoy Wisconsin’s great outdoors by visiting a Wisconsin State Park for free.  Fish in any of Wisconsin’s beautiful lakes without worrying about a license, or hike on one of our gorgeous state trails free of charge.  This is a great family-friendly opportunity to experience all Wisconsin has to offer.
 
Visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) website for a complete list dates and activities. There you can also find a map of all the free activities going on around the state and find a park to enjoy near you.

5/20: St. Croix Crossing Bridge Project Public Open Houses

The St. Croix Crossing Bridge project team is hosting a series of open houses which includes two in Wisconsin.  At the open houses, representatives from the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation will be able to explain the project, answer questions and receive input from area residents and local businesses.
 
Wisconsin Open Houses:
May 21, 5:00 – 7:00 pm
Hudson High School Cafeteria
1501 Vine Street, Hudson
 
June 4, 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Holton Elementary School
70 County Hwy E, Houlton
 
The St. Croix Crossing Project Office, located at 1862 Greeley St. in Stillwater, is open to the public from 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, with extended office hours on Tuesdays until 6:30 p.m.
Visit www.mndot.gov/stcroixcrossing and the St. Croix Crossing Facebook page at   www.facebook.com/saintcroixcrossingmndot for more information about the project. 

5/15: Watch St. Croix River Crossing Progress Online

Construction has begun for the new St. Croix River Crossing and you can watch it live on the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s website here.  MNDOT has set up a webcam for the public to view the work on this project as it proceeds.  Part of the construction this month includes clearing the property adjacent to Minnesota Highway 95 in Oak Park Heights. 
 
An office has been set up in Stillwater for DOT and contractors working on the St. Croix River Crossing.  The public is welcome to visit during office hours, which have been extended on Tuesdays to answer questions about the project.  The office is open 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m Monday – Friday and 7 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays at 1862 Greeley Street, Stillwater.  You may also call 855-GO-CROIX with any questions you may have on the project.

5/9: Stay Updated for Summer Travel

With summer around the corner, it’s a great time to visit the Wisconsin 511 website for the latest travel information at: www.511wi.gov.  The website provides updates on travel conditions across the state, road construction projects and traffic information.  By signing up for the free My511 service, you can create an account that will send you updates on regular routes you travel.  You may also receive updates by dialing 511 from your mobile or landline phone.  Wisconsin 511 is a valuable resource as you travel across the state in the coming months.

5/7: New Council on Workforce Investment

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5/3: DNR Green Tier Program is Growing

Wisconsin’s Green Tier is an innovative environmental program that takes a cooperative approach to our state’s regulatory climate to enhance environmental performance and lower costs for job providers.  Green Tier is a voluntary program for businesses that recognizes and rewards environmental performance.  This program provides an opportunity for Wisconsin businesses to gain regulatory flexibility while encouraging exceptional environmental practices.  Green Tier is helping businesses make not only a difference environmentally, but it is also helping make a difference in their bottom line.
 
Participation in the Green Tier Program is growing, including several businesses in our area.  The DNR announced this week that Phillips Medisize’s Design and Development Center in Hudson is the latest firm in western Wisconsin to apply to this program.  If approved, the Design and Development Center would join other Phillips facilities in New Richmond and Menomonie that are already certified under Green Tier. 
 
Other area businesses participating include Bosch Packaging, Donaldson Company, Federal Foam Technologies, and the Wisconsin Industrial Sand Company.
 
For more information on the Green Tier program please visit the DNR’s website at www.greentier.wi.gov.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
April

4/30: County Veterans Service Officers are a Local Resource

County Veterans Service Officers (CVSO) are valuable resources that offer assistance and information on Wisconsin’s veteran programs.  Your local CVSO is available to answer questions about federal and state veterans benefits including burial honors, education benefits, and veterans homes, and to assist in obtaining additional information on behalf of veterans.
 
For more information regarding programs and the addresses of your nearest county veterans service office, please visit www.wicvso.org or contact your local CVSO.
 
The CVSOs serving the 10th Senate District are:
Burnett County: Doug Stubbe, 715-349-2179, dstubbe@burnettcounty.org
St. Croix County: Merlin Blaisdell, 715-386-4757, merlin.blaisdell@co.saint-croix.wi.us
Dunn County: Greg Quinn, 715-232-1646, gquinn@co.dunn.wi.us
Pierce County: David Till, 715-273-6753, david.till@co.pierce.wi.us
Polk County: Rick Gates, 715-485-9243, cvso@co.polk.wi.us

4/15: Work-share Program Approved

The Senate passed work-share legislation last week that seeks to provide flexibility to employers and help keep workers on the job during challenging economic times.

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

AB 15 previously passed the State Assembly on a bipartisan vote and now goes to the Governor for his signature. Wisconsin would join 24 other states that have work-share programs if the bill is signed by the Governor.
 

4/8: Beware of Scams Targeting Babysitters

The state’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, which regulates unfair business practices, recently advised people to be careful of fake check scams targeted at babysitters.
 
Consider the following scenario: A babysitter replies to an online job posting, which says the family is moving to the area from out of state in a few weeks and wants to line up a babysitter.  The prospective babysitter and the client discuss details via email.  The babysitter will be paid $400 per week.  The client sends an initial check for $1,800 and instructs the babysitter to cash the check, keep $400 for the first week’s pay, and wire transfer the remaining balance back.
 
The babysitter in this scenario has been subject to a scam involving a bad check and will be liable for the total amount of the check plus any penalties.  The Bureau of Consumer Protection provides the following tips to avoid falling prey to a check cashing scam:
  • Scammers often ask you to send back funds by wire, often overseas.  Wire transfers are like handing over cash—once the transfer is sent, it is nearly impossible to get the money back.
  • There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire it back. 
  • Oftentimes, fake checks can look real, which can lead to the delay time between when a victim cashes a check and when the bank realizes that it is fraudulent.
  • You are responsible for the checks you deposit.  If you cash a bad check, you will be required to pay the bank back the total amount plus any penalties.  Do not take the risk of depositing a bad check from someone you do not know.
  • Scammers often claim to be in another country or to have difficulties with the English language, which gives them a reason to ask you to keep all communication in email or text messages.  Scammers may also have an “agent” that will assist in the transaction, either by sending a bad check or by receiving the excess funds.
Please contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection for additional information or to file a complaint if you feel you have been subject to a scam.  The Bureau of Consumer Protection may be reached at 1-800-422-7128, by email at datcphotline@wi.gov or online at http://datcp.wisconsin.gov.   

4/1: Subscribe to DNR Outdoor Report

Sign up for notifications from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to get the latest updates and news on current fishing activities, wildlife observations, and state park events by region.  The DNR Outdoor Report is updated and posted every Thursday.
 
To subscribe to the free Outdoor Report, please visit https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/WIDNR/subscriber/new?pop=t or to review past Outdoor Reports, visit the DNR’s archive at http://dnr.wi.gov/news/or/.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
March

3/15: OpenBook Wisconsin to be Launched

This week marks the nationwide recognition of Sunshine Week, which highlights open, transparent government and public access.  This spring, Wisconsin plans to launch its spending disclosure website called OpenBook Wisconsin. This website is part of the on-going effort to make state government more transparent for citizens.
 
OpenBook Wisconsin will give citizens easy access to State of Wisconsin expenditures, or the amount of money Wisconsin spends to do business.  It will include payments Wisconsin has made for purchasing goods or services.  You will be able to search the website database by state agency, expense category, and vendor by fiscal year.  At the launch of the website, the database will include information beginning with the fiscal year 2008 through the most current month.  There are future phases planned to include more information in the coming months, such as employee salary data, grants that have been awarded, and contracts that state agencies have with vendors.
 
The Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) is overseeing this project.  Please visit their website at www.doa.state.wi.us for more information as OpenBook Wisconsin goes live in the coming weeks.

3/11: Openings for the Profitable Sustainability Initiative

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) still has openings for manufacturers to participate in the Profitable Sustainability Initiative (PSI).  The program is designed to assist small to midsized manufacturers develop sustainable practices to help increase the manufacturers’ productivity, competitiveness, and profitability. 
 
Manufacturing is a key industry throughout the state, and Wisconsin has been a leader nationwide in sustainable manufacturing.  PSI helps manufacturers work with energy specialists, lean and finance experts, environmental consultants, and professionals skilled in logistics to implement efficiencies in the participant’s business plan.    
 
The Northwest Wisconsin Manufacturing Outreach Center (NWMOC) and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership manage this program.  Any manufacturer interested in applying to PSI may contact Ted Theyerl, the PSI Project Manager at NWMOC, at 715.874.4658 or theyerlt@uwstout.edu.  

3/6: Wisconsin Ag Exports at Record High

Wisconsin is well known for its strong agricultural heritage and agriculture continues to be one of the state’s largest industries.  Fittingly, the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) recently announced that 2012 was a record-setting year for Wisconsin’s agricultural exports.  Wisconsin exported over $2.9 billion worth of agricultural products last year to 149 countries, which was a 3% increase over 2011. 
 
After a record year of ag exports, Wisconsin is now ranked 13th in the nation for the value of ag exports, which is up from 16th in 2011.  Wisconsin exported the most to Canada, Mexico, China, Korea, and Japan.  Wisconsin’s most valuable ag export was the category including ethanol.  Wisconsin’s second most valuable ag export was miscellaneous food, which includes sauces, yeasts, and mustards.  Dairy-related products, including eggs, cheese, and honey, were the state’s third most valuable export.  Baking-related items, such as malt extract, dough, and pastry mixes, ranked fourth and preserved foods, including sweet corn, potatoes, cranberries, and cranberry juice, ranked fifth as most valuable ag exports. 
 
As Wisconsin continues to increase its ag exports in international markets, ag products and the ag industry continue to be an important part of our state’s economy.  According to a report done by UW-Extension, agriculture generates more than $59.6 billion in economic impact to the state each year.   Additionally, the ag industry supports over 350,000 jobs in Wisconsin, which accounts for 1 out of every 10 workers.
 
