Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or opinions you might
Office Phone: (608) 266-7505
Toll-free Phone: (800) 361-5487
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707
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.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade
March 16 at 3:30 p.m.
Join the Historic Third Ward Association at Catalano Square
(intersection of Broadway & Menomonee) for the 6th Annual Shortest &
Smallest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. There is no band, so bring a musical
instrument to play in the parade and you will receive a green beer for
just $1. A bagpiper and a leprechaun will lead the parade. The McMenamin
Irish Dancers will also perform. Additionally, do not miss out on the
live Irish music from one of Milwaukee’s finest Irish entertainers, Ian
CLICK HERE for additional information.
Wish I Had A
March 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Enjoy this special event at Fixx Coffee House as David H.B. Drake
presents a concert for St. Patrick’s Day. David has spent over thirty
years presenting concerts at fine arts centers, festivals, schools, and
community centers. He has preformed at Milwaukee’s Irish Fest for 25
years, playing a mix of contemporary and traditional Celtic songs.
Fixx Coffee House (MAP)
3558 E. Sivyer Avenue
St. Francis, WI 53235
Miller Lite Free
March 17 starting at 6 p.m.
In partnership with the Milwaukee County Transit System, Miller Lite is
providing free bus service for all Milwaukee County Transit System
routes on St. Patty's Day. Route and schedule information is available
by calling 1-800-FREE-RIDES or texting "FREERIDE" to 90464.
CLICK HERE to visit their Web site for more information.
Eighth Annual Bay
View Wine Fest
March 24 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
This annual Bay View
event offers a sampling of superb wines and food from area
establishments, live music, an aviation art auction, and more. Tickets
are $25 and include all samples, reserved seating, and free parking.
Proceeds from this event support The Milwaukee Air & Water Show and the
Wisconsin Adopt-A-Golden Retriever Dog Rescue Group.
CLICK HERE for more information or to purchase tickets. Tickets will
also be available for purchase at the door based on availability. Please
call (414) 482-2069 with any additional questions.
Marian Center for
3195 S. Superior
Milwaukee, WI 53207
Art in Bloom: A Tribute to Art and Flowers
March 29 to April 1
Enjoy exquisite floral creations by Milwaukee’s top floral designers
inspired by the Museum’s Collection masterworks.
Art in Bloom is a perfect way to welcome spring. You can also expand and
enrich your own floral and gardening knowledge by taking part in
lectures and presentations focused on landscaping. Museum admission
(free for members) is required for all events. Exhibit hours vary.
CLICK HERE for more information.
Milwaukee Art Museum (MAP)
700 N. Art Museum Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202
The Legislature has closed its
2011-2012 Session, which failed to get our state moving forward with the
rest of the country in job creation and economic development.
As usual, please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or
opinions you may have about our community or our state.
State Senator, District 7
Job Creation Delayed
Wisconsin State Senate concluded the 2011-2012 Legislative Session
today. At a great cost to family, friends, and neighbors, this botched
Republican-run session will go down in our state history books as the
most divisive and dishonest legislative session ever.
Although Governor Walker and
Republican legislators promised to focus on jobs this session, they have
utterly failed to follow through. The numbers do not lie. While the
nation has added jobs every month for 17 straight months and neighboring
states all posted job gains this past year, Wisconsin has fallen
behind under Governor Walker's leadership. A new nationwide report released by
the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Wisconsin lost 12,500 jobs
from January 2011 to January 2012, more than any other state over the
past year. In fact, Wisconsin is one of only six states to lose jobs in
the past year, and our job losses are more than three times higher than
the next state on that unfortunate list.
Click here to view the report and a chart showing the state-by-state
Despite hearing from people across
Wisconsin who are in desperate need of jobs, Governor Walker and
Republican legislators put partisanship above progress by leaving many
Democratic employee training and jobs proposals untouched. Below is a
list of just some of these proposals that Republicans refused to act on
to get Wisconsin moving on job creation:
Expand the Workforce Advancement
Training Program and create grants to assist local businesses with
expanding and diversifying (SB 316/AB 431)
Create grants for technical
colleges to provide additional training in advanced manufacturing
skills (SB 40/AB 97)
Direct the Wisconsin Economic
Development Corporation to develop, implement, and fund a program to
link businesses that need more qualified workers with Wisconsin's
technical colleges so they can provide the necessary training for
those businesses to grow (AB 575)
Give the Wisconsin Economic
Development the authority to award grants to Wisconsinites trying to
qualify for income and franchise tax credits to improve or expand
their business (AB 90)
Increase the amount of tax credits
available for dairies to continue modernizing facilities and employ
workers for these projects (SB 120/AB 186)
Unfortunately, this session has also
been about picking winners and losers. In order to help the big
corporations and special interests further their backwards agenda,
Governor Walker and Republican legislators have sacrificed Wisconsin’s
jobless, children, and women. To provide big corporations with $2.3
billion in tax giveaways, Governor Walker cut $1.6 billion from
neighborhood schools that educate our children. Governor Walker also
chose to create a $196 million slush fund with little oversight, while
making over $1 billion in cuts to our health safety net being used by
children, displaced workers, and the elderly. Then, to make up for
increasing spending by over $1 billion in his budget compared to the
previous one, Governor Walker cut funding for basic women's health care,
shared revenue for local governments, public transit, and recycling and
We need to get Wisconsin moving in the
right direction with the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, the
job-killing policies implemented by Governor Walker and Republican
legislators this legislative session will do nothing to help our state
out of this crisis.
