As the calendar year comes to a close, I want to offer an overview and report on my efforts to work for and represent the residents of the 9th Senate District. I am currently working on a comprehensive review of legislative activity for 2013 and will share that with you in the coming weeks. However, before we dig into formal legislation, I am pleased to provide a brief overview of other efforts and activities that have kept me busy over the past year.
My job offers endless opportunities to listen and learn about the 9th Senate District, act as a liaison between individuals, groups and local units of government and to offer assistance as you interact with your state government.
In order to be most effective in these roles, I keep a very full calendar, manage a dedicated staff of legislative aides and consistently seek ways to work on behalf of the individuals, organizations and local units of governments that I was elected to represent.
As your State Senator, I have incredible opportunities to learn about our district through meetings, tours and events that take me to every community throughout the 9th Senate District. Our region is incredibly diverse and active, and I am privileged to be able to experience everything from breakfasts on the farm to company tours to reading to Head Start classes to cutting ribbons at new small businesses. We have an abundance of brat fries, pork chop suppers and craft fairs throughout the year. Our veterans groups are active and our schools regularly host ways for community leaders to spend time meeting with children and teachers who are shaping our future. Our colleges are partnering with local businesses and our chambers of commerce are leading our communities to grow our economies.
In an effort to stay connected to my district, every month, I attend several regular meetings to provide updates, listen to input and answer questions. Examples of these regular meetings are:
· Sheboygan County Government Legislative Committee
· Calumet County Government Legislative Committee
· City of Sheboygan Government
· Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce – First Friday Forum
· Sheboygan County Chamber Leadership Roundtable
· The Chamber of Manitowoc County – Business Connects With Government
· Sheboygan County School Districts
· Manitowoc & Calumet County School Districts
· Sheboygan County Conservation Association
· Manitowoc Fish & Game Protective Association
· Towns and Villages Association Meetings throughout Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Calumet counties
· Farm Bureau meetings
These regular meetings, which are unique in the state, have allowed me to develop respectful relationships and positive partnerships as we work together to resolve issues or opportunities for our communities and the people we serve.
Most week nights and every weekend, my family and I travel throughout the 9th District to attend community events such as community/fundraising meals, tours, sporting events, festivals and more. This is a great way for me to informally learn about our communities, be available for conversation and questions and have a great time at some of the truly unique events we have in our district. I wish that everyone would have the chance to experience our communities the way that we do. We are blessed to have such a variety of dedicated community organizations, churches and individuals who are passionate about their faith, hobbies and fellow citizens. Examples of our weeknight/weekend excursions are:
· Parades - We accepted invitations to walk in more than 25 community parades this year, including all of the local holiday parades over the last couple of weeks.
· Festivals – We attended Brat Days, Crafty Apple Fest, the Kiel Picnic, Silver Dollar Days, St. NazianzFest, the Hmong Festival, the Hilbert Picnic, Lakeshore Weekend for the Kids in Sheboygan and Manitowoc, and many more.
· Community Meals/Fundraisers – We enjoy a lot of brats and delicious baked goods throughout the year. You might have seen us at the Reedsville Pork Chop Supper, the VFW Chicken Fry, all of the Breakfasts on the Farm, LobsterFest, a couple of 5K Runs, the Gus Macker Tournament, Octoberfest at Al & Al’s, the Manitowoc Senior Center Craft Fair, Veterans Day Dinner & Dance, Moosefest in Osman, Heritage Days in Oostburg, and more.
· County Fairs – I always enjoy spending several days at each county fair.
Throughout the year, I am also invited to share in the celebration and recognition of achievements by individuals, organizations and businesses. I was honored to be a part of these major milestones this year:
· Sheboygan Senior Activity Center Renovation Dedication
· Many Eagle Scout Ceremonies and the Order of the Arrow Banquet
· Chamber Champions Gala
· Richardson Hospice “We Honor Our Veterans” Event
· Ribbon Cutting at the new headquarters for American Orthodontics
· SKANA Aluminum’s 3rd Anniversary celebration
· Newton First Responders Anniversary
· Many retirements and years of service celebrations – including several with the Kiel Municipal Band recognizing members with 60+ years of membership!
· Ribbon Cutting to dedicate the new wing at Lake Country Academy
· Blue Ribbon School Flag Raising at Kohler High School
· Inauguration of Dr. Domes at Silver Lake College
· The homecoming celebration for B Battery, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery from Plymouth.
I am also regularly invited to meet with many different groups in our community including Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, the Great Lakes Sports Fishermen, the Manitowoc & Sheboygan County Snowmobile Alliances, Senior Meal Sites in all of our communities, the Trinity Senior Club, the Jobs First Manitowoc County group, Hearthstone, RCS, the Sheboygan Dental Association, the Sheboygan and Manitowoc County Homebuilders and more.
By reaching out to you and your neighbors, it is my goal to make myself accessible and available to help with state-related matters. In the state capitol, we have a dedicated staff who field emails, phone calls and personal contacts every day with a tremendous variety of questions, ideas and input. When a resident of our community is in need of help, has a question, or doesn’t know where to turn, we are there to help.