Any Wisconsin agribusiness that would like additional information about exporting ag products may contact DATCP’s International Trade Team at 1.800.462.5237 or international@wisconsin.gov.

3/1: Opportunity to Create a Farm to School Site

In partnership with the AmeriCorps Farm to School program, the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is now accepting applications to be an AmeriCorps Farm to School site for the 2013-2014 school year. 
 
Two goals of the program are promoting healthy eating habits and increasing access to local foods in schools.  Host sites for the AmeriCorps Farm to School Program can be a non-profit organization, state agency, university, school, school district or group of schools. Each site must have a letter of support from the schools it will serve. New sites will begin August 15.
 
Each site receives at least two half-time AmeriCorps members. One will focus on community outreach, connecting schools to farmers and the community.  A second will be a nutrition education member that will implement educational activities within the school.
 
Sites must be able to provide support to their AmeriCorps members, help create a local Farm to School task force in their community, complete pre and post evaluations of the program, and provide matching funds for operating expenses of the program.
 
The application is due to DATCP by April 26.  Applicants are highly encouraged to complete a notice of intent to apply by March 17 to assist with program planning.
To receive an application, visit http://datcp.wi.gov/Business/Buy_Local_Buy_Wisconsin/Farm_to_School_Program. For more information, contact DATCP’s Camilla Vargas at 608-224-5017 or camilla.vargas@wi.gov.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
February

2/21: Clean Water Legislation Advances

Legislation that I have authored to aid municipalities in completing water infrastructure projects was approved this week by the State Senate.  Senate Bill 10 (SB 10) would bring Wisconsin state law in compliance with recent changes to federal law relating to the Clean Water Program and the Safe Drinking Water Program. 
 
SB 10 will enable 20 communities around the state to benefit from these programs this year by receiving up to $500,000 in assistance for local infrastructure projects.  Communities affected this year in our region include St. Croix Falls, Luck, and Webster.
 
Additionally, SB 10 provides the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with flexibility to fund innovative pilot project by removing current limitations on the types of projects the DNR can fund.  This will benefit communities by giving them the ability to put in place more cost-effective projects for meeting water quality standards.  This has the potential to save municipalities’ taxpayer dollars as they upgrade their waste water and drinking water systems.

2/15: Applicants Sought for Student Representative on the UW Board of Regents

The Governor has announced he is seeking applicants for the student representative on the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.  Students willing to serve a two-year term that are over the age of 18, enrolled at least half-time in a University of Wisconsin institution, in good academic standing, a Wisconsin resident, and would be enrolled for their entire term are encouraged to apply.  Please note that due to UW-Madison and UW-Parkside having been recently represented on the board, no applications will be accepted from these institutions.
 
The Board of Regents is responsible for establishing policies and rules for governing the University of Wisconsin System, planning to meet future state needs for higher education, setting admission standards and policies, as well as reviewing and approving university budgets.  Regents are charged with establishing the regulatory framework within which the individual campuses are allowed to operate with as great a degree of autonomy as possible.  Board members attend eight regular meetings per year, serve on special committees, serve as liaisons with at least two UW institutions, and perform related duties.
 
The deadline for submitting application materials is noon on Wednesday, February 20, 2013.  Potential applicants with questions about the appointments process may contact the Governor’s appointment director, Eric Esser, at 608-266-1212 or visit the Governor’s website at www.walker.wi.gov.

2/8: DOT Schedules Public Meeting for Improvements to WIS 35 and WIS 70 Intersection in Burnett County

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Northwest Region has scheduled a public information meeting on February 21 from 5-7 p.m. at the Burnett County Government Center to discuss the proposed improvements to the intersection of WIS 35 and WIS 70 in Burnett County. The meeting will follow an open house format with a brief project overview presentation at 5:30 p.m. 
 
The public is encouraged to attend the meeting, provide input, and ask questions concerning this project.  Maps showing the proposed improvement alternatives will be on display.  WisDOT representatives will be available to discuss the project on an individual basis.
 
If you are unable to attend the meeting or would like more information, those interested in this project can contact Diane Slick at (715) 395-3020.  Written comments regarding the project can also be mailed to Ms. Slick at the WisDOT Northwest Region office in Superior (1701 North 4th Street, Superior, WI 54880).

2/5: Capitol Phone Outage

Update: The State Capitol's phone service has been partially restored. Please continue to feel free to contact me either by phone or e-mail at sen.harsdorf@legis.wi.gov.
 
AT&T is experiencing a widespread telephone outage in the downtown Madison area.  As a result, there are reported phone line problems at the following state facilities:  Department of Human Services, Risser Justice Center, and the State Capitol.  AT&T is working to restore telephone connectivity.  During the outage, please contact my office by email at Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wi.gov.  If you are unable to e-mail, the voicemail system is working and you can call and leave a message on my voicemail.  The voicemail is checked regularly and my office will be in contact with you.  We apologize for the inconvenience and will post an update when phone service is restored.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
January

1/31: WisDOT Public Meeting

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) will be replacing the County T bridge over Interstate 94 and reconstructing the interchange and adjacent ramps in 2016. A park and ride lot will also be a part of the project. WisDOT is currently preparing and evaluating reconstruction plan alternatives and has scheduled a public meeting on Wednesday, February 6th. The public is encouraged to attend and share verbal or written comments or concerns about the project. Meeting details are as follows:
 
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
St. Croix Central Middle School Small Gym
1295 Vine Street
Hammond, WI 54015
5:30-7:30 Open House
6:00 Presentation
 
The meeting will be organized in an open house format with a variety of exhibits and maps for review. Information presented at the meeting will include current project area issues, drawings of proposed alternatives and improvements, and the project schedule. Project staff will be available to answer questions throughout the evening.
 
Anyone unable to attend the meeting can provide comments to:
 
Tara Weiss
Project Manager—WisDOT Northwest Region
718 W. Claremont Avenue
Eau Claire, WI 54701
Phone: 715.836.2283
 

1/16: DOT Schedules Public Meeting on I-94 Study

The Department of Transportation has scheduled an informational meeting to update the public on a study of Interstate 94 between Roberts and Hudson.  The study is reviewing the need for improvements and possible expansion of the Interstate from the US Highway 12 interchange to two miles east of the State Road 65 interchange.
 
The Department is encouraging individuals to attend the meeting for more information on the study and to provide their input.  The meeting will be held on January 22nd from 5:00-7:00 in Roberts at the Community Park Building, which is located at 312 North Park Street.  Comments can also be submitted to Mr. Jim Koenig by phone at 715-838-8391 or by mail at WisDOT Northwest Region, 718 W. Clairemont Avenue, Eau Claire, WI 54701.

1/9: Watch Out for Red Flags When Purchasing Football Tickets

As football fans are buying, selling and showing off their postseason football tickets there are some important tips to remember:
 
  Avoid fraud by purchasing tickets through the NFL-sanctioned ticket    exchange or a third-party exchange that will guarantee the validity of tickets.
 
•  If you post a picture of your ticket on a social networking site make sure you blur out the barcode on the ticket to avoid a scammer stealing the information to create a fake ticket.
 
  Avoid buying tickets from anyone on the street or near the venue.  They are more likely to be stolen or counterfeit tickets.
 
  As potential protection in case the tickets you purchased do not arrive, it is best to use a credit card when buying your tickets.  However, make sure the seller is legitimate before providing your credit card information.
 
If you believe you have been involved in a scam please contact the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection at 800-422-7128 to file a consumer complaint, send an email to: datcphotline@wisconsin.gov, or visit:  http://datcp.wi.gov/Consumer/Consumer_Complaints/index.aspx
 collapse  
ArticleYear:
2012
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
December

12/21: Be Careful of Scholarship and Financial Aid Scams

As students look for ways of helping meet their financial obligations with rising tuition costs, they need to be cautious of scholarship and financial aid scams.  Some of these scams include guaranteeing students award money and often require paying a fee to apply for financial aid.  Below are some key words that should raise red flags as to the legitimacy of an offer:
 
             The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back."
             "You can't get this information anywhere else."
             "I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship."
             "We'll do all the work. You just pay a processing fee."
             "The scholarship will cost some money."
             "You've been selected" by a "national foundation" to receive a scholarship – or "You're a finalist" in a contest you never entered.
 
The only application that will determine eligibility for all financial aid programs is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  You can complete the FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov and learn about other FAFSA filing options at www.fafsa.ed.gov/options.htm.  You also can call 1-800-4-FED-AID. 
 
If you believe you have been involved in a scam please contact the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection at 800-422-7128 to file a consumer complaint or visit:   http://datcp.wi.gov/Consumer/Consumer_Complaints/index.aspx.
 

12/11: 2013 Wisconsin State Park Stickers Now Available

The 2013 annual vehicle admission stickers and state trails passes are now for sale at all state park facilities and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) service centers statewide.  Starting December 1st state parks will honor 2013 stickers for park admissions.  The cost for an admission sticker is $25 for Wisconsin residents and $35 for nonresidents.  Families with more than one vehicle may purchase an additional state park sticker for half the price, while the cost for Wisconsin residents 65 years of age or older is $10.  Trail passes are required for those who are 16 and older for biking, in-line skating, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, or off-highway motorcycling on monitored state trails and are available at the cost of $20 per individual.
 
For more information please contact the DNR Customer Service at 1-888-936-7463 or visit http://dnr.wi.gov/news/Weekly/Article_Lookup.asp?id=2405.
 

12/3: Executive Residence to Hold Holiday Tours

The 2012 holiday tour of the Executive Residence will allow the public to tour the inside of the executive residence.  During the tour, guests will have the opportunity to view rooms on the first floor, as well as hear brief descriptions about the holiday decor including six different Christmas trees.
 
2012 Holiday Tour Schedule
Wednesday, December 5: Noon- 2 p.m.
Thursday, December 6: Noon- 2 p.m.
Saturday, December 8: 10 a.m. - Noon
Wednesday, December 12: Noon- 2 p.m.
Thursday, December 13: Noon- 2 p.m.
Saturday, December 15: Noon- 2 p.m.
 
