OCTOBER 15, 2015

Revenue Numbers

On Thursday, The Department of Administration released its annual report of the state's general fund. This report presents statements of fund condition and operations (budgetary basis) of the State of Wisconsin for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2015. 

The General Fund has an undesignated balance of $135.6 million as of the end of the fiscal year. General-purpose revenue taxes were $14.541 billion compared to $13.948 billion in the prior year, an increase of $593 million or 4.3 percent. General-purpose revenue expenditures, excluding fund transfers, were $15.334 billion. This is $271 million less than the budgeted expenditure allocation of $15.605 billion.

In fiscal year 2015, the State of Wisconsin continued to devote the major share of state tax collections to assistance to local school districts, municipalities and counties. Local assistance accounted for 52.1 percent of total general purpose revenue spending. Aid payments to individuals and organizations represented 24.3 percent of total general purpose revenue expenditures. The University of Wisconsin accounted for 7.1 percent of total general purpose revenue spending and state operations spending for all other state agencies accounted for 16.5 percent of the total.

A copy of the complete report is online.

Assembly Session Next Week

Next week, the Assembly will be in session to take up legislation that will reorganize the Government Accountability Board (GAB) and legislation to reform John Doe and campaign finance laws. I plan to support these reforms.

GAB Reform
Assembly Bill 388 creates two bipartisan commissions to replace the current GAB Board: the Ethics Commission and the Election Commission. Each will have six citizen members: two appointed by Republican legislative leaders, two by Democratic legislative leaders, and the final two are appointed by the governor from two separate lists submitted by each party and then confirmed by the Senate. The gubernatorial appointees for the Election Commission must be current or former clerks, one from each party, to ensure that elections run smoothly and efficiently. The commissioners will serve five-year terms. Each commission will have an administrator, appointed by the commission members and confirmed by the Senate, serving a four-year term.

The legislation also includes measures to increase accountability and transparency. The bill introduces due process protections in the complaint and investigation processes.  Additionally, when an opinion or guidance is given, these documents will be posted online for the public to see.

John Doe Reform

Assembly Bill 68 would reform Wisconsin's controversial John Doe law. Wisconsin is the lone state with John Doe proceedings on the books, 49 other states use grand jury proceedings in the place of these investigations. The state's John Doe law is used to determine whether or not a crime has been committed as well as who is the perpetrator of the suspected crime. The bill will ensure that a John Doe investigation will only be used when absolutely necessary. This necessity will be determined by state statute and the U.S. Constitution. The current John Doe law would be preserved for investigating certain felonies and potential crimes committed by on-duty law enforcement officers.

Campaign Finance Reform
Assembly Bill 387 would substantially rewrite current state laws related to campaign finance.  As Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) pointed out during his testimony in committee this week, Chapter 11 has not had a major revision since it was created in 1973.  Since that time the courts have developed a clearer understanding of the governmentís ability to regulate speech.  Unfortunately, Wisconsinís statutes have not been updated to mark the boundaries of the governmentís authority to regulate election-related speech. In the absence of legislative action, regulators have attempted to burden speech in ways that violate our Constitution. While the courts have protected our First Amendment rights, they have also made it clear that the legislature must act.  [read more]

Legislative Spotlight

The Legislative Reference Bureau puts together the Legislative Spotlight on a weekly basis to highlight what is going on in the Wisconsin State Legislature. It's a great way to get information about bills that have recently been introduced, committee proceedings, bills that are signed into law, and other helpful information.

You can read the legislative spotlight by clicking here.

Emergency Worker Legislation

Rep. Loudenbeck and Rep. Warren Petryk (R-Eleva) introduced legislation that would simplify the process for emergency utility workers (utility employees from another state who will temporarily work in Wisconsin) to help Wisconsin citizens get critical infrastructure back online by creating various tax exemptions for volunteer workers helping in Wisconsin during a state of emergency.

Assembly Bill 405 creates an exemption from income, sales, and use taxes for emergency utility workers deployed in Wisconsin and creates an exemption to state or local fees, licenses, certificates, registration, and permitting requirements that would otherwise be applicable to the emergency work. In order to qualify for the exemption, the work must be performed during a state of emergency, declared by the Governor, and must help restore the stateís infrastructure or otherwise minimize the effects of an emergency.