If you have called, emailed or visited my office, you have met the team of passionate public servants who work for you every day. Since the beginning of the 2013-2014 legislative session, my office has received almost 5,800 contacts from residents in our district. While I am always seeking to improve our turnaround time and accuracy in responding, I am proud of our efforts. Making sure that everyone receives a thorough, thoughtful response, some requiring research and/or contacts with other parts of our state government, can be a big job. But I know that this is one of the most important parts of my role as your State Senator.
On average, the 9th Senate District Office receives about 50 phone calls, 150 emails and 10 direct contacts every day from residents of our community. This is a great testament to the active grassroots involvement of the citizens I am privileged to represent at the State Capitol and the trust in my team to help the people of our community. Unlike many of my colleagues, I personally review and read almost all of these communications and develop personal responses.
Most contacts offer input on legislative initiatives and proposals. When bills are introduced or an idea is discussed in the state legislature, I seek and welcome input and discussion from the residents of our district. As your Senator, it is my job to listen, learn and understand all aspects of proposed legislation before I cast a vote. I also try to follow-up and communicate the results of these proposals and my actions with all residents of our district. I firmly believe in keeping you informed of my actions and votes so you can hold me accountable when you vote.
I also receive many calls or emails from people who have a specific question or problem related to state government. For example, this year alone, I have received approximately 150 individual calls for assistance with Unemployment Compensation benefits. I work directly with the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to seek answers on behalf of residents who are not receiving the funds they expect or have questions that they are unable to answer via the website or automated phone system. Putting people in contact with the right experts is a big part of my job. I know how daunting the bureaucracy can be, and it is my goal to make it easier for all residents to navigate.
Again, while I am proud of our efforts to respond, you can help me do an even better job. If you contact me and do not receive a timely response, please contact me again. Many times, an e-mail may get pulled into one of our sophisticated SPAM filters or a phone message may be misfiled. I have also learned that sometimes my e-mail response to you may get pulled into a SPAM filter on your end. So again, if you don’t receive a timely response, please let me know, so I can respond or track down where the response problem occurred.
Connecting you to your state government is a key aspect of my job and I encourage you to contact me to share input, ask questions or seek assistance by calling toll-free to (888) 295-8750, writing to me at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882, or by emailing me at Sen.Leibham@legis.wi.gov. You can also log on to the 9th Senate District online office at www.leibhamsenate.com
Without a doubt, you have kept me busy over the past year and I thoroughly enjoy the schedule and the responsibility. I am your public servant and it is an honor to work for and represent the residents of the 9th District in the State Senate every day of the year.
~ Issue Corner – Assembly Bill 535: Prohibiting Municipalities from Providing Alcohol Beverages Retailers with Identification Scanners ~
This bill prohibits municipalities from providing to alcohol beverage retail licensees any device capable of scanning a driver's license or identification card issued by the Department of Transportation. The bill does nothing to prevent or discourage taverns from using their own scanners to continue to verify valid IDs and the legal drinking age of their patrons. It simply stops governments from providing these ID scanners directly to the taverns for the mass collection of personal information.
The bill’s authors believe that there is a growing problem of government overstepping its authority and pressing small businesses into releasing private customer data. Currently, municipal officials in a number of communities in our state are asking local taverns to “voluntarily” use ID scanners. The officials request that these taverns scan the IDs of customers entering or purchasing alcohol and periodically retrieve the scanners to obtain a list of all the clients the tavern has served. While the original intent was to verify age, this technology now provides much more information on those being scanned.
~ Out & About ~
Department of Transportation (DOT) Public Meeting regarding Calumet Drive – As the DOT considers improvements for Calumet Drive (Highway 42 North) in Sheboygan, I attended the public meeting to hear about their plans and listen to the input and questions posed by local stakeholders.
Kiel & Sheboygan Falls Christmas Parades – My family and I enjoyed walking in the Christmas parades in Kiel and Sheboygan Falls. Thank you to everyone who braved the cold to celebrate the season.
First Friday Forum – The Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce hosted a conversation about the future of manufacturing.
Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance – I joined the veterans and their families at the Military Heritage Museum to remember Pearl Harbor Day. Thank you for your service.
Eagle Scout Ceremony for Elijah Schwonek – As a fellow Eagle Scout, I was honored to join Elijah and his family to celebrate his achievement.
Kiel Municipal Band Concert – Congratulations to John Schmitz – 65 years, Donna Wirth – 60 years and Barbara Pahr – 55 years for amazing commitment to the KMB!
Sheboygan County Legislative Breakfast – This monthly meeting was a great exchange of ideas and input.
City of Sheboygan Leadership Meeting – Another monthly opportunity to share an update and listen to city leaders.
Visit to Heiden, Inc. – Mark Jacobson and Karen Jacobson invited me to tour their company and learn more about Heiden, Inc. in Manitowoc.
Meeting with leaders from Sheboygan County Conservation Association (SCCA) – I met with two leaders from the SCCA to discuss raffle ticket rules and regulations and pending legislation that I am working on that has been driven by several local non-profits.
National Blue Ribbon School Flag Raising – I was honored to be invited to join the faculty, staff, students and families of Kohler Schools as they received their National Blue Ribbon School Flag in recognition of their excellence in education!
Oostburg Chamber Christmas Social – I enjoyed visiting with business leaders from the Oostburg area as we celebrated the Christmas holiday together.