Admission is free, but all tour participants are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items that will be donated to Second Harvest Foodbank.
 
For more information please visit:
 
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
November

11/28: Wisconsin Ranks 13th in Site Selection List of Top U.S. Business Climates

Wisconsin was recently ranked 13th in Site Selection magazine’s list of “top U.S. Business Climates” for 2012.  Site Selection’s ranking is split between a survey of corporate site selectors and five different criteria, including analysis of state tax burdens on mature and new firms.  This ranking provides another example of Wisconsin’s progress in encouraging job creation by making our state a great place to start and expand businesses.
 
For more information on Site Selection’s list please visit: www.siteselection.com/issues/2012/nov/top-business-climates.cfm
 

11/21: Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a special time to give thanks for our many blessings, as well as being with family and friends. 
 
ReadyWisconsin encourages you to consider the following safety tips when traveling for the holidays:
 
                        -Check road conditions before you go anywhere
                        -Make sure to have plenty of gas
                        -Keep a winter emergency kit in your vehicle
 
And for safety tips when cooking the turkey or other family favorites remember:
 
                            -Make sure all stoves, ovens and ranges are turned off while unattended
                      -Follow all manufacturer guidelines for appliances
                      -Keep flammable items away from your stovetop
 
For more Thanksgiving safety tips, please visit: http://ReadyWisconsin.wi.gov
 
Have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

11/14: Help Decorate the Capitol Christmas Tree

Governor Walker has invited youth from across the state to help decorate this year’s State Capitol Christmas Tree by submitting their homemade ornaments.  The ornaments should be decorated to the theme of In Wisconsin symbolizing what it means to live in Wisconsin.  Some examples include dairy products and Harley Davidson motorcycles.   Ornaments should be made with non-breakable material, 4-6 inches in size and from a color that contrasts the color from the tree so they can be seen by visitors.  Ornaments should be submitted by November 16th and sent to the following address:
                                                                                                                 
Office of Governor Scott Walker
ATTN: ORNAMENTS
115 East Capitol
Madison, WI 53702
 
 
Questions can be directed to the Wisconsin Department of Administration call center at (608)-266.1485.

11/8: Grow Wisconsin Dairy 30x20 Initiative

The Grow Wisconsin Dairy 30x20 Initiative that was approved as part of the last two-year state budget establishing the goal of increasing annual milk production to 30 billion pounds by 2020.  The 30x20 Initiative is intended to respond to the growing demands of the marketplace and improve the long-term viability of Wisconsin’s dairy industry.  It is interesting to note that Wisconsin’s dairy industry has an economic impact twice as large as the citrus industry’s impact on Florida.  In March, Grow Wisconsin began to offer grants to producers interested in improving profitability and developing and growing their business and improving profitability.  These grants are customized to meet the needs of individual farms.
 
To learn more about the 30x20 Initiative or to apply for a Grow Wisconsin Grant please visit: www.GrowWisconsinDairy.wi.gov
 
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
October

10/25: UW-Stout receives Educational Diversity Award

Later this month the University of Wisconsin-Stout will receive the Ann Lydecker Educational Diversity Award by the Wisconsin State Council on Affirmative Action at the State Capitol.  The award honors UW-Stout’s efforts to blend diversity-based concepts into its curriculum in an attempt to increase the retention rate of a diverse student population.  Staff and faculty have worked to gain a better understanding of an inclusive curriculum as well as developing and strengthening their curriculums to include diversity concepts.  The award is named in honor of Ann Lydecker, who was chancellor at UW-River Falls when she was tragically lost in a car accident in 2004.
 
Congratulations to UW-Stout on receiving this award!

10/22: Information Sessions on Managed Care Organization Transition

The Department of Health Services (DHS) recently announced that Southwest Family Care Alliance will be the preferred managed care provider for our region starting January 1, 2013.  In an effort to ensure a smooth transition from CHP to Southwest, the Department is holding a number of informational sessions in our area for participating individuals and families, as well as providers. Dates and times for informational sessions in our area are listed below.  To find the complete listing of scheduled sessions please visit http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/News/PressReleases/2012/101912a.htm.
 
Information Session for members, families and guardians:
  
Tuesday October 23, 2012                                         Wednesday, October 24
2:00 -4:00 PM or 6:00 – 8:00 PM                               9:30- 11:30 AM or 6:00 – 8:00 PM
River Falls Public Library                                           Dunn County Government Center
Lower Level Community Room                                   Room 122/124
140 Union Street                                                          800 Wilson Avenue
River Falls WI, 54022                                                 Menomonie, WI 54751
 
Tuesday, October 30                                                   Thursday, November 1, 2012
2:00 – 4.00 PM or 6:00 – 8:00 PM                            1:00 – 3:00 PM
St. Croix Government Center                                     Dunn County Government Center
Lower Level Community Room                                  Room 1224/124
1101 Carmichael Road                                              800 Wilson Ave
Hudson, WI 54016                                                      Menomonie, WI 54751
 
 
Information Session for Providers:
 
 
Wednesday, October 24, 2012                                 Tuesday, October 30, 2012
9:30 -11:30 AM                                                            9:30 – 11:30 AM
Dunn County Government Center                             St. Croix County Government Center
Room 1224/124                                                          Lower Level Community Room
800 Wilson Avenue                                                    1101 Carmichael Road
Menomonie, WI 54751                                              Hudson, WI 54016
                                   
 

10/18: Wisconsin SeniorCare Application Moves Forward

Earlier this week the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced that Wisconsin’s SeniorCare application has met the requirements to be considered a complete application and will be moving forward to the next phase of the approval process.  The application is now in a 30-day federal comment period that will end on November 8th.  During the federal comment period the public and stakeholders can submit comments to the federal government in regards to the application. 
 
For more information regarding SeniorCare, call the SeniorCare hotline at (800) 657-2038 or visit: http://dhs.wisconsin.gov/seniorcare 
 
 

10/10: Raising Awareness about Rabies Prevention

With the changing of seasons it is important to take the proper steps to minimize potential exposure to rabies.  There are eight different bat species in Wisconsin that often seek out man-made structures for their homes in cold weather.  About 3 to 4 percent of bats tested by the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene are infected with rabies, which can be spread to other wild animals.  Rabies is a 100% curable human disease if treated with prompt appropriate medical care.
 
Here are some helpful tips to minimize the exposure to rabies:
  • Vaccinate pet dogs, cats, ferrets and livestock for rabies.
  • Comply with leash laws and contact local animal shelter associations if help is needed to find homes for stray dogs and cats.
  • Stay away from all wild animals, especially those acting abnormally.
  • Teach children not to approach any unfamiliar animals.
  • Do not keep exotic or wild animals as pets.
  • Keep screens in good repair and close any small opening bats could enter.
  • Individuals traveling to developing countries where rabies is highly prevalent, or who are at ongoing risk of possible rabies exposure, such as veterinarians and animal control officers, should ask their doctor about receiving pre-exposure rabies vaccinations.
 

10/3: St. Croix Falls Named one of Five Towns Terrific for Fall

St. Croix Falls was named one of the Five Towns Terrific for Fall by Travel Wisconsin.  While St. Croix Falls and Northwest Wisconsin is home to many beautiful seasonal attractions, Travel Wisconsin highlights Chateau St. Croix, Grecco’s and Wissahickon Farms Country Inn as some of the best places to visit this fall.  Travel Wisconsin also provides a list of events and festivals  like the St. Croix Falls Autumn Fest on October 6th.
 
For a full list of events please visit www.travelwisconsin.com/fairs_and_Festivals.aspx
 
 
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
September

9/27: DNR Announces Changes to ATV and UTV Requirements

Several changes to the registration and regulation of all terrain (ATV) and utility terrain vehicles (UTV) that were enacted this legislative session recently took effect.  ATVs and UTVs now must have a registration ID plate and display it on the rear of the machine if it is registered for public use.  Vehicles used for private or agricultural use are not required to display a rear ID plate.  Enforcing the ID plate will help with identification of the ATV or UTV in situations such as theft, complaints and questions about trail use or operation.  Other significant changes include:
 
-          UTVs will follow nearly all the ATV laws (such as snow removal), except where specifically referenced
-          UTVs will have a specific UTV registration decal
-          A new 5-day ATV and UTV non-resident trail pass
-          Registrations and annual trail passes will expire on March 31
-          A late fee will be assessed for customers renewing their registration after the expiration date
-          UTV operators using the trails will have to be at least 16 years old and have     graduated from ATV Safety Course
-          UTV passengers may not ride in the vehicle’s bed
 
To find out more information please visit: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/atv.

9/24: New Law Expands Use of Crossbow for Hunting Season

A new law relating to the use of crossbows for hunting, 2011 Wisconsin Act 252,  will go into effect this fall to allow resident, non-resident and youth hunters to have a choice to use either a crossbow, a bow and arrow or a firearm during an open firearm hunting season.  For open bowhunting seasons, current law is maintained that only hunters that are at least 65 years old or possess a disabled hunting permit may use a crossbow.  2011 Act 252 will expand opportunities for hunters of all ages this fall.
 
To access the application for a Crossbow permit or for more information, please visit: www.dnr.wi.gov

9/13: Wisconsin Fall Color Report App Launched

With the fall season quickly approaching, Travel Wisconsin has  launched a new website that allows Wisconsinites to track the changing colors this fall.  This is a great way to get outside and enjoy the colorful, scenic Wisconsin forests.  Travel Wisconsin also provides information on a number of festivals and suggestions for trips to take around the state.
 
To access this new app please visit http://www.travelwisconsin.com/fall-color-report
 

9/6: UW-River Falls named a Best in the Midwest College

The Princeton Review recently named the University of Wisconsin-River Falls one of the best colleges in the Midwest.  UW-River Falls was among 153 institutions that were chosen to be recognized and featured on The Princeton Review website as one of the best universities to earn an undergraduate degree.  The decision was based on institutional data collected directly from the schools, visitors, staff opinions, recommendations from counselors and advisors and most importantly the student’s experiences on campus.  UW-River Falls was noted for a friendly atmosphere as well as small and personal classes, and the ideal location of the university.
 