In the wake of Super Storm Sandy, Wisconsin utility workers as well as workers from across the country volunteered to go to the storm ravaged area to repair and rebuild critical infrastructure and restore power and phone service. While the efforts of these volunteers highlight the very best of human nature, the situation also brought to light some unintended flaws in the regulatory and government systems. Unfortunately, some of these volunteers were prevented from immediately helping due to rules that required them to go through a duplicative licensing procedure and even worse, some are now subjected to paying income tax in the state they volunteered to help.

During any tragedy, we do not want overly bureaucratic regulations standing in the way of getting the help we need as quickly as possible With this legislation, Wisconsin will get the necessary help it may need if a state of emergency were to be declared and our business and families can resume their normal operations as quickly as possible.

Gathering Waters Policymaker of the Year

I was thrilled to join my Assembly colleagues Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) and Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville), in being honored for our work on the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in the state budget. Together we worked with members of our caucus and other interested parties to negotiate a compromise to restore the program.

Above: Rep. Joel Kitchens, Rep. Loudenbeck and Rep. Todd Novak

In addition to my award, Harold Friestad, from Williams Bay was awarded the Harold "Bud" Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award for his work and dedication to Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy. Harold was instrumental in the purchase, restoration and protection of the 231 acre parcel on Geneva Lake.
Congratulations Harold!

Above: Rep. Loudenbeck and Harold Friestad

Gathering Waters: Wisconsinís Alliance for Land Trusts is a statewide land conservation organization founded in 1994 to strengthen Wisconsinís private non-profit land trusts. Through technical assistance, outreach and public policy advocacy, Gathering Waters helps land trusts, landowners, and communities protect the places that make Wisconsin special.

Hope Agenda & Dose of Reality

This session, Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) introduced four new bills as a continuation of his HOPE Agenda. Instead of focusing solely on heroin, these four bills target the root of Wisconsinís epidemic: prescription drug abuse and addiction. In the majority of cases, heroin addiction begins with an addiction to prescription medications. Whether these medications are obtained legally or not, we need to do our best to curtail the illegal use of these dangerous substances.  I have signed on as a co-author of all four bills in the HOPE Agenda package.

The following are summaries of each of the four HOPE Agenda bills being worked on this session:

1. Change the requirement for those who dispense certain prescription drugs to submit information to the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) from 7 days to 24 hours. It will also require a practitioner to review a patientís record when initially prescribing a monitored prescription drug (for example, a Schedule II drug).

2. When law enforcement encounters an inappropriate use or an infraction of the law concerning scheduled drugs, they upload that information into the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) and have the PDMP notify the physician. There are exceptions for on-going investigations.

3. Give the Department of Health Services (DHS) oversight over the operation of pain management clinics across the state. The departmentís oversight would not be regulatory, but would be a way of providing safeguards so ďpill millsĒ donít pop up in our state.

4. Methadone is a drug assisted treatment run in methadone clinics around the state. It is not uncommon for a patient to regularly go for treatment at a methadone clinic for 5 to 10 years. These clinics are for-profit and receive Medicaid reimbursement. This legislation will have methadone clinics gather data such as staffing ratios, the number of patients receiving behavioral health services with the medication, and average mileage an individual is traveling to come to a clinic. It will then be reported to DHS on an annual basis to give public health and treatment professionals a chance to analyze outcome data.

In addition to Rep. Nygren's HOPE agenda, Attorney General Brad Schimel introduced "Dose of Reality" which is an awareness campaign to alert Wisconsinites to the dangers of misusing opioid pain medications Ė an abuse that now exceeds deaths involving heroin and cocaine combined.

As part of the Dose or Reality campaign, the Department of Justice has announced Drug Take Back Day on October 17, 2015.   For more information, click here.

New Blue Books

The 2015-2016 Blue Books have arrived! If you would like a complimentary copy, please send an email including your first and last name and complete mailing address to rep.loudenbeck@legis.wi.gov.  If you live outside the 31st Assembly District we will gladly forward your request to the appropriate legislative office.

My Capitol office at 306 East is here to help you with general inquiries as well as questions and concerns regarding legislative matters. Feel free to contact me or my staff. We are always ready to assist you in your needs. Please visit my website for press releases and other Capitol updates.

If you have any comments regarding the subject of this E-Update, please feel free to contact me.   

State Capitol Room 306 East- PO Box 8952, Madison, WI 53708
Toll-Free (888) 529-0031 or (608) 266-9967
Email: Rep.Loudenbeck@legis.wi.gov

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