Compromise Mine Proposal
want to thank the hundreds of neighbors who have contacted me about
changes to Wisconsin’s ferrous mining permit process. I appreciated
hearing these various thoughts, hopes, and concerns. There has been a
tremendous amount of misinformation regarding this incredibly complex
and fluid issue and I appreciate having the opportunity to update you on
the status and facts of the mining proposals before the State Senate.
This past Tuesday, moments before session started, Senate Republicans
scheduled a committee hearing on the three ferrous mining bills
(Assembly Bill 426, Senate Bill 488, and Senate Bill 542). This hearing
is scheduled for Monday, March 19, 2012. This is four days after the end
of session and the public is not invited to participate. While appearing
to keep these bills “alive,” the actual affect of this procedural
maneuver was to block passage of any mining proposals during the final
days of session. This is another example that, despite the rhetoric, the
fact is that Governor Walker and Senate Republican leadership have
delayed and sabotaged efforts to pass a balanced mining bill.
On Tuesday, March 6, 2012, a majority of Senators voted to reject a
partisan amendment to Assembly Bill 426. Following this, the State
Senate voted unanimously (33-0) to continue working on a responsible
mining proposal by sending the bill back to committee. Gogebic Taconite,
the company pushing for new mining legislation, unexpectedly announced
that based on these votes, they would no longer pursue a Wisconsin
mining project. This declaration was made despite a majority of
Senators, including myself, clearly supporting responsible mining and
passage of a compromise proposal.
It is important to keep in mind that iron ore mining is a legal activity
in Wisconsin and there is no regulation that prohibits Gogebic Taconite
from proceeding with the mining project. In fact, the company received
permits early last year to conduct core borings that would allow them to
evaluate the mineral contents of the deposit. The Department of Natural
Resources worked proactively with the company and they received their
permits within a couple of weeks of applying for them. The company
initially indicated they would go forward with the borings, but never
invested in following through.
While we assume that streamlining our mining laws will bring more mining
and jobs, it is important to look at rhetorical promises versus the hard
facts. Although not widely reported, by law the federal mine permit
process takes an average of 3.5 years. Even if Gogebic Taconite had
followed through with their 2011 sampling proposal, mining jobs would
still be years away. Executives from local Milwaukee manufacturing
companies have even said that it is impossible to link any of the mining
proposals with sustaining or creating manufacturing jobs. We
want to create Wisconsin jobs now and into the future, but the fact is
that the urgency of this proposal is political, not practical.
Following the sudden elimination of the Special Senate Committee on
Mining, I had hoped that we would have the opportunity to vote on the
bipartisan amendment to AB 426 that was supported by a majority in the
Senate. Passing it would have allowed the Senate and Assembly to work to
reconcile their bills and develop a proposal to move us forward.
Unfortunately, Senate Republican leadership did not allow this amendment
to come up for a vote, nor were they willing to allow the Schultz/Jauch
bipartisan proposal to be debated and passed.
The Schultz/Jauch bipartisan proposal is 15 pages and addressed all of
the publicly stated demands and concerns of Gogebic Taconite, while
maintaining all of our current environmental protections. It would also
place Wisconsin on a level playing field with neighboring mining states.