Congratulations UW-River Falls on this distinguished honor.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
August

8/28: Wisconsin Office of State Treasurer assists Wisconsin Residents at Wisconsin State Fair

The Office of the State Treasurer was able to help over 500 Wisconsin residents claim over $75,000 in unclaimed property at the Wisconsin State Fair.  The Unclaimed Property Unit was also able to assist residents at the Washington, Fond du Lac and Dodge County Fairs.  There is still more than $400 million in unclaimed assets being held by the State Treasury, which is comprised of forgotten paychecks, bank accounts and stocks, insurance premium overpayments, utility deposits, and abandoned safe deposit boxes.  For more information or to see if you have unclaimed property, please visit www.statetreasury.wisconsin.gov.
 

8/24: Help Decorate Wisconsin's National Christmas Tree Display

Again this year, the Governor will be selecting a professional artist to work with Wisconsin youth to create ornaments to be displayed on Wisconsin’s national Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C.  In keeping with the Year of the Veteran, a randomly selected artist will be paired with a group of children who have family members currently serving in the military or are veterans to decorate Wisconsin’s national Christmas Tree.  The Governor is now accepting applications from artists and those interested should send the following information to govpress@wisconsin.gov by August 31st.
 
Name of artist/art teacher
Email
Phone number
Mailing address
Brief description of artistic background and training

8/22: Wisconsin Exports Increase in First Half of the Year

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) both recently released figures showing Wisconsin’s growth in exports for the first half of the year.  DACTP reported that Wisconsin exported $1.5 billion worth of agriculture products to over 132 countries, an increase of 5% from 2011.  WEDC reported Wisconsin’s exports totaled $11.6 billion with increases in exports of industrial machinery, agricultural products, vehicles, and medical and scientific instruments.  Wisconsin’s total exports grew by 7.9% with industrial machinery leading as the top exported product, up 13% from 2011.

8/14: St. Croix Crossing Webcam

The first phase of the long anticipated St. Croix River Crossing is underway and the Minnesota Department of Transportation has installed a webcam that shows the load testing currently taking place.  This webcam will be active for the remainder of the project.  To see continued progress on the construction please visit http://www.dot.state.mn.us/stcroixcrossing/webcam.html.

8/2: St. Croix River Crossing Load Tests Move Forward

The Wisconsin and Minnesota Departments of Transportation recently provided a tour of the load tests currently being conducted in the St. Croix River south of the current Stillwater lift bridge.  The purpose of the load tests is to gather data for the design of the new bridge’s foundations. 
 
Drilled shafts are being installed over 100 feet beneath the water’s surface to reach sandstone that will serve as the base for the foundations.  The load testing will cost $3.5 million, but is expected to reduce project costs by $10-15 million.  To find out more about the load testing and the St. Croix River Crossing project, visit www.mndot.gov/stcroixcrossing. 
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
July

7/25: Wisconsin Personal Income Up in 2011, Forecasted to Improve

The summer 2012 Wisconsin Economic Outlook Report by the Department of Revenue (DOR) shows that on average the personal income for Wisconsinites grew 5.2% in 2011, ahead of the national average.  Due to the personal income growth and other economic indicators, the DOR report predicts that Wisconsin’s economic turnaround will continue.  You can read the Department’s report at http://www.revenue.wi.gov/ra/econ/index.html.

7/13: Wisconsin Ranks 17th in CNBC’s “Top States for Business”

In the CNBC "Top States for Business" study released earlier this week, Wisconsin climbed eight spots to 17th.  This marks the highest rank Wisconsin has received since the start of the study in 2007; previously Wisconsin’s highest rank was 25th in 2011.  CNBC measures all 50 states in the following ten categories including; cost of doing business, workforce, quality of life, economy, infrastructure and transportation, technology and innovation, education, business friendly, access to capital, and cost of living.  Wisconsin improved to 6th in the category of infrastructure and transportation, 10th in education, 14th in quality of life, and 15th in cost of doing business.

7/5: Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s Tips to Beat the Heat and Save Energy

With above average temperatures this summer the PSC recently released some helpful tips for keeping utility bills low, some of which are listed below.  For more information about conserving energy, I encourage you to visit www.psc.wi.gov.

  • Check weather stripping and caulking for leaks around doors and windows.
  • Use a microwave oven or cook outside instead of using the stove or oven.
  • Use natural lighting and compact fluorescent light bulbs.  Ninety percent of the energy used by an incandescent bulb makes heat.
  • Close blinds and curtains on hot days.
  • Install white window shades or blinds to reflect heat away from your house.
  • For long-term cooling, plant trees/shrubs to shade your house.  Carefully positioned trees can save up to 25 percent of a typical household’s energy used for cooling.
  • Place your room air conditioner on the north side of the house.  A unit operating in the shade uses up to 10 percent less electricity than the same one operating in the sun.
  • Whole-house fans help cool your home by pulling air into the house and exhausting warm air through the attic.  Most effective when operated at night as the air is cooler outside than inside.
  • Use cold water for doing laundry and air dry clothes on clotheslines.
  • Unplug electronics like computers, televisions, and radios when not in use.
  • Clean and maintain your air conditioner often.  Make sure air filters, air intakes, grilles, and radiators are unblocked and clean at all times.  Clean dirt and leaves off coils on outdoor units.
  • When buying new appliances including air conditioners, look for those that are ENERGY STAR rated, which means they are more energy efficient than traditional appliances.

7/3: Have a Safe and Happy Independence Day!

The Fourth of July is upon us and from cookouts to parades to fireworks.  Americans across the country will be celebrating Independence Day.  Independence Day is a day to remember our founding fathers’ fight for freedom and the beginning of this great nation.  If you plan on lighting fireworks, please use caution and practice safety.  Keep in mind if children are near.  The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection provides the following safety tips while enjoying your celebrations.
 
  • Read and follow warnings and instructions on fireworks
  • Always have a responsible adult supervise children’s fireworks activities
  • Be sure people are out of range before lighting fireworks and do not point them at another person
  • Make sure to light fireworks on a flat surface free from flammable materials away from the house with a bucket of water handy in case of fire
 
We wish you a very happy and safe Independence Day!
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
June

6/29: Harsdorf Receives Arts in the Community Award

Last week, Senator Sheila Harsdorf was honored by Arts Wisconsin with the Arts in the Community Award.  This award is given to elected officials and civic leaders who support and recognize the importance of the arts and their impact to the economic, educational and civic vitality in our communities.  Harsdorf was honored to receive this award.

6/25: Work Begins on St. Croix River Crossing!

Great News!  After years of hard work and overcoming obstacles, initial work begins on the St. Croix River Crossing.  Crews will begin the load testing project which will document the riverbed stability and is expected to last until mid-August.  This process is crucial to the project as it provides information about soil conditions which will determine the design of the bridge’s foundation.  Actual construction on the bridge is scheduled to begin in 2014. 

6/21: Governor and UW System Announce Plans for UW Flexible Degree

This week Governor Walker and the UW System announced plans for a competency-based degree model that will transform higher education.  The model will allow students to demonstrate college-level competency based on material they have learned through a variety of ways be it in school, on the job or on their own.  This program provides a flexible and affordable way for individuals to enter into their careers faster.  For more information on this program please visit http://walker.wi.gov/Images/News/6.19.12%20UW%20Flexible%20Degree%20Proposal%20Packet.pdf.

6/13: Wisconsin Arts - Good for Our Quality of Life….Good for the Economy

Americans for the Arts in partnership with the Wisconsin Arts Board has conducted an economic impact study of the nonprofits arts and culture industry.  The study shows that Wisconsin’s arts and culture industry plays a significant role in Wisconsin’s economy, generating over 22,000 jobs and $65 million in local and state revenue.  For more information on arts and culture events around Wisconsin, please visit www.travelwisconsin.com or http://www.artswisconsin.org.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
May

5/30: DNR Announces June 2-3 as Free Fishing Weekend

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced that June 2-3 will be a free fishing weekend throughout the state of Wisconsin.  A fishing license, inland trout stamp or Great Lakes trout stamp will not be needed on these days, however rules regarding the number and size of fish that anglers can keep will still be enforced.  To find regulations in your area, please visit the DNR’s website at http://dnr.wi.gov and search “fishing regulations” or “find a lake.”  If you are new to fishing, the DNR will be providing free clinics as well as programs to borrow fishing gear.  For information on these clinics and where to borrow equipment please visit the DNR website at http://dnr.wi.gov/fish/kidsparents/freefishingweekend.html and http://dnr.wi.gov/fish/kidsparents/loanercontacts.html

5/25: Memorial Day - A Day to Remember Those Who Have Made the Ultimate Sacrifice

This Monday we will recognize our servicemen and women who have sacrificed their lives to protect our country and freedoms.  Memorial Day gives us the opportunity to honor and remember the men and women whose service has provided us with our liberty.  I encourage you to take time to attend a Memorial Day service in your area to honor our fallen heroes.  Have a safe holiday celebrating with family and friends!

5/22: State Employees Collect Cell Phones for Soldiers

Nearly 1,500 phones were collected by state employees for the Cell Phones for Soldiers Program.  This program is a charity that provides minutes of free talk time to service men and women stationed around the world.  The phones donated by state employees will provide over 3,600 hours of free communication for soldiers with loved ones back home.  Great job state employees….what a great way to say thank you to those who sacrifice everyday for our freedoms.  Please visit http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com/index.php for more information on this charity or to donate.

