Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or opinions you might
Office Phone: (608) 266-7505
Toll-free Phone: (800) 361-5487
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707
Find Me on Facebook
neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost
importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and
your family are listed below.
Daffodil Bulb Sale
Date: Thursday, October 8, 9:00 a.m. to Noon
Description: Come stock up on bulbs for flowers to plant in the
Kelly Senior Center
6100 S. Lake Dr.
Cudahy WI 532110
Date: Friday, October 9 through Saturday, October 10
Description: This non-scary Halloween and educational event is
perfect for families! This year's theme will focus on all of the watery
places here in Wisconsin and all of the creatures that call it home.
Participants will load a bus at MPS Central Services and ride over to
Hawthorn Glen. People who wish to participate should register in
advance. Admission is $6.
For more information, CLICK HERE.
MPS Central Services
5225 W Vliet St
Milwaukee, WI 53208
US Bank and Fox 6 Neighborhood Night at Betty Brinn Children's Museum
Date: Thursday, October 15 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Description: Enjoy free admission on the third Thursday of every
month. There will be a special Be a Maker program going on where you can
explore endless ways to be creative and experiment.
For more information, CLICK HERE.
Betty Brinn Children's
929 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Gallery Night and Day
Date: Friday, October 16 to Saturday, October 17
Location: Downtown & Historic Third Ward
Description: Happening just four times a year, this premier art
event is perfect for experienced art connoisseur and the beginner art
admirers. This venue will feature over 50 venues throughout downtown
location and more information, CLICK HERE
2015 Hunting and Moon Pow Wow
Date: October 16, 2015 3:00 p.m. through October 18, 2015
Description: Explore the Native American culture by watching a
dance competition and listening to traditional music, including a
drumming circle. People will have the opportunity to purchase a variety
of Native American arts and crafts along with a variety of foods.
Admission is free.
For more information, CLICK HERE.
400 W Kilbourn Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53203
Milwaukee Fish Fry
Date: Fridays now through November at 5:30 p.m.
Description: Enjoy your Friday evening exploring the streets of
Milwaukee and enjoying fish fries along the way. On this tour, you will
be able to sample three half size fish fries along with dessert! This is
a bus tour, but does require minimal walking.
For location and more information, CLICK HERE.
Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,
I hope you are enjoying autumn! As a marathoner, the cool
autumn air is perfect race weather. Hopefully, you are able to enjoy
your favorite activities of the season, too.
In this week's newsletter, we'll outline the latest attempts to
consolidate power and streamlining corruption in our state government. I
will share what happened at the public hearing on a bill that further
guts our state's good-government civil service laws.
Additionally, Senate Democrats and I unveiled our legislative priorities
for the fall session.
As always, it is great to see many of you in the community at farmer's
markets, races, and events. Please remember that I welcome your ideas
and always appreciate hearing from you about your priorities and
See you in the neighborhood,
State Senator, District 7
On Tuesday, the Senate
Committee on Labor and Government Reform held a public hearing on a
bill that would gut our state's civil service protections. The bill,
Senate Bill 285, received strong criticism at the hearing, as it
puts our state on the path to allowing for more political patronage
and corruption. Not surprisingly, the only individuals who came to
voice their support for the bill were Walker political appointees
who would likely benefit from it. By recklessly pushing this bill,
Governor Walker and the GOP are again betraying the public trust and
our shared values. Wisconsinites are not fooled by what Walker and
the GOP are trying to do in our state -- consolidate power and
Specifically, the bill:
- Removes neutral entrance exams
for new job applicants and replaces them with a biased resume-based
- Shifts significant hiring
authority to Walker political appointees
- Extends the probationary
period for new hires from 6 months to two years
- Changes the layoff process
from experience-based to subjective
Civil Service Protections
Good for 100 Years
service protections date back over 100 years -- first enacted in
1905. Like many of our Progressive Era policies, it served as a
national model for good government. Even today, it is noted as one
of the best in the country.
Having strong civil service
laws is not only good for state workers, by making sure they are not
pressured to perform favors for politicians or contribute to
campaigns, but also for citizens as it keeps our government clean
and prevents cronyism.
Throughout the years, our civil
service laws have been collaboratively updated. In fact, the last
major update came during Tommy Thompson's governorship. However, the
process that was used to make changes -- which allowed for more
flexible hiring procedures and tweaked the civil service exams --
was a lot different than what we are seeing today. A study commission
was formed that involved all key stakeholders, including
legislators, representatives of the governor and state agencies, and
labor organizations, to come up with a plan. When I questioned one
of the bill's authors on whether or not he was receptive to using a
similar study commission in order to come up with a bipartisan plan,
I was appalled when he suggested that if I voted in favor of his
plan it would be bipartisan. Apparently, collaboration and
bipartisanship does not mean the same thing now as it did then.
