As chairman of the Assembly Financial Institutions Committee, I had the privilege of convening a public hearing this week on two ideas that I think are going to help change a lot of people's lives for the better. I was really impressed by the strong turnout from the public (people who basically gave up an entire day of work to attend this midday meeting) in support of these ideas. Please keep reading (below) for more details.
I hope that you'll take the time with me this weekend to pause from our busy lives and remember the heroes who gave up everything for these United States of America. I never served in our nation's armed forces, but my father-in-law is among the last of America's living veterans of the Korean War. I am deeply humbled that so many Americans of his generation, and the generations that came before and after his, bled and died so that the United States would live. You won't see me featured in any of the parades and celebrations going on this weekend because I think Memorial Day should be set aside just for them. But I hope that you will take your families out to one of the many memorial events going on in Sheboygan County this weekend and impress upon them, just as I impressed upon my children and grandchildren, what a special country we live in and what enormous sacrifice has been made by others to make it so.
As always, I encourage you to follow my updates on social media or contact my office directly with your questions. Best wishes on your Memorial Day weekend! Travel safely!
The Road to Financial Literacy
As I mentioned above, some plans are in the works for improving access to the skills associated with financial responsibility and for encouraging folks to make use of their skills.
Assembly Bill (AB) 280, offered by my colleagues Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) and Rep. Jason Fields (D-Glendale) as well as Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) and Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), builds on recent successes across the majority of Wisconsin's school districts. In 2010, only about 25 percent of Wisconsin high schools required students to learn skills related to personal finance; that number has since risen to about 64 percent, due in no small part to the thousands of dollars in state grant money that has been awarded to school districts to help implement financial literacy programs and courses. AB 280 directs all Wisconsin school boards to implement some form of academic standards for financial literacy into their curricula so that all students have the opportunity to learn to take control of their financial futures. It's a simple idea, but I think it's going to have a big impact.
AB 283, introduced by Rep. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond), is another simple idea (one which doesn't cost taxpayers a dime!) that has proved to be very effective in other states. This bill would allow Wisconsin banks and credit unions to offer prize-linked savings promotions. In other words, under this bill, it would become legal for your local financial institution to hold a drawing for a cash prize; a person enters the drawing by making deposits into a new savings account. It actually works: Michigan started a similar "Save to Win" program in 2009. Of the program participants surveyed that year, 78 percent met the definition of "financially vulnerable" and 68 percent responded that they did not customarily save any money at all. After one year, 11,000 new savers had deposited $8.6 million in new savings, and fully 96 percent of folks renewed those savings accounts a year later. About 20 other states already allow such prize promotions, and it's a simple way to encourage people who might otherwise buy lottery tickets to save that money instead and put themselves on the path to better financial responsibility.
Tips for Travelers
If you take frequent road trips, chances are that you will suffer an automotive breakdown eventually. (It's happened to me more times than I care to admit.) It can be a stressful event, especially if you are far from home or in an unfamiliar place. Here are some ideas to help protect you and ensure that you are treated fairly:
Keep your head and don't panic! A tire blowout at high speed, for example, can be scary. Control your vehicle; if you have time, signal your intentions to other drivers; and move as far away as possible off of busy highways. Exit off of the highway altogether if you can. Unfortunately, many drivers (and emergency responders such as tow truck drivers and police officers) are injured or killed on the side of the road by out-of-control passersby, so do whatever you can to keep yourself out of harm's way.
Plan ahead. Many auto insurers, auto manufacturers, subscription services and even some credit card companies offer roadside assistance (such as towing or tire replacement) for travelers at no cost or at a significant discount. Even if you are pretty sure you can perform repairs by yourself, taking a few minutes before you leave home to check the status of your tire-changing tools or glance at your auto insurance policy can save you a lot of stress and expense.
Know your rights. It is illegal in Wisconsin for a car repair shop to give you a repair bill for more money than what you were told upfront. If repairs are expected to cost more than $50, the shop must offer you an estimate, and no matter how small the expense, the shop must have your specific authorization to perform the repair. Many shops will let you drop off your car outside of regular business hours, but you are wise to leave a note insisting that the shop contact you with an estimate and specifically obtain your permission to actually make the repairs before they proceed.