The facts about this bill:
Completely avoids floodplain
insurance problems by maintaining current environmental regulations
Creates a timeline with a defined
end date for the Department of Natural Resources and the company to
complete a mining permit that is shorter than the average permit
process of the federal government
Promotes collaboration between
state and federal regulators
Provides the local community $5
million per year up front to help them deal with infrastructure
needs resulting from the mine. This money is credited against the
net proceeds tax they will owe in later years, so this billion
dollar company will not have to pay more in taxes over the lifetime
of the mine
Requires the mining permit
applicant to pay the full cost of the Environmental Impact Statement
and up to $2 million for Department of Natural Resources staff
dedicated to the mining permit process
Streamlines, but still preserves,
the contested case process giving the public a limited voice in the
Preserves all current wetland
mitigation laws and ensures that wetland mitigation occurs within
ceded territory, as defined by treaty
creation, economic growth, and healthy communities are not mutually
exclusive, rather they are interdependent. After studying the different
mining proposals and what works well for mining companies in Michigan
and Minnesota, I decided to co-author Senate Bill 542. This bill strikes
an important balance in developing efficient processes and timely
communication during the permit process while preserving environmental
safeguards that protect public health, safety, property, and groundwater
Unfortunately this issue has taken on a partisan tone, but the problems
with the Assembly version, AB 426, are not partisan concerns, as it has
also been opposed by Republicans. Recent statements from Governor Walker
indicate he clings to an all-or-nothing position. He appears unwilling
to court mining companies and jobs, if he does get a bill nearly
identical to AB 426. That facts about this bill:
Prevents local governments from
receiving financial assistance for roads and infrastructure in the
crucial first few years of the mine
Changes current statutes and
reduces the amount local governments receive from the net proceeds
tax from 100% of the funds to 60% of the funds
Eliminates the public’s right to
participate in the permitting process until after a permit is
approved, putting the burden of proof on citizens instead of on the
Swaps out statutory language that
protects public health with new language that will lead to
Forces the company to pay double
the costs for developing an environmental impact statement (about
$10-20 million) and causes delays rather than streamlining the
Allows the company to drain lakes
and fill in pristine trout streams, lakes, and rivers
Eliminates the requirement that a
mine waste site provide for reclamation and minimize the risk of
Specifies that activities
violating local floodplain or shoreland zoning ordinances are
Specifies that if there is a
conflict between the ferrous mining statute and another state
environmental statute, the mining statute will win out, regardless
of the nature of the conflicting provision
It is my hope that the Governor quits
the blame game and shows a sincere interest in working with his own
party as well as Democrats. This is an incredibly complex issue that
will affect Wisconsin economic opportunity for decades to come. We
should take the time needed to craft a thoughtful, responsible mining
reform proposal that will safely allow productive mining in Wisconsin. I
am committed to participating in the development of mining permitting
reform that makes sense for our state and creates Wisconsin jobs.
I have consistently supported efforts
to create jobs in Wisconsin through responsible mining permitting
reform, expansion of venture capital, support for technical colleges,
and efforts to realign the workforce to meet local business needs.
During this past session I authored and co-authored bills that do just
that. Please know that I remain committed to working with my colleagues
on both sides of the aisle to find solutions promoting job creation.
Victory for Quality
parents, and teachers in Wisconsin have had little to cheer about over
the course of the past year. Our neighborhood schools have faced
staggering budget cuts and staff losses after Governor Walker chopped
their funds by $1.6 billion in his budget. Therefore, I am happy to
update you on two positive education developments that happened this
week during the legislative session wrap-up.
Bill to Close the Voucher Loophole
This week, the Assembly reluctantly
answered calls to make good on their promise and passed Senate Bill 174,
legislation to close the voucher loophole. The voucher loophole was created over eight
months ago when Republicans inserted an overly broad provision in the
budget. This established criteria for school districts that, if met,
would allow private and religious schools to siphon off up to $6,500 in
taxpayer dollars per student from our neighborhood schools. Republican
legislators indicated that their intention with this budget provision
was to expand the voucher program only to Racine. However, hasty action
on the budget created a loophole that would apply this provision to
communities across Wisconsin.
Had the Legislature not passed Senate
Bill 174, the voucher loophole would have forced other schools that meet
the criteria established to implement their own voucher program without
allowing for debate in the affected community. Fortunately for our
state, this loophole has now been closed thanks to continued efforts by
education advocates, local communities, Wisconsinites, and Democratic
Click here to view a copy of Senate Bill 174.
Voucher Expansion Bill is Dead
Senate Bill 486, legislation that would create a Special Needs Voucher
Program lacking accountability and transparency is officially dead. This
controversial bill left many with more questions than answers about how
children with special needs would be educated, our neighborhood schools
affected, and local taxpayers burdened under this bill. Below is a list
of just some of the horrible provisions contained in this bill for
participating private and religious schools:
Does not require periodic
evaluation of individualized education programs for children with
special needs--something required of public schools by state and
Does not require certified special
education or related services personnel on staff
Does not require special education
teachers to hold a college degree
Does not place a cap on the number
of students who could enroll as special needs
Has no oversight for verifying
that a student qualifies as special needs since the school makes its
Allows a current voucher student
to re-enroll in an attempt to qualify as special needs so schools
receive twice what they do now to educate the same student
Reduces general aid to public
schools districts by the amount of each special needs voucher
provided, which means that some districts could be left with fewer
resources for services needed by students with disabilities that
continue attending our neighborhood schools
Is silent on whether a school
district's general aid would continue to be reduced if a
participating special needs student moves out of that district and
into another Wisconsin school district
Provides no reimbursement to the
state or taxpayers if participating private or religious schools
accept the special needs voucher, but does not provide the necessary
The overly high funding
reimbursement rate for participating schools would likely force
public schools to raid other funds to fulfill their obligations
Fortunately, this bill was not passed
before the legislative session ended on Thursday. This bill would have
not only endangered children in our community with special needs, but it
also would have been a huge financial burden to local taxpayers as it
would have cost Wisconsin an additional $80 million annually, which
would have ballooned as more children with special needs participated in
Click here to view a copy of Senate Bill 486.