5/14: DNR Appoints Small Business Ombudsman

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has appointed Eileen Pierce as the Small Business Ombudsman.  Ms. Pierce will act as a liaison between the DNR and small businesses providing information and recommendations and in helping facilitate resolutions of disputes.  In keeping with the commitment to make Wisconsin open for business, the Governor has asked state agencies to examine existing rules and their impact on small businesses.  In one of her first duties, Ms. Pierce will begin working on this initiative.  Public input is vital to the success of this project and the DNR is soliciting input through an online survey.  You can log onto the DNR’s website now through May 31s to complete the survey at http://dnr.wi.gov/business/RulesReview.html. 

5/9: DHS Warns Against Tick-borne Diseases

The warm spring weather we have seen this year will mean more deer or blacklegged tick activity which could start earlier due to the mild winter.  The Department of Health Services (DHS) is urging people to take precautions against tick bites when spending time outdoors.  Here are some tips to prevent bites:
·         Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter
·         Use effective tick repellents and apply according to label instructions
·         Wear clothes that will help shield you from ticks
·         Check your body frequently and remove any ticks promptly
·         Remove attached ticks slowly and gently, using a pair of thin-bladed tweezers
·         Protect your pets from tick bites by checking them before allowing them inside
Infected deer ticks can carry diseases such as Lyme disease.  It is important to treat tick-borne diseases early.  Please visit, http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/communicable/TickBorne/index.htm for more information.

5/4: DOR Secretary Chandler to Address St. Croix EDC Board

On Tuesday, May 8, 2012, Department of Revenue (DOR) Secretary Richard Chandler will address the St. Croix Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Board.  Secretary Chandler will discuss the new pro-jobs state tax incentives, the administration’s initiatives to control property taxes and balance the state’s budget and plans to implement a broad-based job creation strategy.  There will be time for a question and answer session following his comments.  The meeting is open to the public and will take place in the County Board Room at the St. Croix County Government Center, 1101 Carmichael Road, Hudson, WI at 5:00 PM. 

5/1: May is Stroke Awareness Month

In an effort to bring greater awareness to identifying someone having a stroke, the American Heart Association has partnered with the American Stroke Association to proclaim May as Stroke Awareness Month.  Individuals of any age can have a stroke and responding quickly is critical.  It is estimated that every 40 seconds someone has a stroke. It is important to know the warning signs which include:
·         Numbness in arm, leg or face
·         Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
·         Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
·         Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
·         Severe headache with no known cause.
 
Remember to call 911 immediately if warning signs are present.  To learn more about strokes and prevention, please visit the American Stroke Association at www.storkeassociation.org.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
April

4/17: Governor Signs Livestock Registration Legislation

Governor Walker signed Senate Bill 396 which provides the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Protection (DATCP) funding to continue the livestock premises registration program.  DATCP will be able to ensure information collected through this program will remain available in case of an animal disease outbreak.

4/16: Wisconsin Deer Trustee to Hold Town Hall Meetings Across State

Dr. James Kroll, an expert appointed to study Wisconsin’s deer herd management practices, and the Wisconsin Conservation Congress will be holding six town hall meetings around the state this week to receive input from citizens, sportsmen and sportswomen to help improve Wisconsin’s deer management practices.  Two meetings scheduled closest to our region will be held in Hayward and Black River Falls.
 
Wednesday, April 18th from 7-10PM            
Hayward Intermediate School Gymnasium    
15930 West 5th Street                                    
Hayward, WI 54843
 
Thursday, April 19, 2012 from 7-10PM
Black River Falls Middle School, Lunda Theater
1202 Pierce Street
Black River Falls, WI 54615
 
For additional information on the deer management program or for these town hall meetings, please visit http://dnr.wi.gov.

4/6: April 8th-14th is National Library Week

​National Library Week is observed throughout the country to celebrate the contributions of libraries and to promote library use.  Libraries are a tremendous asset in our communities as they provide people of all ages access to books, magazines, videos and computers, as well as a variety of different services and programs.  For more information on what libraries have to offer or to find a library near your, please visit www.atyourlibrary.org.

 

 

 

 

 

4/4: St. Croix County Healthiest County in Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released their annual health rankings for 2012; ranking St. Croix County as the healthiest county in Wisconsin. Communities are assessed on a number of factors including overall health for each county, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. Congratulations to St. Croix County for your commitment to healthy living!
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
March

3/30: State Treasurer seeks to return unclaimed property

State Treasurer Kurt Schueller recently announced that the Office of the State Treasurer took in more than $39 million in unclaimed property in 2011.  Starting April 1st, residents can begin to search for their name to see if the office is holding unclaimed property submitted to the State Treasurer in 2011.  Individuals are encouraged to visit www.wismissingmoney.com or call 877-699-9211 to learn more and to find unclaimed property.

3/23: Funding Approved for Continuation of Livestock Premises Registration Program

​Senate Bill 396 provides the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) with funding to replace the loss of federal funds in order to continue the livestock premises registration program. DATCP can now ensure that information already collected through this program will remain available in case of an animal disease outbreak. This legislation passed both houses of the Legislature and will now go to the Governor for signing.

3/22: DNR urges caution with the return of wildfire season

​Due to the unseasonable warm weather and the low moisture conditions, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is requiring burning permits in DNR Protection areas. Permits are free and can be obtained from your local Emergency Fire Warden. Please contact 1-888-947-2876 or on the internet at http://dnr.wi.gov and enter the keyword "fire" to obtain a permit. Restrictions can change daily, so it is still necessary to call the toll-free number or visit the DNR website on the days you intend to burn to be advised of any restrictions, even if you already hold a permit. For more information please visit http://dnr.wi.gov.

3/14: President Obama Signs St. Croix River Crossing Bill!

Great news!!  President Obama signed the federal legislation authorizing the construction of a new St. Croix River Crossing on March 14th.  The bipartisan bill was passed by the U.S. Senate on a unanimous vote last month and by the U.S. House of Representatives on a 339-80 vote on March 1st.  The long-awaited project is supported by both Governors and all four U.S. Senators from Minnesota and Wisconsin, along with most members of Congress representing the region.  The new crossing will to improve the safety of motorists, relieve traffic congestion, and ensure timely delivery of emergency services.

3/8: Looking for love - Look out for online dating scams.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is warning consumers to protect themselves against "sweetheart scams", which are prevalent amongst online daters. These scams involve scammers starting relationships under fake profiles, building the trust of the victim and then using a "sob story" to convince their victims to give them money or personal information. Many times the money is requested as a wire transfer to another country.
Some tips from DATCP to keep your wallet safe from heartbreak:
Be aware if your online love interest:
-Asks you to leave the dating site and communicate by personal e-mail or instant messages
-Professes love for you in a heartbeat
-Requests that you send personal information including social security, bank account or credit card numbers
-Makes plans to visit but cancels due to a last-minute medical, financial or family emergency.
-Asks you to send money by wire transfer to someone you do not know or have not met in person.

To file a consumer complaint or for more information, visit Consumer Protection’s website at datcp.wisconsin.gov, send an e-mail to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov or call toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
February

2/10: Top Businesses of 2011 Named by St. Croix EDC

The St. Croix Economic Development Corporation named three businesses as recipients of their 2011 business of the year awards.  St. Croix EDC President Ryan Sicard said these businesses reflect the diversity of businesses in the county.  The businesses that are being honored are:
 
-Future Farm Food and Fuel, LLC located in rural Baldwin was named 2011 Emerging Business of the Year.  The business produces sustainable and locally grown food, fuel and natural fertilizer as well as provides consulting services to other dairy operations.
 
-Stevens Engineers of Hudson was named the 2011 Small Business of the Year.  For 39 years, Stevens has provided professional engineering and planning services to a wide-ranging group of clients in both the public and private sector.
 
-Sajan, Inc. in River Falls was named 2011 Business of the Year and is recognized as the leading global provider of cloud-based language translation services and software.  The founders of Sajan recognized the need for language translation in global commerce and also provide consulting and solution services to clients from a diverse set of industries. 

2/24: Over $4 million returned in unclaimed property

State Treasurer Kurt Schuller recently announced that over $4 million was returned in unclaimed property to residents of our state for the month of January.  This is the second highest month of returns in State Treasury history. 
 
To track the daily return rate or to see if you have any unclaimed property, go to www.wismissingmoney.com. 

2/2: Local businesswoman receives 2012 Trailblazer Award

LouAnne Berg, CEO of J&L Steel and Electrical Services, has been announced as a recipient of the 2012 Trailblazer Award.  This award recognizes women pioneers in the business community, who serve as role models and leaders while providing economic benefits to their communities.  It also honors the legacy of women-owned businesses in Wisconsin.  LouAnne's hard work, skill as a leader and business owner, as well as her contribution to the region, make her truly deserving of this special recognition.  For more information about the Trailblazer Awards or to nominate someone for next year’s awards, please visit http://womenscouncil.wi.gov. 
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
January

1/31: Wisconsin Heroes Awards

Wisconsin's First Lady Tonette Walker recently announced a new Wisconsin Heroes Award for individuals showing heroic and voluntary efforts in our state.  The Wisconsin Heroes Awards will be monthly series of awards designed to recognize and thank individuals throughout Wisconsin who positively impact the lives of their neighbors, community and the state. 
 
Anyone can nominate a state citizen for a Wisconsin Heroes Award.  For more information or to nominate a candidate, please go to: http://firstlady.wi.gov/heroes.

1/26: Statewide property taxes held in check

Due to the limits placed on property taxes in the budget bill passed last year, this year’s change in the statewide property tax levy was at the lowest level in 15 years.  According to estimates by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX), growth in statewide property taxes was held to 0.3% this year.  WISTAX cited the property tax freeze included in the 2011-2013 state budget as the primary reason for this positive news. 
 
Given that this number reflects a statewide average, there were some property owners that saw an actual reduction in their tax bill, while others saw an increase.  For those who have questions on how property taxes are levied in Wisconsin, the Department of Revenue's website has a section dedicated exclusively for inquiries on property taxes.  You can visit http://www.revenue.wi.gov/propertytax/ to access this information.

