Representative Jason Fields (D-Glendale), pictured with me above, invited a few colleagues and me to speak with African-American business leaders at the Capitol this week in honor of Black History Month. The legislature has been working hard over the past several years to find ways to build a more business-friendly climate in Wisconsin, encourage growth and reduce the burden of government on our economy. I really appreciated meeting these community leaders and sharing our vision for the future. Click on the picture above to check out the video highlights of our meeting!
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!
Making Wisconsin a Better Place
My recent newsletters have focused in some depth on our state's transportation funding dilemma. But my colleagues and I are working on many other topics as well to keep making Wisconsin a better place to live and work. Below are a handful of the ideas that are circulating early in this legislative session; now would be a great time for you to share your views with me about these topics!
HOPE Agenda. Over the past four years, 17 bills have been passed into law that are helping to save lives and combat the heroin epidemic that has touched too many families in our state. A package of 11 new proposals is being considered that would (among other things) create additional treatment programs in underserved areas, increase access to medical help for addiction and fund new criminal investigator positions to help stop illegal substances from entering Wisconsin in the first place.
Requiring child support compliance. Under current law, non-custodial parents who do not comply with child support orders are still eligible to receive FoodShare benefits. A proposed bill would ensure that benefits are going only those who are keeping up with their child support payments and complying with attempts to establish paternity. (This was law in Wisconsin until Governor Jim Doyle's 2007 budget law repealed the requirement.)
Local control over traffic roundabouts. A proposed bill would prohibit the Department of Transportation from constructing a new roundabout unless approval has been granted by the local government (i.e., city council). Data suggests that roundabouts are generally safer than traditional 4-way intersections, but in some instances they can cause traffic bottlenecks; this bill give municipalities the final say over the construction of new roundabouts.
Disabled veteran-owned businesses. For a Wisconsin business to be certified as disabled-veteran owned, current law requires the business owner to have at least a 20 percent service-connected disability rating. A proposed bill would remove this threshold and allow any disabled-veteran owned business to pursue certification equally at both state and federal levels.
School start dates. Current law prohibits public schools from beginning classes each fall prior to September 1st. A proposed bill would allow each school district to determine its own start date and begin prior to September 1st if desired.
Increased OWI penalties. Alcohol-related crashes killed 190 people in Wisconsin in 2015 and injured almost 2,900 others. A series of bills would establish a mandatory minimum sentence of five years imprisonment for vehicular homicide while intoxicated and increase the minimum imprisonment for multiple-repeat offenders.
Civil asset forfeiture reform. Under current law, state or local law enforcement agencies may seize property related to the commission of a crime and, in some instances, sell the seized property. But if a person is not proved guilty of that crime (i.e., charges dropped or defendant acquitted at trial), it can be difficult and cost-prohibitive for that innocent person to recover his seized property. A proposed bill would preserve law enforcement's ability to seize property but create a specific timeline and process by which the court system would return property promptly to rightful owners.
New! Life Insurance Policy Locator Service
There is a new tool available to assist Wisconsin residents with locating lost/unknown life insurance policies and annuity contracts. If no one comes forward to claim the benefits of a life insurance policy, the insurance company typically still tries to contact the rightful beneficiary, but in quite a few instances, benefits are never paid out to the right folks. Sometimes the insurance company doesn't know that a policyholder is deceased; sometimes the beneficiary doesn't know about the policy and never files a claim; and sometimes the contact information is simply out of date and the two parties just fail to contact each other.
The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) have launched a new online tool that helps individuals search the files of insurance companies across the nation. If you believe that you might be the beneficiary, executor or legal representative of a deceased person, you may use the tool to enter a search request; participating insurance companies will then search their records in response to your request and alert state-level insurance departments to any matches; and, finally, the insurer will contact beneficiaries with any successful results as appropriate.