Senate Bill 285 Political
We already have proof
of what happens when we throw out strong hiring standards and
replace them with subjective evaluations by looking at the failed
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). The quasi-private
state agency does not use the same civil service standards as other
state agencies. As a result, corruption and high turnover have run
rampant within WEDC since its creation. As we heard from people who
testified at the hearing, the last thing Wisconsinites want is to
expand this model and open the floodgates to more corruption in all
To fully understand the scope
of how dangerous this bill is, we need to take a look at how we got
here. Standing alone Senate Bill 285 has the power to cripple
workplace protections, but combined with changes made in the last
state budget it has the ability to allow for the total destruction
of Wisconsin's heritage of impartiality and fairness in state
government. Essentially, Republicans have once again changed the
rules, and now they are rigging the game entirely. In other words,
their public betrayal is an effort to politicize state employment
that goes well beyond Senate Bill 285 alone.
Click on the video below to
view the public hearing on Senate Bill 285 on Wisconsin Eye:
Scheme to Increase Political
Patronage and Corruption was Buried in the Last State Budget
The latest bill being
pushed actually builds on the repeal of a good government protection
just a few months ago. In the 2015-2017 state budget, Walker
and the Republicans eliminated the Office of State Employment
Relations (OSER), the agency in charge of administering civil
service laws through its Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection
(DMRS). To ensure an impartial system, there were a number of checks
and balances in selecting an individual to serve as the head of the
DMRS. The administrator of DMRS was nominated by the governor, and
approved by the Senate to be appointed to serve a five-year term.
However, the governor appointed an individual from a register of at
least five names provided by the director of OSER. In addition, the
director of OSER was obligated to prepare and conduct an examination
for the position of administrator of DMRS, to ensure they had the
necessary skills for the job.
In the budget, OSER itself was
dismantled and its functions got swept into the Department of
Administration (DOA) -- a state agency that has become highly
politicized. DMRS became the Bureau of Merit Recruitment and
Selection within the new Division of Personnel Management housed
Basically, the state budget
destroyed a method that was carefully developed over time to ensure
impartiality and replaced it with a system that allows for a
political appointee -- with no required experience in human
resources -- to run the new Division of Personnel Management. This
becomes even more concerning, as we heard throughout the day at the
hearing, when coupled with the replacing of civil service exams with
biased resume selection.
For example, a state employee,
Mark, who does maintenance work in the Capitol, stressed the
importance of the current objective system using civil service exams
and warned against replacing it with a subjective resume, which are
inherently less fair and subjective. He described the general repair
specialist exam he took, which took about three or four hours to
complete. Another person who was applying a state maintenance job, whose
background was in welding, complained that there were very few
questions about welding. Mark went on to explain that the purpose of
the exam is to make sure the state is hiring the the best people,
with the right skills to perform the job. This is not something you
can easily tell based on a resume alone. Others echoed the
importance of the civil service exams during the hearing -- which is
not one singular exam but rather many exams for each employment
classification that is specific to the duties an individual would
need to perform. The exam an applicant takes is specific to the job
classification they are applying for. Under this bill, however, the
exams would no longer be administered and instead, due to the
changes made in the last state budget, a group of political
appointees would base hiring decisions off of resumes.
GOP Ignoring the Real
Problems Facing our State
already has the fastest-shrinking middle class in the U.S., is last
in the nation for new business start-ups, and lags in job creation.
Wisconsin families face real challenges every day and are tired of
the cronyism and political power grabs by Republican leaders who are
focused on undermining our open records laws and eliminating
My Democratic colleagues and I are listening to the hardworking
neighbors in our communities. Rather than looking for ways to tear
down Wisconsin workers, Democrats are focused on strengthening our
middle class, boosting family wages, and ensuring greater retirement
security. In fact, recently Senate Democrats unveiled their
legislative priorities. Read on for more on this.
in Wisconsin has arrived with a colorful flourish and crisp air, with it
the Wisconsin Legislature begins its fall session.
This season of change is ideal for my colleagues and me to
ensure that efforts to strengthen and expand the middle class are a
legislative priority. This summer, Senate Democrats listened to our
neighbors across the Badger State and this week unveiled our Badger
Blueprint, a legislative agenda that reflects the hopes, concerns,
values, and priorities of the majority of Wisconsinites. It includes a
wide range of new ideas and proven solutions to generate economic
opportunities in Wisconsin.
Across the state, everyone
understands that Wisconsin has been neglected for presidential political
ambitions and torn apart to meet the partisan whims of millionaires and
billionaires. It's the season of change, a time for something different.