1/19: Drug Task Forces to receive $1 million in grants

The Office of Justice Assistance (OJA) has awarded over $1 million in federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) to eighteen drug task forces throughout the state.  This funding will support drug prosecutor and investigator positions, overtime for investigations and partial funding for Task Force Commanders.  Drug Task Forces focus on gangs, drugs, firearms as well as related criminal investigations. 
 
The St. Croix Valley Drug Task Force, which is made up of Pierce, Polk and St. Croix Counties, will receive $33,379 in federal grants.

1/13: Commission on Waste, Fraud, and Abuse report finds millions in savings

The Commission on Waste, Fraud, and Abuse recently released their final report, with recommendations that they believe could have a total annual savings to taxpayers of $445 million. The recommendations address both local and state government operations.  Already state agencies have started to implement some of the cost saving measures discussed by the Commission, including creating the Office of the Inspector General to address fraud in public assistance programs.
 
For more information on the Commission’s report or to view a full copy of the report, please go online to http://walker.wi.gov/section.asp?linkid=1727&locid=177.

1/10: DNR directed to implement state’s wolf management plan

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has removed wolves in Wisconsin from protection under the Endangered Species Act.  In response, the DNR has been ordered to begin implementing the state’s wolf management plan.  The DNR will start issuing permits on February 1st to landowners who document cases of depredation or harassment caused by wolves on their property. 
 
It's estimated that Wisconsin has almost 800 wolves, which exceeds the Wolf Management Plan goal of 350 and the federal recovery goal of 100 wolves for Wisconsin and Michigan.  For more information or to seek a permit, contact the DNR Call Center at 1-888-936-7463 or by email at csweb@wisconsin.gov or by online chat at http://dnr.wi.gov/contact.
 collapse  
ArticleYear:
2011
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
December

12/29: Executive Order expands child abuse reporting requirements

Governor Walker signed Executive Order #54, which extends the state’s mandatory reporting requirements on child abuse and neglect to employees of the University System.  This will help to strengthen Wisconsin’s laws protecting children, which require the reporting of any witnessed or suspected child abuse to the police.  University System employees will now be added to the list of mandatory reporters which includes health practitioners, social workers, law enforcement officers, child care providers, counselors, and school teachers and staff members.

12/23: DATCP - tips on making donations

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) warns consumers to be wary when making donations this holiday season, especially if contacted over the phone or internet.
 
Be sure to ask the caller about the organization, especially what their purpose and services are and if your donation is tax-deductible and if you’ll receive a receipt.  A legitimate charity or organization will be able to mail you information or send you to a website. 
 
Here are some consumer tips from DATCP:
 
·         Do not respond to unsolicited e-mails or texts, and do not give personal information to someone who contacts you via e-mail or text.
·         Donate to well-known charities that are trusted and established. Only make a donation when you initiate contact and know who you are talking to.
·         Do not feel pressured to make an immediate decision over the phone.
·         When online, do not click on pop-ups or links asking for donations.  These often lead to a fraudulent site.
·         Never write out a check or give cash to an individual solicitor. Only write checks out to the organization name or use a credit card.
·         Confirm the organization soliciting donations in Wisconsin is registered with the Department of Safety and Professional Services. These organizations are required to register, and consumers can search for them online at dsps.wi.gov.
Visit the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s website for more information or to file a consumer complaint at datcp.wisconsin.gov or by email at datcphotline@wisconsin.gov or call toll free at 1-800-422-7128.

12/20: Deadline coming up for Alice in Dairyland Applications

Alice in Dairyland has been the state’s agricultural ambassador for over sixty years.  The 65th Alice in Dairyland will be chosen in May 2012.  However, in order to be considered for this role, application materials must be submitted to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, January 13, 2012. 
 
For more information about Alice in Dairyland or the application, go online to datcp.wi.gov/Business/Alice_in_Dairyland.  You may also contact Nicole Breunig, the Alice in Dairyland Program Manager, at nicole.breunig@wisconsin.gov or 608-224-5080. 

12/15: DHS seeks extension of federal waiver in effort to maintain SeniorCare

The Department of Health Services (DHS) has requested an extension of the federal waiver for Wisconsin's SeniorCare program.  The waiver is set to expire on December 31st, 2012.
 
The waiver extension would allow Wisconsin to continue the SeniorCare program, which is a prescription drug assistance program that is more comprehensive and cost effective coverage than Medicare Part D.  SeniorCare has a $30 annual enrollment fee with copayments ranging from $5 to $15 with no gaps in coverage. 
 
SeniorCare saves taxpayer money and is less than half the cost of the Medicaid Part D program.  According to DHS, in 2010 the average annual federal cost per SeniorCare member was $509 while individuals enrolled in Medicaid Part D have an average cost of $1,484.
 
Senator Harsdorf has joined several of her legislative colleagues in signing onto a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services urging their extension of the federal waiver. 

12/13: Assistance Fraud and Abuse Hotline now available

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently released a new public assistance fraud hotline.  If you suspect fraudulent activity in public assistance programs, please call the toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-877-865-3432.  This will help to prevent waste, fraud and abuse and ensure that programs continue to be available for those in need.  The OIG investigates fraud tips for any type of public resources abuses, such as:
 
-Billing Medicaid for services/equipment not provided
-Filing a false application for a DHS-funded assistance program like Medicaid, BadgerCare Plus, WIC or FoodShare
-Trafficking of FoodShare benefits
-Crime/misconduct/mismanagement by a DHS employee/official or contractor

12/8: Governor signed SB 28 into law

On Tuesday the Governor was in Wausau to sign Senate Bill 28 (SB 28) into law, which will require the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents to include representation from across the state.  This bill will ensure that every Congressional district in Wisconsin would have at least one member on the Board.  SB 28 was co-authored by Senator Harsdorf and Representative Erik Severson.

12/2: Beware of health care scam targeting seniors

More senior citizens in northwest Wisconsin are notifying the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) about calls from scammers who pose as a Medicare or insurance company representative.  The scammer requests personal information like bank account numbers or Social Security numbers.  The DATCP offers five consumer tips to protect senior citizens:
 
-Be suspicious of anyone contacting you by phone, mail, or in person saying they are from Medicare. Call Medicare using the number on the back of your card to verify if the representative is legitimate.
 
-If someone says they represent Medicare and asks to verify your Social Security number, bank account number, address, or doctor, do not provide or confirm it. Never provide such information unless you made the initial contact and know whom you are dealing with.
 
-If someone calls asking for your bank account number to deposit a prescription drug refund because you have reached your threshold, do not provide it. Medicare would already have the information needed to send the check.
 
-Know what insurance forms you are signing and what charges you are authorizing. Keep accurate records, and know what services you are being charged for.
 
-Do not carry your Medicare or Medicaid card with you unless you need it for an appointment or trip to the pharmacy. Shred sensitive documents with Medicare or health insurance information after they are no longer useful.
 
 
Please contact the DATCP for more information or if you believe this scam has happened to you.  Their toll-free number is 1-800-422-7128 or you can email datcphotline@wisconsin.gov.

12/1: Capital Christmas Tree Ceremonies Announced

On Friday December 2nd, the Governor will light the Capitol Christmas Tree and dedicate it to Wisconsin Veterans.  The tree will be lit and dedicated at 8:15 with members from all branches of military services and veterans from several conflicts in attendance.  Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Scocos and Major General Dunbar will also be present to dedicate the tree.
 
At noon, the Gift of the Tree Celebration will begin with the High School Chamber Choir from the School District of Maple.  They will be accompanied by Senator Bob Jauch and Representative Nick Milroy.  Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp will give a history of the 36-foot balsam fir, which is a gift to the people of Wisconsin from the Brule River State Forest in northwest Wisconsin.  Secretary Stepp will also give a brief overview of forestry in Wisconsin.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
November

11/28: Executive Residence holiday tour schedule released

The Governor’s office recently announced the Executive Residence 2011 holiday tour schedule.  These tours will provide visitors with a history of the residence as well as a view of the first floor rooms.  Governor Walker and First Lady Tonette Walker have partnered with Second Harvest Foodbank and all participants are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to donate.  The Second Harvest Foodbank works on behalf of food pantries and several other hunger-relief programs in 16 southwestern counties. 
 
Please take the time to visit and tour the Executive Residence if you’re down in Madison during one of the tour dates.  Admission is free and groups of 20 must make a reservation by calling 608-246-5501 or emailing alicia.bork@wisconsin.gov.  The tour dates and times are below:
 
2011 Holiday Tour Schedule
 
Wednesday, December 7:  Noon - 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, December 8:  Noon - 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 10:  Noon - 2:00 p.m.
Wednesday, December 14:  Noon - 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, December 15:  Noon - 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 17:  Noon - 2:00 p.m.

11/21: More DMV services available online

The DMV is continuing to add online services to save customers time and increase flexibility.  Interest in online DMV services is growing and in response, DMV recently added several additional online services including:
 
  • Request driver and vehicle records
  • Check to see restricts/incidents against driver records
  • Availability of personalized license plates
  • Expansion of types of vehicles eligible for online registration renewal
For more information about online DMV services, visit the DOT website at http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/drivers/index.htm. 

11/17: Don’t forget about DNR Customer Service this hunting season

This is a reminder that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Call Center is open from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. seven days a week.  Whether you are deer hunting or curious about another DNR issue, feel free to call with any questions or concerns you may have at 1-888-936-7463.  They are also available by email at csweb@wisconsin.gov or by online chat at http://dnr.wi.gov/contact.  Be safe and have a successful hunt!

11/14: Legislation signed in time for deer season

The Governor recently signed into law Senate Bill 75 (SB 75), which eliminates the Earn-a-Buck program.  This repeal will be in effect for the fall hunting season.  Now hunters will no longer be required to kill an antlerless dear before killing their first antlered deer.  The bill still allows for the DNR to use an array of tools for herd control while making a practical change in response to hunter concerns.

11/7: Wisconsin Army National Guard completes their portion of storm cleanup

The Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 724th Engineer Battalion has completed their work on the storm cleanup project in Burnett and Douglas Counties in northern Wisconsin.  The project, named Operation Blue Ox, was completed by around 50 members of the 724th Engineer Battalion and covered almost 175 miles.  Starting September 6th, they worked to remove tree limbs from roadsides in order to address potential safety and fire hazards.  
 
