As I've mentioned in a few recent newsletters, our beautiful State Capitol building is turning 100 years old in 2017! This photo (courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society) was taken from Bascom Hill on the UW-Madison campus in 1907. The new building would not be complete for another 10 years; in this photo, construction on the dome was well underway, and the old Capitol (which burned in 1904) can still be seen. The total construction cost between 1906 and 1917 was $7.2 million; today, our Capitol probably couldn't be duplicated at any cost. It is my distinct honor and privilege to serve you here!
The big news in Madison this week is that the legislature's Joint Finance Committee has announced dates in late March and throughout April for upcoming agency briefings as well as statewide public hearings on the 2017-19 state budget. Agency briefings are opportunities for agency officials to explain their budget requests and receive questions in person before the legislature. The public hearings "road show" consists of all-day-long open forum events spread geographically around the state; the general public is invited to attend, share personal experiences with legislators and offer comments on the Governor's proposals (or anything, really) well in advance of any legislative action later this spring.
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 LET'S GO BADGERS!!!
How Can I Make a Difference?
In Wisconsin, practically all state-level decisions that involve spending money are incorporated into one big proposal (the biennial state budget bill) once every two years. Although I'm eager to receive your ideas at any time of year, now is a great time for me to receive feedback from you as the legislature's serious budget deliberations ramp up in the weeks ahead. The actual text of the 2017-19 budget bill is about 1,000 pages long so far and will probably be much longer than that by the time the bill is debated for passage into law in the early summer. I'm just a phone call or e-mail away; let me know what's on your mind! The best ideas come from you.
The actual text of the budget bill is very technical, so the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) publishes what I like to call the "plain-English" summary of what it means. That summary is now available for the 2017-19 budget proposal, along with several other related resources. It spells out, agency by agency, topic by topic, what changes from current law have been proposed by the Governor. This is the primary guide used by legislators and staff to keep up with what's going on in the budget, and although it too is very detailed, this is an enormously helpful resource for anyone interested in the legislative process. LFB also publishes updated informational papers on a wide range of topics that break down issues and help explain possible alternatives.
Probably my favorite resource that I like to direct folks toward is a publication by the Wisconsin Legislative Council (our nonpartisan professional staff of attorneys) entitled "A Citizen's Guide to Participation in the Wisconsin State Legislature." This is available in its entirety online and is a very well-written and user-friendly guide that I would strongly recommend to anyone. Check it out; it's worth your time!
How Did They Do That?
Shortly prior to the completion of the Wisconsin State Capitol in 1917, crews hoisted the statue "Wisconsin" to the top of the dome. It's a bit hard to make out in this photo, but Wisconsin holds a globe with an eagle on it in one hand, and she wears a helmet with a badger on top. Wisconsin is made of hollow bronze covered with gold leaf; she is 15 feet tall and weighs three tons. Photo courtesy of the Capitol 100 Year Celebration and the Wisconsin Historical Society.