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December 1, 2017


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Successful Hunting Season

Congratulations Wisconsin hunters on another successful hunt. According to the DNR, 98,364 hunters were successful in their hunt of an antlered deer. Preliminary figures show 195,738 deer were harvested compared to 197,262 in 2016. Overall, only seven safety incidents were reported with zero fatalities.

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Foster Care Task Force Legislation Introduced

As many of you know, earlier this year, I was assigned to the Assembly Speaker’s Task Force on Foster Care. As a member of this committee, I traveled around the state with a bipartisan group of legislators to hear from citizens involved in our foster care system. These hearings shined a light on some of the challenges facing our system and also brought some excellent solutions. At the conclusion of these hearings, myself and other members of the committee were tasked with introducing legislation to make our system operate better. I’m proud that this week we are introducing some substantial legislation to benefit those who are affected by our foster care system.

Higher education and the termination of parental rights have stood out to me as potential areas of improvement in our foster care system. I am a strong advocate for reducing the barriers between youth aging out of foster care and attaining a degree. Studies have shown that while 84% of foster children have college aspirations, less than 10% get their degree. To ease the burdens that come with pursuing higher education for foster youth, I am introducing a bill that waives tuition at any UW Institution or technical college in Wisconsin. In order to receive this benefit, the student must first apply for any federal grant money that is available through the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once complete, both the institution and the state will make up the difference in the tuition balance.

I’m excited for this additional system of support we are providing for our foster youth in Wisconsin. Ray Cross, President of the UW System, has voiced his support saying “We applaud the authors of this bill and greatly appreciate their work with the UW System and our institutions to ensure the legislation aligns with other tuition remission programs. This legislation will help support students who come from a foster care background with the cost of college as they earn a college degree towards creating a brighter future. We look forward to seeing this bill move forward in support of our students.”

Having adopted two boys out of the foster care system, I understand how difficult it can be to terminate parental rights (TPR). Striking a balance between the rights of the parents and finding a safe and permanent home for these kids is a difficult task, but I believe our proposals will make the system more effective and efficient. Our legislative package would eliminate the need for a judge to determine whether or not there is a substantial likelihood that a parent will not meet conditions for the safe return of a child. Instead, the situation would be assessed based on the amount of time the child has spent in out-of-home care.

These proposals are only a fraction of the package we have introduced to improve our foster care system. I look forward to working on an issue that is so important to me and I hope you will reach out to my office if you would like more information on these reforms.

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ATV Legislation Signed into Law

Yesterday,  Governor Scott Walker signed Assembly Bill 485 which gives municipalities the authority to enact an ordinance to allow ATVs and UTVs on sections of state highways within municipal boundaries. AB 485 and Senate Bill 392 were authored by Senator Howard Marklein and myself at the request of Darlington Police Chief Jason King.

Prior to this revision, the law prohibited ATV/UTV’s from using a small section of Galena Street which is also State Highway 23 because it is a state highway. This creates an obstacle that effectively isolates neighborhoods from legally accessing the city-wide ATV route. This act allows a municipality to include this type of road in their ATV/UTV route plan. As ATVs and UTVs become more popular, the need for a continuous trail system becomes more critical. Often, the only way to connect two trailheads is through the use of a state roadway. If a stretch of road is deemed safe for ATV/UTV usage by local officials, the municipality may enact an ordinance allowing for operation of these vehicles.

AB 485 and SB 392 were drafted because the Department of Transportation denied a request made by the City of Darlington asking for permission to use a small stretch of State Highway 23 as an access route for the Cheese Country Recreational Trail. The Department denied the request without seeking input from local officials.

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Green County Child Advocacy Center Visit

Recently, I spent the afternoon with staff at the Green County Child Advocacy Center in Monroe. Adrienne Jurewicz, Stephanie King, Nancy Werren, and Kristy Schindler gave me a tour of the facility and shared the ways these centers stand up for children who are victims of abuse and neglect. Acting as place where law enforcement, child protective services, and others involved can share information and develop a plan of action in a safe environment; these centers are truly an amazing resource for our community and the state of Wisconsin. Thank you!

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