While the members of the 724th Engineer Battalion have completed their part, cleanup efforts are far from over.  Landowners, state agency employees, local county and utility workers as well as loggers are still working hard to salvage and cleanup timber on their properties as well as address the impact on local roads due to the increase in timber harvest.  For more information about the cleanup efforts, the DNR offers helpful links and resources at http://dnr.wi.gov/forestry/stormRecovery/.

11/2: DOT warns drivers to watch out for winter weather

November may not be the official start of winter, but soon Wisconsin drivers will begin to experience winter weather.  Drivers will likely face ice, snow and limited visibility in the coming months as winter weather settles in for the rest of the season.  It is important that motorists remember to slow down as many crashes are caused by driving too fast for the conditions.   Drivers are also reminded to remove frost, snow and ice from their vehicle’s windows in order to improve visibility and safety.   The State Patrol also offers the following safety tips for winter weather driving:
 
·         Always wear your seatbelt, regardless of the distance. 
·         Watch for slippery bridge decks
·         Look farther ahead than you normally do.  Loss of traction and other actions by vehicles ahead of you will alert you sooner to upcoming slippery spots and other hazards
·         Brake early to account for longer stop times in adverse conditions
·         Do not pump anti-lock breaks, the correct braking method is to “stomp and steer”
·         Avoid cutting in front of large trucks
·         Leave plenty of room for snowplows.  By law, you must stay back at least 200 feet from the rear of a snowplow.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
October

10/26: Concealed carry website

The Department of Justice has created a public website with information about the new concealed carry law.  The site links to the rules describing permit and training requirements and applications.  It also provides a list of out-of-state licenses that will be recognized in Wisconsin.  The concealed carry law goes into effect on November 1st.  Make sure you’re informed and prepared by going to http://www.doj.state.wi.us/dles/cib/ConcealedCarry/ConcealedCarry.asp.

10/21: Openings on state boards, commissions and councils

If you’re interested in getting more involved in state issues and collaborating with citizens across the state, there are opportunities available on over 200 boards, councils and commissions.  The Governor’s office is looking for interested and enthusiastic candidates who want to serve and provide their input to help with policy-making, regulation and advocacy efforts.
 
This is your opportunity to have a direct effect on state issues that matter to you.  While our area is a long way from Madison, it is important to have geographical representation on these boards, commissions and councils.   If you would like more information or want to apply for a position, go online to: http://walker.wi.gov/category.asp?linkcatid=3564&linkid=1715&locid=177 . 

10/18: Operation Safe Driver program aims to avoid large-truck accidents

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced that Wisconsin will participate in Operation Safe Driver the week of October 16th trough the 22nd.  Operation Safe Driver is sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.  The mission of this program is to improve commercial motorist behavior and all other motorists’ habits and decision-making through increased traffic enforcement and education.
 
During this week, Wisconsin State Patrol inspectors and law enforcement officers will be tougher on commercial motorists found speeding, following too close, not obeying traffic signals and driving under the influence.  Commercial motor vehicle operators will also be checked for compliance with licensing regulations and requirements. This is Wisconsin’s tenth year participating in this program.  In 2010 the state saw a 36 percent reduction in large truck crashes when compared to 2000, and during that time large-truck crash fatalities fell 50 percent.  If you would like more information on this program, please contact State Patrol Lieutenant Patricia Hansen at 608-266-0094.

10/14: Judges needed for ‘Wisconsin YES!’ contest

Wisconsin Yes! is a statewide business plan contest for middle school and high school students and is molded after the Governor’s Business Plan Contest.  The goal of the Wisconsin Yes! contest is to teach students how to build plausible business plans that reflect the innovation in the fields of science and technology while encouraging entrepreneurship.
 
Judging this contest allows today’s business professionals and entrepreneurs the opportunity to help develop and encourage innovation in future business leaders and entrepreneurs.  Judging takes place online until the final phase and those interested in being a judge must create a judge account online by November 21st.  Students must enter by December 5th.  For more information on the contest or to apply as a student or to be a judge, go online to www.wisconsinyes.com or call  Kari Fischer at the Wisconsin Technology Council at 608-442-7557. 

10/10: Deer Trustee appointed to study Wisconsin's deer policies

Last week, Governor Walker appointed a Whitetail Deer Trustee to independently evaluate and review our state’s deer herd management practices. Dr. James Kroll, a professor at Stephen F. Austin University and a well-known expert in deer herd management, is charged with reviewing Wisconsin’s approach to managing our state’s deer herd. While Dr. Kroll will work with the DNR on this project, he is responsible for providing an independent and scientifically-based report. You can participate in this project by e-mailing your input to Dr. Kroll at deertrustee@wisconsin.gov.

10/7: St. Croix River Crossing bill moves forward in Congress

The federal legislation to allow the construction of a new St. Croix River Crossing was approved by the House Committee on Natural Resources on a 30-14 vote on Wednesday. This legislation, supported by a bipartisan group of federal elected officials from both Wisconsin and Minnesota, now may be taken up for a vote by the full U.S. House of Representatives. Similar legislation in the U.S. Senate has also been proposed and has received a committee hearing.
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
September

9/29: Thousands of job listings on Wisconsin’s Jobs Center website

The Job Center of Wisconsin is a great resource for those searching for a job.  This website has thousands of job listings statewide and provides helpful information about upcoming job fairs, unemployment insurance, local job center information, as well as tips and advice to make you a better candidate for the position you are seeking.  It also provides resources for training and education opportunities.
 
This resource is a free service provided by the State of Wisconsin.  Please visit wisconsinjobcenter.org for more information or to begin your job search.
 

9/27: Harsdorf bill to require regional representation on the UW Board of Regents moving forward

The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents is the governing body for the University of Wisconsin System and oversees UW campuses across our state.  In recent years the Board of Regents has been dominated by membership from Madison and Milwaukee. 
 
Senator Harsdorf has co-authored Senate Bill 28 (SB 28), which would require the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents to include representation from every area of the state.  This bill would ensure that every Congressional district in Wisconsin would have at least one member on the Board. 
 
SB 28 is scheduled for a vote in the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities this week.  The bill passed the State Senate on May 17th. 
 
 

9/10: America Remembers September 11th

This Sunday, we as Americans commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the tragedy and destruction of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001.  This attack on our country is a painful memory that Americans and the families of the many civilians and service workers who died needlessly, remember every day.
 
That day, thousands of fire fighters, police officers, rescue workers and others risked their lives to save the lives of others.  These heroic efforts speak directly to the heart of what we as Americans stand for.  While the terrorist attacks that day tragically took nearly 3,000 lives, they did not succeed in breaking the American spirit. 
 
Our nation embodies a wide-ranging diversity of religions, races, interests and political views.  Americans will continue to stand up to those who inflict terror and threaten our way of life and our liberties and freedoms that men and women have fought to protect.
 
To honor the memory of those who lost their lives, as well as the countless lives that have been touched by this tragedy, Governor Walker signed an Executive Order for all flags to be flown at half-staff on Sunday, September 11th.  The United State’s Flag represents the ideals that we, as Americans stand for, and reminds us of those who have fought, some paying the ultimate sacrifice, to protect our freedoms. 
 
While this tragedy changed our lives forever, America stands stronger today.  Please take a moment to remember those whose lives that were forever changed that day. 

9/7: September is National Library Card Sign-up Month

This month is dedicated to reminding families about the many valuable resources your local library provides. Since September is National Library Card Sign-up month, the American Library Association is taking this opportunity to encourage everyone to visit their local library and sign their family up for library cards.

Library cards are your key to unlocking all the possibilities and resources that lie within a public library. Not only is your local library a resource for interesting books and magazines, but it also provides computers, researching tools and the opportunity to attend events and speakers on a variety of issues and topics. There are also book clubs, testing centers and e-book rentals.

There are endless opportunities for children as well. Local libraries host reading programs, story time, and events of interest for children of all ages while also offering online interactive books, programs and learning games. Many libraries also provide daycare, study rooms, homework assistance, homeschooling resources and services for special needs children.

Celebrate National Library Card Sign-up Month with your family. To find your local library and explore what programs it offers, please visit http://www.atyourlibrary.org/ and enter your zip code in the upper right hand corner.

 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
August

8/26: John Scocos reappointed as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs

Governor Walker announced Thursday that he is reappointing John Scocos as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). Scocos previously served as the Secretary for the DVA from 2003 to 2009 under the Doyle administration. Scocos is a U.S. Army Reserve colonel and has served two of tours of duty in Iraq. Scocos’ appointment requires confirmation by the State Senate. Scocos indicated he is looking forward to serving veterans and addressing important issues such as unemployment among veterans, financial issues at state veterans homes, and the solvency of the state veterans trust fund.

 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
July

7/11: Coming Together to Help Others

There are many great things that individuals and organizations do to reach out and help others. Recently I learned of one unique opportunity that is happening in our own backyard this upcoming Friday and Saturday where 100 people are expected to come together for an event called Build a Vet a Guitar. George Vondriska, with the Wild Earth School in rural Hudson, hatched the Build a Vet a Guitar event as part of the Guitars for Vets organization.

This is the second annual event where they anticipate completing 20 acoustic guitar kits in two days. These guitars will be donated to Guitars For Vets, which provides injured military veterans with guitars and music instruction. The power of music has been shown to be a powerful tool in healing and rehabilitating veterans who suffer the effects of war, especially the lingering symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Guitars For Vets is a nationwide organization that was started in 2007. They have 4 chapters in Wisconsin located in Green Bay, Tomah, Madison and Milwaukee. If you are interested in getting involved in this weekend’s event, you can contact George Vondriska at 715-749-9011. If you are unable to pitch in this weekend but would like to be involved in future Guitars For Vets events, visit http://guitars4vets.org.

I am always touched and inspired when I learn of events like this one where communities and citizens come together for the benefit of others.

