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2017 Legislative Year In Review

As many of us do at this time of year, I am reflecting on my accomplishments in 2017. I am honored to be serving you in the State Senate and am very proud of our work together on behalf of rural Wisconsin. Without a doubt, I know that I delivered for rural Wisconsin this year.  From securing funds for UW Platteville building projects, to more money for rural roads, to nurse licensure, I look back at 2017 and see a lot of hard work and time well spent.
I appreciate all of the ideas, input and efforts of the people of the 17th Senate District who support me in this role. We live in terrific communities with engaged leaders, compassionate volunteers and good neighbors who are truly committed to making our state a better place. It is a sincere pleasure to work with everyone who is willing to put in the time, effort and talent to craft good legislation, work through obstacles and discover opportunities.
Every other year, the legislature works on the state budget and 2017 was dominated by the budget process.  As a member of the legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee (JFC), much of my year was consumed by studying the budget, crafting motions to improve the budget, advocating for our priorities in the budget and following-up to insure that our priorities remained in the budget. This may sound simplistic, but, the budget is a 989 page document that distributes more than $73 billion for state programs.  It is a detailed process that requires a lot of time and attention. 
On September 21, 2017 Governor Scott Walker signed the 2017-19 State Budget into law. It was the culmination of many long months of hard work. The budget made historic investments into K-12 education with an additional $72.8 million for general school aids. Transportation funding was increased for counties and municipalities through General Transportation Aids and Rate Per Mile reimbursements by an additional $56.9 million and we invested more than $78 million more in major highway development. We also increased investment in nursing home reimbursements by 4% and increased Disproportionate Share Hospital payments by $25.5 million, which are important to rural hospitals.
The 17th Senate District was significantly impacted by the state budget.  The budget approved $55 million for Sesquicentennial Hall and $24 million for the Boebel Hall projects at UW Platteville. The projects were not originally recommended by the Building Commission in early 2017, but a lot of people worked very hard to secure these projects. In addition, resurfacing on Hwy 154 in Sauk County, from Loganville to the Richland County line was moved up by two years and will begin this spring.
To read more about the “Good Things In This Budget,” please review the column I wrote earlier this fall that documents highlights of the state budget, including key items for the 17th Senate District.
Beyond the budget, I am also proud of all of the legislation that I have successfully moved through the legislative process since session began last January. We still have a couple of months left in the current legislative session, but I have had major success this year. I am thankful to all of the constituents who have shared their ideas for new laws and helped work bills through the process. The best legislation grows from ideas that come from people who are in our communities, doing their jobs, volunteering their time. It is these people who generate the best legislative ideas when they see opportunities to improve state laws.
Highlights of my legislative successes in 2017 include:

  • Act 8 – Making “Cheese” the official dairy product of Wisconsin with the 4th Graders from Mineral Point.
  • Act 135 – The Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact to support rural nurses who work across state lines.
  • Act 87 – Allow municipal governments to decide whether sections of state highway within their boundaries may be part of an ATV route.
  • Act 56 – Legislation to allow the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to Sell White Mound County Park to Sauk County for $1 to allow the county to make improvements.

As I look toward 2018, I still have 17 bills that I am working through the legislative process including two that have already passed the Senate and should reach the floor of the Assembly early this winter. The bill to allow children to work in their family’s business and the bill to waive the “specialty plate fee” for EMS license plates should arrive on the Governor’s desk in January or February. Stay tuned to my column after the new year for an update on my plans and priorities for 2018.
If you would like to read more about any of the accomplishments and initiatives I mentioned in the paragraphs above, I encourage you to visit my website http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein. Every press release, column and E-Update is archived here for you.  I would also encourage you to subscribe to my weekly E-Update by sending an email to Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov.  Do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have input, ideas or need assistance with any state-related matters.