Our Badger Blueprint is a shared vision of the values and policies
needed to help strengthen our state. It focuses on progressive policies
that encourage growth, drive innovation, and increase economic
opportunities -- all vital to reversing Governor Walker's disastrous track
record of an anemic economy, stunted growth in business start-ups, and
the disgraceful title of the fastest-shrinking middle class in America.
The Badger Blueprint promotes innovative, balanced pro-growth
solutions that will expand access to a quality education and lifelong
learning opportunities and invest in crucial springboard infrastructure.
We offer the Blueprint to help working families with student loan debt
relief, provide more affordable child care, and expanded access to
affordable health care.
Wisconsin families are tired of being second fiddle to presidential
ambitions and partisan bickering. Wisconsin needs leaders willing to
work together and focus on improving the economy, strengthening the
middle class and boosting stagnant wages. The Badger Blueprint has ideas
that should be embraced and championed by both parties. I am encouraging
everyone across the political spectrum to review the Badger Blueprint
and start pulling together so that we can turn our state around.
To view the Badger Blueprint and share your ideas on ways we can
work together and move Wisconsin forward, click here.
I often have neighbors contact me
looking for my perspective on various local and state issues. I very
much appreciate our neighbors' questions and want to dedicate a portion
of my newsletter to common questions that I hear to maintain an open
dialogue. Please continue reading for this week's question.
The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau recently celebrated its 50th
Anniversary. I've heard that the GOP wants to get rid of this state
agency. Could you explain this in further detail?
A: That's a great question. In fact, a legislator on the Audit
Committee recently wrote about this in detail and provides a great
answer to that question. Below is what she had to say:
"'Fix the broken programs, get rid of the ones that don't work and fund
those that are working.' There's not a state candidate around that would
disagree with this statement.
Yet there are some in the Legislature that would eliminate the very
source of information on which programs are a waste of taxpayer dollars
and where the broken programs need fixing.
For fifty years, auditors at the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau
(LAB) have assisted legislators and the people of Wisconsin in answering
questions about dollars spent. Questions like, 'Did we get our money's
worth out of that program?'
Skilled public sector auditors perform financial audits on various funds
in state government, like the lottery or the Patient's Compensation
Fund. They examine federal dollars to assure the state is compliant with
federal law in the annual Single Audit. Auditors also review state
expenditures in the LAB review of the Comprehensive Annual Financial
Audit released near the end of the year.
The National State Auditors Association recently awarded the highest
rating possible to the LAB's financial audit division. Very experienced
auditors put the LAB's programs and policies through a rigorous review.
These examinations are conducted every three years. Wisconsin's LAB has
consistently received the highest ratings possible.
But financial audits are only part of the award winning work done by the
LAB. Program evaluations, answering questions like did this program meet
its goals, is the other part of the work of the Audit Bureau.
While the work of the financial division seldom makes headlines, the
program evaluation auditors often find their work under the spotlight.
Recently a GOP Assembly proposal called for eliminating the LAB. Capitol
rumors said elimination was in retaliation for the embarrassing failures
made public in three audits over the past three years of the Wisconsin
Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).
But far from cause for elimination of the nonpartisan watchdog, the
program auditors of the Legislative Audit Bureau were rewarded with
national recognition for their work on WEDC and similar critically
important program audits.
The National Legislative Program Evaluation Society recognized the work
of the LAB with its distinguished Certificate of Impact in 2013 for the
FoodShare audit; in 2014 for the Wisconsin Economic Development
Corporation audit; and in 2015 for the Supervised Release Placement and
Expenditure audit. The recent national accolades should reassure voters
and lawmakers of the LAB's stellar work.
Too often lawmakers say they want to know which programs work and which
do not, but their actions tell us otherwise. Recent actions such as
cutting funding for an outside evaluation for the Drug Court (Treatment
Alternative Diversion) program. Or by budget action creating four or
five alternative tests for students in publicly-funded private school
programs, making accurate comparisons between public and private school
student achievement extremely difficult.
Facts matter. Facts lead us to conclusions that might are may not always
be popular politically. That's exactly why we need the nonpartisan
Legislative Audit Bureau. If we truly care about creating a well-run
state government no one should shy away from the facts nonpartisan
auditors present to us -- regardless of political implications.
This summer the Beloit Daily News editorialized about the importance of
independent agencies in state government. The editorial lauded the LAB
saying the agency 'has earned a strong reputation for impartiality and
independence from partisan political influence.'
Nonpartisan agencies like the Audit Bureau, the Fiscal Bureau and the
Government Accountability Board play a key role in a well-functioning
state government. The Beloit Daily News warns us: 'TAXPAYERS, TAKE NOTE.
