This week, the Assembly Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations took the rather unusual step of holding a committee meeting in the Capitol's historic North Hearing Room. (Committee chairman Rep. Tyler Vorpagel is seated in the center of the dais; I'm seated on the far left.) This room is not frequently used for committee business anymore because the beautiful marble walls make the acoustics a bit challenging. The North Hearing Room was originally designed for and used by the powerful state Railroad Commission. This photo hardly does the room justice, but you can make out portions of the painted murals near the ceiling, completed in 1915, that illustrate the history of transportation starting with Native Americans on horseback and ending with automobiles, trains and airplanes. This room is generally open to the public; if you've never made the trip, I highly recommend that you take the time to visit our historic Capitol and take the tour! Let me know if you're coming and I'll do my best to be there to greet you.
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!
Finding a Better Way Forward
Legislators have continued to improve upon Governor Scott Walker's 2017-19 state budget proposal in recent weeks. Although these provisions are not yet law, here are a few highlights:
The Joint Finance Committee voted to delete 222 vacant positions across the University of Wisconsin System that were taxpayer-funded. (The system's overall biennial budget is about $12.4 billion, $2.2 billion of which comes from the general-purpose revenues generated by Wisconsinites' income and sales taxes.) We're keeping college affordable by continuing the tuition freeze for at least two more years. Funding is to be increased for the UW Carbone Cancer Center that will increase the number of patients statewide that the Center will be able to reach and increase access to precision medicine for patients. And more than $26 million worth of state support will begin to be distributed across the UW System based on the performance of individual campuses.
Thanks for Coming!
Pastor Brian Jacobson and his wife Courtney traveled to Madison this week to testify in support of Assembly Bill 208, an idea that both Senator Devin LeMahieu (pictured at left) and I cosponsored to help make the adoption of a child more affordable in our state.
Under current law, adoptive parents may claim an income tax deduction for certain adoption-related expenses, but the final adoption order must be made in a Wisconsin court for the parents to be eligible for the tax deduction. But some states and foreign countries require their own courts to issue the adoption orders, which means that Wisconsin parents miss out on the opportunity to offset some of their expenses.
Adoption can be extremely expensive, and this tax deduction tool is one relatively easy way to help match children up with their "forever homes" and help prevent adoption-minded parents from being priced out of the idea. I was happy to see such strong support for the measure at the public hearing this week and am eager to vote for it soon!