February 2, 2012
neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost
importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and
your family are listed below.
A Wrinkle in Time
January 27-February 19
She is an outcast at
school, her father is missing and the town thinks her brother is some
sort of freak. Meg Murry is angry at a world that makes no sense to her.
But when a strange visitor arrives at her family’s home on a dark and
stormy night, she embarks on a wild journey through space and time to
rescue her father from the evil forces that hold him prisoner on another
planet. Do not miss this production sure to propel your imagination on
the journey of a lifetime.
Milwaukee Youth Arts Center (MAP)
325 W. Walnut Street Milwaukee, WI 53212
Legislation needed to correct two unintended consequences that were created by Governor Walker's budget have been introduced, but have yet to be signed into law due to inaction by Republican legislators. Continue reading for more information.
As usual, please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or opinions you may have about our community or our state.
FamilyCare Cap Removal Needed Immediately
Currently, about one out of five Wisconsin residents rely on our state's health safety net programs for their health care needs. The number of individuals enrolled in Wisconsin's Medicaid programs has been steadily increasing in recent years due to our state's ailing economy, continued loss of family-supporting jobs, and increased health care costs. Given the hardships our neighbors our facing, it is one of the worst times to consider any additional cuts to our health safety net.
As you may know, Governor Walker’s
2011-2013 Biennial Budget instituted a cap on the FamilyCare program.
During the budget debate, my Democratic colleagues and I
expressed our concerns about how family, friends and neighbors would
suffer by being denied these life-saving services.
Unfortunately, voices from across Wisconsin were once again ignored
and the cap went into effect on July 1, 2011.
FamilyCare is a bipartisan community-based, long-term care program that plays a vital role in Wisconsin’s health safety net. The program serves our state’s most vulnerable neighbors, including the elderly and individuals with disabilities, to enhance their health and quality of life.
A Pattern of Assault
Notable health care cuts placed in the most recent biennial budget are listed below:
The Governor continued his extreme agenda announcing an additional $554 million in cuts this past October. With these cuts, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) estimates that almost 65,000 Wisconsinites, including 30,000 pregnant women and children, will lose their current BadgerCare health care coverage.
Another group that will be disproportionately affected by these additional Medicaid cuts are people suffering from chronic illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease. Chronic and life-threatening illnesses often leave individuals unable to work, causing them to exhaust their lifesavings and unable to cover their medical expenses without the use of Medicaid.
Wisconsin's vital health care programs ensure that our families and neighbors are able to receive quality, affordable health care to prevent costly emergency room visits. These programs also help save valuable taxpayer dollars by keeping our loved ones in their own homes and active in their communities instead of placing them in nursing homes and in-patient facilities.
Uphold Promise to Close Voucher Loophole
This week I joined my Democratic colleagues in urging Assembly Republicans to uphold their promise to close the voucher loophole created in Governor Walker's 2011-2013 Biennial Budget.
A provision was inserted by Republicans into the budget that establishes four criteria for a school district that, if met, would allow private and religious schools to take up to $6,500 in tax dollars per student away from our public schools. The four criteria are listed below:
Republican legislators indicated that their intention with this budget provision was to simply expand the voucher program to Racine alone. However, hasty action on the budget and failure to acknowledge concerns addressing this potential issue led to unintended consequences, such as creating a voucher loophole.
At the time the budget was passed only Racine met the aforementioned criteria and qualified for expansion of the voucher program, but other communities could also qualify in future years if the law stays as it is in the current budget, forcing other cities to implement their own voucher program.
There are currently two districts that are on the verge of becoming “choice eligible”--Green Bay and Menasha--both of whom meet three of four criteria and only miss on the criteria regarding shared cost per pupil (less than 91% of the statewide average). However, both are relatively close, with Green Bay at 93.5% and Menasha at 93.2% of the statewide average this year.
During and after the budget debate, Senate and Assembly Republican leaders promised to pass additional legislation to close the voucher loophole created by the budget.
In August, Senator Mike Ellis and Representative Robin Vos introduced Senate Bill 174. This bill closes the voucher loophole by amending the state budget to say that no school district that has not already qualified as an eligible school district may qualify as an eligible school district once Senate Bill 174 is in effect.
Senate Bill 174 received a public hearing in the Senate and Assembly Education Committees this past October. This bipartisan bill has since passed unanimously in the Senate and has simply waiting for several months to be scheduled for a vote in the Assembly before it can be signed into law.
We are fast approaching the end of the current legislative session and are quickly running out of time to pass Senate Bill 174. If Republicans are unwilling to honor their commitments and Senate Bill 174 is not voted on before the end of session, it will have to be reintroduced when the next legislative session begins in January 2013. If this legislation fails to pass before the end of session it may be too late for Green Bay. Further, not pursuing this legislation that has tremendous bipartisan support will simply show that Republican legislators have caved to the special interest school choice lobbyists and are not looking out for the majority of Wisconsin tax payers.
Therefore, I urge Assembly Republican Leaders to continue working for the people across Wisconsin and schedule this important bill for a vote. It is time that Republicans show Wisconsinites that they remain committed to their promises.
Partial Veto Gives Governor Too Much Power
I am co-sponsoring legislation
expected to be introduced later this week that will create a more open
government in our state by increasing accountability to Wisconsinites.
LRB 3361/2, will maintain our checks and balances by protecting the governor's ability to approve or reject each appropriation or item dealing with a particular subject in its entirety. However, under this resolution the governor will no longer be able to change the meaning of proposed legislation to make new laws divorced from the Legislature’s original intent. The rejected pieces of legislation will be sent back to the Legislature for reconsideration.
The Legislature, not the Executive Branch, has been granted the power to work together and compromise in order to craft and pass legislation. Allowing the governor to partially veto appropriation legislation enables him to circumvent the will of the Legislature and the people to create a new law at his whim.
LRB 3361/2 requires a Constitutional Amendment and will need to first pass in both the Assembly and the Senate during two consecutive legislative sessions and then be voted on by the people of Wisconsin. Because I believe in fostering a government that is both transparent and responsive to the people, I will be supporting LRB 3361/2.
February is American Heart Month
February is American Heart Month, so do not forget to wear red this Friday.
While heart disease is often preventable, according to the Center for
Disease Control and Prevention, it is the leading cause of death for
both men and women in the United States. In order to keep our hearts
healthy, the American Heart Association has created a “Life’s Simple 7”
action plan. Simple steps, including maintaining a healthy weight and
diet, exercising regularly, and having your primary care physician check
your cholesterol and blood pressure regularly can safeguard your heart.
Click here to visit the American Heart Association's Web site to answer
questions about your health and lifestyle, learn your personal health
score, and select a simple action plan to improve the health of your
Today is Groundhog's Day
groundhogs across the country emerged from their burrows to help us
predict the length of our winter season. If the little guys see their
shadow and retreat back into the burrow, it means we will be stuck with
six more weeks of winter. But if they do not see their shadow, we are in
the clear for an early spring.
See You in the Neighborhood
I created a survey that I
am distributing to neighbors asking about various issues that are
important to them, our community and our state. I have been
distributing the survey door-to-door throughout our community and will
continue doing so throughout the current legislative session. To return the survey, simply
fold it, tape it, and affix a stamp.
I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues. Hope to see you in the neighborhood soon!
Know Your Voting Rights
Scott Walker and Republican legislators recently enacted some of the most restrictive ID requirements for voters in the country. While they have been working to silence Wisconsin's voters, I have been working hard to keep Wisconsin's voters informed of their rights. I have created a simple handout answering some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding Wisconsin's new voter restrictions.
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