December 14, 2018


Merry Christmas!  First things first: a big thank you to my new friend Julia for inviting me to work a shift alongside her at Theo's Pizza in Sheboygan last week.  Julia doesn't let anything hold her back; I'm proud of her achievements and her hard work.  Thanks for showing me around!  Thank you also to everyone who contacted me as the legislature convened last week.  As I tell everyone who shares ideas with me: I genuinely appreciate receiving your point of view, and I warmly welcome and encourage you to communicate with me as often as you're able.


Unfortunately, the incoming administration has made no secret of their intentions to work around the legislature instead of with us; to undo unilaterally a number of the reforms that have been instrumental to Wisconsin's recovery over the past eight years; and to pick and choose which laws they will defend and enforce.  That isn't right.  The legislature has rightful, Constitutional powers too, and despite the hysterics and hyperbole last week, the reforms that I voted to advance create a more appropriate balance of powers; they do not diminish our executive's authority; they improve government transparency and accountability; and they increase protections for taxpayers.  I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to review the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo that accompanied the legislature's actions last week; it helps tell a side of the story that was largely drowned out by the bullying.


Also: it is my great honor and privilege to have been appointed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to serve the people of Wisconsin as a member of the Joint Finance Committee during the 2019-20 legislative session.  Governor Scott Walker's eight years of principled leadership put our state on the right track, and I'm eager to keep building upon these successes.


As always, I encourage you to follow my updates on social media or contact my office directly with your questions.  Best wishes on your weekend... and, again, Merry Christmas!


Finding New Money for School Libraries


If you thought the legislature takes the summer off, then think again!  Over the past six months, I've been serving as chairman of the Legislative Council Study Committee on the Investment and Use of the School Trust Funds.  Wisconsin's version of summer study committees is unique in my experience: ordinary citizens have the opportunity to serve alongside legislators and work together to research subjects that merit further attention.  It's a great way to collect ideas from many points of view and produce genuinely bipartisan recommendations.  And let me tell you: the theory works!  The many hours invested in this project by vice-chair Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee, pictured above in the foreground next to me), our fellow committee members, Legislative Council staff and a broad range of stakeholders have paid off.


In a nutshell: Wisconsin's Board of Commissioners of Public Lands manages assets worth somewhat north of $1 billion.  (Fun fact: most of this money can be traced all the way back to the creation of the State of Wisconsin in 1848; becoming a state means, in part, taking title to lands previously "owned" by the federal government.  Another fun fact: every speeding ticket issued in Wisconsin yields a few new dollars for the fund, too!)  Our state Constitution requires that this money be invested and the proceeds used to benefit public schools and a state university; state law specifically directs most proceeds to school libraries.  Our summer study committee considered the ways in which these funds are invested and some ideas aimed at increasing the amount of money that will be available to our school libraries in the long term.


The study committee's final report will be published soon.  In the meantime, you may access all of our meeting minutes, guest presentations, draft ideas and even our main recommendations online; Wisconsin history buffs like me will especially appreciate the background brief that nicely summarizes the issues we explored.


Stuff Worth Knowing


Professional licensure survey.  Yes, if your career requires that you hold a license from the State of Wisconsin, you probably received a survey from the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) recently.  No, despite some scary-sounding media reports, I am certainly not aware of any imminent/secret plot to do away with your license.  The truth is that the legislature and the executive branch have been studying the broad subject of professional licensure for several years already and will continue studying it for (at least) several more years.  There are some reasonable questions to be explored as to which/how many professions really ought to be licensed; how much a license ought to cost; how hard it ought to be to obtain a license; what exactly the government adds to public safety that the private sector cannot; and so forth.  Fast-forward to today: DSPS is gathering input this month from all kinds of licensed professionals to learn what you think about some of these questions.  They're asking you now because their homework is nearly due; DSPS is required by state law to deliver a report with their take on these questions by the end of calendar year 2018.  But somehow, some media reports have managed to spin this as a secret attempt by the outgoing administration to destroy Wisconsin's system of professional regulation.  Be assured that I've heard of no such secret plot.


The Department of Natural Resources is now offering 2019 state park admission stickers and trail passes for sale.  (Not a bad last-minute gift idea, if you ask me!  Use your credit card to place a phone order by Monday, December 16th to receive them in time for the holidays.  The phone number is 888-936-7463.)  The annual vehicle admission sticker costs $28 for Wisconsin residents; $38 for nonresidents; there are discounts available for seniors and for households registering multiple vehicles; annual trail passes (for biking, skating, horseback riding and skiiing, but not required for hiking) are a flat $25.


Sheboygan Falls Chamber-Main Street is again serving as a drop-off site for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Big Bundle Up charity collection.  New or gently used coats, sweaters, hats, mittens and other winter accessories may be dropped off during business hours at 504 Broadway Street, Sheboygan Falls; all donated items will be distributed locally!


Finally, it's not too late to enjoy Christmas at the Capitol!  The State Capitol Christmas Tree is a 35-foot high Balsam Fir; it is decorated by literally thousands of handmade ornaments crafted by schoolchildren across the state; and it completely fills our Capitol rotunda.  The Capitol is typically open to the public from 8:00 AM until 6:00 PM weekdays; weekend and holiday hours are 8:00 AM until 4:00 PM.  The 6th-story museum and observation deck continue to be open for several hours daily and will remain open until/unless inclement weather forces a closure.  Separately, the Executive Residence will be open for holiday tours, free of charge, on two more 2018 dates: Wednesday, December 19th and Thursday, December 20th, from noon until 2:00 PM each day.




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Room 306 East, State Capitol ● PO Box 8952 ● Madison, WI 53708
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