Bill to Reverse
Walker's FamilyCare Cap Passes
receiving pressure from Democratic lawmakers, advocacy groups, and
neighbors across Wisconsin that depend on vital health safety net
programs, Assembly Republicans finally passed legislation to remove the
cap on FamilyCare and other such programs.
Senate Bill 380, legislation to remove
the cap placed on FamilyCare, of which I am a co-sponsor, received
unanimous approval in the Senate on February 14, 2012. Assembly
Republicans had been refusing to act on the bill until this past
Tuesday. Unfortunately, an amendment was adopted in the Assembly and
concurred in the Senate that will prevent expansion of FamilyCare and
other health safety net programs without the approval of the Joint
Finance Committee. While this will not have a direct impact on Milwaukee
County, it will have serious consequences for our family and friends
across Wisconsin that have been hoping to establish better safety net
programs in their community.
History of the Cap on Familycare
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.
This past December, the federal government stepped in, ordering Governor
Walker and the Wisconsin Legislature to pass legislation immediately in
order to lift the caps on FamilyCare. As a result, Senate Bill 380 was
introduced. If the Legislature had failed to pass Senate Bill 380,
Wisconsin would have had to forfeit the $1.75 billion it receives in
matching federal funds for our Medicaid programs, including FamilyCare.
Click here to view a copy of Senate Bill 380, legislation to remove the
The Importance of Our Health Safety Net
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.
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
Fighting for Local
This past Tuesday, the Senate passed
Senate Bill 275, legislation originally drafted to change the member
composition of all technical college boards throughout Wisconsin. This
bill was expected to die in committee, but gained legs after it was
altered at the 11th hour to apply only to Milwaukee Area Technical
College. I spoke out against these measures that attack local control
and the very institution that is helping our neighbors gain employment.
Despite my efforts and those of my colleagues, this legislation passed
and was sent to the Assembly for concurrence.
Click on the video above to view the
speech I delivered on Senate Bill 275 on the Senate floor.
Taxpayers Act Introduced
recently introduced legislation with Representative Sandy Pasch that takes a
positive step towards ensuring our tax dollars are spent wisely. The
Transparency for Taxpayers Act, LRB 4247, will track all state agency
operation expenditures exceeding $100 on a public, searchable Internet
The current budget contained a provision that would require the
Department of Administration to do just this. The provision set a
deadline of July 1, 2012, for the Department of Administration to get
the Web site up and running. Additionally, it established a time frame
for when state agencies would be required to report expenditures,
grants, and contracts to the Department so that they could be made
available on the Web site. Unfortunately, Governor Walker once again
chose secrecy over an open door policy by vetoing the deadline to have
the Web site fully functional for public use. As a result, the
Department of Administration has yet to implement this tracking system.
Wisconsin's failure to implement this
reform led the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group to give our
state a D-minus grade in its annual report on transparency of government
spending. The study found Wisconsin is the 10th-worst state in the
nation for providing information about where and how state money is
spent. In contrast, many other states, including Texas, West Virginia,
Kentucky and Indiana, provide checkbook-level data, so anyone can look
at expenditures, tax credits and subsidies like a checkbook.
Recent events that have come to light also illustrate the necessity for a
bill, like the Transparency for Taxpayers Act, that encourages a more
open Wisconsin government. Earlier this session, all but one Republican
senator signed a secrecy contract vowing to hide details of their
redistricting plan from the public. This plot resulted in a raid of over
$400,000 from Wisconsin taxpayers enabling Republicans to hire private
attorneys to help them protect their jobs. In addition, the ongoing John
Doe Investigation has resulted in the arrest of a number of Governor
Walker's former aides who have been charged with embezzling from
veterans groups and participating in campaign activities while on the
clock for Milwaukee County.
We need more accountability and
transparency, not less. Taxpayers deserve to know how the state is
spending their money so that they can hold their elected officials
accountable. It is time to put the sunshine provisions of the
Transparency for Taxpayers Act into effect and get Wisconsin moving in
the right direction.
Click here to view a copy of the Transparency for Taxpayers Act.
I created a survey asking about various issues that are
important to our community and our state. The input of neighbors is
Click here to download and print a copy of this survey, which you can
return to my office via mail, email, or fax upon completion.
Click here to save a stamp and take the survey online.
I look forward to hearing your views
on these important issues!
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