7/5: Celebrating America

Thank you to everyone who took time this weekend to celebrate our country's Independence Day and the many freedoms we enjoy in America. As I attended a number of community celebrations around the district, it was wonderful to see so many out celebrating with their family and friends. We are fortunate for the amazing country we live in, for the courage our forefathers showed in providing us the many freedoms we enjoy and for the generations of brave men and women who have fought for and continue to protect those freedoms.

I hope you and your family had a happy and safe 4th of July!

 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
June

6/27: Ban on Synthetic Marijuana Signed into Law

In response to concerns raised by law enforcement in Western Wisconsin, legislation to ban the sale of synthetic marijuana and other potent stimulants in our state was introduced. These chemicals mimic the effect of marijuana and cocaine when ingested and currently can be purchased across the counter by consumers of any age. Often times, the chemicals are much more potent than the drugs they imitate and are produced without any regard to safety. The sale and use of synthetic marijuana has led to numerous cases of teens and young adults being hospitalized.

Current law prohibits the manufacture, distribution, delivery, or possession of substances included in the schedule of controlled substances. These substances are categorized into 5 different schedules depending on the nature of the substance. Schedule I substances are those that have a high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use, and are not accepted as safe for use in treatment under medical supervision. Senate Bill 54 identifies several non-narcotic, hallucinogenic substances known as synthetic cannabinoids and stimulants, such as synthetic marijuana and bath salts, and classifies them as Schedule I controlled substances.

A first offense for possession of a synthetic cannabinoid may a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to 6 months, or both. A second offense constitutes a Class I felony, increasing the penalty to up to $10,000 and up to 3.5 years in prison. A person guilty of manufacturing, distributing, or delivering a synthetic cannabinoid commits a Class H felony and is subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment up to 6 years.

I am pleased to have authored SB 54 which helps create a safer environment for consumers of all ages by outlawing the sale and use of dangerous synthetic substances, removing them from the market, and providing law enforcement with the tools to address their growing use. The bill was signed into law today by the Governor.

 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
May
 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
March

3/25: Efforts underway to repeal law that limits schools ability to treat common ailments

On March 1st, changes in the law governing how medicine is given to children at school went into effect. These changes make it more difficult for parents and school districts to make sure kids have access to non-prescription medications during the school day, for simply things for such things as a stomachache, headache, or a sore throat. Under the new law, all non-prescription medication given to children at school must now be provided by the parent/guardian and be in the original packaging. These include ordinary over-the-counter items like ibuprofen, Tylenol, Benadryl, and cough drops.

The practical effect of these new regulations means that each child’s parent or guardian needs to supply their own bottle of over-the-counter medication to the school. This leads to schools storing and organizing hundreds of bottles or containers of the same medicine. Some have chosen not to do this because it is an administrative nightmare. This means kids may have no access to simple medications for common ailments during the school day.

I am co-sponsoring legislation that would repeal these regulations and return to previous policies for how schools administer non-prescription medication to students. To ensure proper administration of medicine, safeguards would continue to be in place requiring written consent by the parent or guardian as well as documentation of the administration of each dose.

Please let me know what you think about this legislation or other topics of concern you have by visiting HarsdorfSenate.com, or by visiting my facebook page at facebook.com/harsdorf.sheila.

 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
February

2/7: Report Government Waste with New Web Site

As we work to pass a fiscally responsible 2011-2013 state budget in the face of a $3 billion budget deficit, it is imperative that we do everything we can to cut wasteful government spending. Governor Walker has asked for help from citizens in identifying and reporting instances of government waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Some common instances of fraud include:

• Dishonest or inaccurate unemployment insurance claims

• Falsified child care logs submitted for compensation under the Wisconsin Shares child care program

• False overtime wage claims by State employees

If you witness instances or waste, fraud, or abuse, or have suggestions on how a government program can be run in a more fiscally responsible manner, I encourage you to provide feedback through the Governor's Web site by clicking here.

 expand 
ArticleMonthNo:
February

1/1: Tax Credits for Job Creators Signed into Law

Companies relocating to Wisconsin will be exempt from paying income or franchise taxes for the first two years they do business in Wisconsin after the Governor signed new legislation into law this week. Additionally in other legislation signed into law, the amount available for economic development tax credits, which are directly tied to job creation, employee training, or capital investment, was increased by $25 million.

The bills were passed as part of the legislature’s special session focused on spurring job growth. By providing incentives for companies to bring jobs to Wisconsin and rewarding businesses for job creation we take an important step towards encouraging economic recovery and putting people back to work.

1/26: Public Meeting Scheduled to Discuss Section of WIS 35 in Somerset

Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials will hold a public information meeting to discuss the proposed controlled access project on WIS 35 in the Town of Somerset in St. Croix County.

The project would designate the segment of WIS 35 between 200th Avenue in Somerset and the north county line as a “Controlled Access Highway.” This would give the Department of Transportation the authority to exercise special controls over traffic on the highway. The Department would also have authority to execute any construction projects on the highway they deem necessary to ensure public safety.

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011, from 5-7 p.m. at the Somerset Town Hall, 748 Highway 35, Somerset.

1/24: Health Savings Account Deduction will be Signed into Law

Governor Walker will sign a bill into law today creating a state income tax deduction for contributions to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). The bill was passed by the Legislature as part of the special session on economic recovery.

HSA contributions are already exempt from federal taxation. Wisconsin has been one of only a handful of states to still tax contributions.

HSAs are savings accounts owned by an individual that can be used for minor medical expenses, such as office visits and regular preventative care. A growing number of employers choose to make HSAs available to employees, and they are also popular among the self-employed. A high-deductible health insurance plan is used in conjunction with an HSA to cover major medical expenses.

HSAs allow individuals to take control of their medical decisions. Using the money from their HSA, an individual health care consumer can pay for the medical treatments they deem necessary, with the provider they prefer, without having a gatekeeper tell them what care they can or cannot receive and what doctor they must see. Unlike health insurance offered by an employer, HSAs are portable, remaining with an individual from job to job or if they leave the workforce.

1/19: Carbon Monoxide Detectors Mandatory Beginning February 1

All Wisconsin homes will be required to have carbon monoxide (CO) detectors starting February 1, 2011. The requirement was passed last year based on findings by the American Medical Association that CO poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning in the United States.

While new homes built after the rule goes into effect will require more sophisticated systems, existing homes may use battery-powered, stand-alone alarms. The alarms may be purchased at most home-improvement or hardware stores and can be found online. The units must be installed in the basement and on each floor level except the attic or garage. The law applies to all dwellings that contain CO sources, which includes most Wisconsin homes. Examples of CO sources include heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, appliances, vehicles left running in enclosed spaces, or cooking sources using coal, wood, or petroleum products.

Click on the link above to see the full rules.

1/13: Special Legislative Session Aims to Spur Job Creation

Last week, Governor Walker called a special legislative session to promote job growth in Wisconsin. This week, the Legislature is actively considering several proposals put forward by the Governor in an effort to change the way our state government approaches job creation. Below is a snapshot of each proposal and how it relates to creating and retaining jobs for Wisconsin workers. Legislative committees are currently holding public hearings, considering amendments and voting on these proposals.

Re-Organization the Department of Commerce: This proposal would turn our current Department of Commerce into a public/private partnership called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation or WEDC. The WEDC’s exclusive purpose would be to help create jobs for Wisconsin workers. This proposal intends to encourage companies to bring jobs to Wisconsin by promoting a positive relationship between the state and businesses.

Tax Credits for Health Savings Accounts: Under this proposal, individuals would receive a state tax credit for contributions made to a Health Savings Account (HSA). By encouraging the use of HSAs, the proposal aims to assist businesses in providing affordable health care to their employees.

Regulatory Reform: This proposal would create a tighter system of checks and balances on the agency rule-making process and would require the Governor to approve all new agency rules. This proposal is an effort to ensure that elected representatives have appropriate oversight over the rules that affect job creation in this state.

Creating a More Job-Friendly Legal Environment: Commonly referred to as “tort reform,” this proposal creates a balance between protecting consumers and protecting the businesses that employ Wisconsin workers.

Tax Relief for Small Businesses: The Governor proposed that small businesses with gross annual receipts of $500,000 or less per year would receive a tax credit. The Legislature is considering modifications that would instead provide a tax credit based on actual jobs created.

Tax Relief for Businesses Relocating to Wisconsin: This proposal would create a tax credit for businesses that relocate to Wisconsin in an effort to persuade companies to bring jobs to our state.

Increasing the Amount Available for Economic Development Tax Credits: This proposal would increase the amount of tax credits available to companies creating jobs in Wisconsin by $25 million.

More Accountability for Increasing Taxes: This proposal would require a two-thirds vote by the Legislature in order to increase taxes in an effort to ensure that the potential impact of a tax increase on job creation is taken into full consideration.

1/10: Highway 35 Freeway Conversion Meeting (St. Croix County)

The Department of Transportation has announced a public hearing on the location, design, and environmental aspects for local roads for the planned conversion of Highway 35 to a freeway between Radio Road and Coulee Trail in St. Croix County. The proposed freeway conversion includes the construction of on and off ramps and interchange reconstructions at several points. The meeting will be held on Thursday, January 20, 2011 from 5:30 P.M. – 8:30 P.M. at the Troy Town Hall located at 654 Glover Road. The public is invited to attend the hearing and to present written and oral testimony concerning the planned freeway conversion. The DOT will present a summary of the project at 6:00 P.M. Environmental Assessment information is available prior to the meeting at the River Falls and Hudson Public Libraries and the Troy Town Hall.

1/6: 511 Road Conditions

Now that the snowy season is upon us, motorists are reminded that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s 511 service is available to provide information on road conditions throughout the state. Dialing 511 provides automated real-time road conditions information for free. Callers to 511’s phone service can find traffic conditions by highway, municipality name, or county. Additionally, 511 provides a website, linked above, which allows users to visually see road conditions across the state.

 expand  2010

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.