Thanks for visiting Madison this week, Trinity Lutheran School! Representative Tyler Vorpagel and I enjoyed welcoming you to the Wisconsin Supreme Court; we even ran into former State Senator Joe Leibham. We had other visitors this week, too, including some homeschool students from Sheboygan County who easily won the prize for the most sharply dressed students of the week; their photo is on my Facebook page.
Also this week, the legislature's Joint Finance Committee began making decisions related to several topic areas within Governor Scott Walker's 2017-19 budget proposal. Notable committee action included preserving the independence of the Judicial Commission and the Judicial Council that act as watchdogs over the judicial branch of government; protecting vulnerable senior adults who receive long-term care by authorizing new ombudsman positions (staff who will ensure that program participants are receiving proper care); and approving the Governor's recommendation to increase funding for the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program. The Joint Finance Committee will meet again next week Tuesday and Thursday to take up new topics.
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!
Your Government Working for You
I recently learned about an obsolete Wisconsin law that recently cost taxpayers some big money for no good reason. In certain situations, a local government may want to set money aside over a period of several years, budgeting wisely for an expected future capital project. But current law places some rather strange limitations on where the local government can deposit that money. It's illegal to deposit that money for more than three years in a local bank or credit union; for unknown reasons, the law actually has fewer limits preventing a government from investing the money in certain securities or bonds. In one Wisconsin city, the "three-year rule" cost local taxpayers at least $85,000 (just for one project) in interest revenue that they missed out on because they weren't allowed to deposit their funds in a more appropriate investment.
This week, a bill that I introduced to get rid of this unnecessary law received a public hearing in Assembly committee. Nobody so far has been able to figure out why the limitation was enacted in the first place many years ago, but judging by the interest that AB 229 received at the public hearing from cities and villages across Wisconsin (including Stevens Point, Milwaukee, Milton, Waunakee and Fox Point), it seems that this idea is on track to save some serious taxpayer money in our communities.
Did You Know?
The Wisconsin Legislature's website offers a wealth of information that is always accessible to the public, but there are a few tricks to getting it to work for you. Try some of these ideas for keeping up with the topics that interest you:
On the left side of the homepage, under the heading "Law and Legislation," click the link that reads "Current Session." Two of the more useful features accessible from this page are the schedule of all legislative committee activities, where notice is posted of all upcoming (and previous) committee agendas, and the list on the right-hand side of the page of all recently introduced legislative proposals (in descending chronological order).
Back at the homepage, right in the middle of your screen, is a search tool entitled "Find a Proposal." Here, you may search for proposals by name or by keyword; for example, you would find information about the local government investments bill that I described above by searching for either "AB 229" or "investment."
Every legislative proposal, such as AB 229, gets its own "headquarters" webpage that can tell you just about everything you might want to know about that proposal. From this page, one can access the bill's full text (and the text of any amendments that have been introduced) as well as any relevant fiscal estimates prepared by state agencies. Two of my favorite features are (1) the "LC Bill Hearing Materials" link that allows you electronic access to any written testimony offered by participants at the bill's public hearing and (2) the "Subscribe to updates via Notify" function that enables a person to sign up to receive nightly e-mail alerts to any legislative activity. The Notify system e-mail alert function can be used to track either a specific bill or, more broadly, a keyword or topic.
These features are the same tools that my staff and I use every day in our office, and even if you make regular use of them, we are more than happy to assist with your questions. The website features work great; give 'em a try!