Agencies like the GAB, the Audit Bureau and the Fiscal Bureau exist
under a mandate to serve truth, not politics. That's in the best
interest of the people, if not the politicians. Understandably, the
powerful object to any outfit they can't control. But government
watchdogs must not be muzzled and broken to the partisan leash.'
Instead, let us laud the work of our nonpartisan agencies. Join me in
congratulating the LAB on excellent accomplishments and national
And wish the agency another 50 years of exceptional work serving as 'the
steward of the people's money.'"
I couldn't agree more with the sentiments of my colleague, Senator
Vinehout. Instead of dismantling what little is left of nonpartisan
agencies in our state government, especially given the proposed changes
in civil service, we should be looking for more opportunities to build
on the success of the LAB.
To view some of the audits the LAB has conducted, click here.
a day-long hearing at the state Capitol on Tuesday, October 6, I was
able to attend a vigil on the Capitol steps celebrating the life and
advocacy of Marty Beil, the iconic and passionate former leader of the
Wisconsin state employee labor union. Marty passed on October 1, at his
home in Mazomanie, Wisconsin.
On a dark day, where Senate Republicans held a committee meeting pushing
a bill that would grossly gut civil service protections, we
also celebrated the life and legacy of a man that consistently pushed
for fair wages and safer working conditions.
His straight talk, wisdom, and passion will be deeply missed by those
who believe that we all lose when Wisconsin slips further into Walker's
With his passing, my thoughts and prayers are with his family and
friends. I will be joining my colleagues in the Legislature in
introducing a Joint Resolution honoring the life and public service of
As we look forward, I'm reminded that Marty saw the potential for a
brighter future, a Wisconsin that celebrates and empowers our workers in
both the private and public sector. We can get there, we all deserve
To view the Joint Resolution, click here.
1920, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first National Fire
Prevention Day. It has since developed into an entire week in the month
of October as a way to educate people on how to prevent fires in the
home. Each year has its own theme and this year's theme is "Hear The
Beep Where You Sleep. Every Bedroom Needs a Working Smoke Alarm!"
According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), Three out
of five home fire deaths in 2007-2011 were caused by fires in homes with
no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. In honor of this year's
theme, the NFPA has released some tips for proper smoke detector use:
- Install smoke alarms inside
and outside each bedroom and sleeping area. Install alarms one every
level of the home, including the basement.
- Larger homes may need extra
- It is best to use
interconnected smoke alarms, when one smoke alarm sounds they all
- Test all smoke alarms at least
once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working.
- There are two kinds of alarms.
Ionization smoke alarms are quicker to warn about flaming fires.
Photoelectric alarms are quicker to warn about smoldering fires. It
is best to use both types of alarms in the home.
- A smoke alarm should be on the
ceiling or high on the wall. Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen
to reduce false alarms. They should be at least 10ft from the stove.
- People who are hard-of-hearing
or deaf can use special alarms. These alarms have strobe lights and
- Replace all smoke alarms when
they are 10 years old.
September and October are also
peak months for fires in college housing. According to the NFPA,
roughly 70% of fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and
barracks begin in the kitchen or cooking area. Fire research has
shown that with modern housing it is easier for fires more rapidly
than before. This is why having properly located fire alarms is
essential to maximize the number of available escape routes.
No matter where you live, there are important steps you can take to
be ready in case of a fire. First and foremost, make sure you have
smoke alarms and they are set up properly. Working smoke alarms cut
the risk of dying in home fires in half. All smoke alarms should be
tested at least once a month and be replaced every 10 years. Another
essential precautionary measure is to make and practice an escape
plan out of your house. If possible, know at least two ways out of
every room in your home. Additional precautions to prevent home
fires are listed below:
- Be mindful of where and
how you use heating equipment. This includes regularly cleaning
chimneys and keeping heating equipment, such as space heaters
and stoves, away from things that can burn, such as upholstered
furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.
- Smoking can kill in more
ways than one. Smoking materials started an average of 17,900
smoking-material home structure fires per year during 2007-2011.
These fires caused an average of 580 deaths, 1,280 injuries and
$509 million in direct property damage per year.
- Do not overcrowd outlets
and be sure your house's electrical work is up-to-code. Half of
home electrical fires involve electrical distribution or
lighting equipment, while other leading types of equipment
include washers or dryers, fans, air conditioning units, or
- Do not leave candles
unattended. More than half of all candle fires start when things
that can burn are too close to the candle.
- Do not leave cooking
unattended. Unattended cooking was one-third the factor for
cooking related fires. Two of every 5 fires in a home was
started in the kitchen.