We hope that you had a chance to enjoy some unseasonably warm temperatures last week, and that your work week is off to a productive start. We would also like to take a moment today to acknowledge the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his national holiday.
Below, we will introduce you to this week's Member of the Week, outline some of the top headlines from the past week, and get you up to speed on legislation.
As always, we hope you find this weekly report to be interesting and informative. If there are ever any issues that you would like to see included, or if you ever have any questions or comments, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great week,
A NOTE FROM WPT PRESIDENT
I want to thank our Government and Member Relations Director, John Jacobson for doing an excellent job expanding the scope and purpose of our weekly email report called the WPT Weekly Insider. Our member profiles have become a big hit. Members are now networking with other members and becoming customers of the service or product that the member offers. How awesome to be helping one another grow and expand their business horizons. If you want to be featured, don't hesitate to call or email John.
The other topic I want to discuss is our weekly Member Poll. I think it's truly awesome so many of you are participating and sharing your views. We have always been a bottom up organization. We work for you and deliver your message to lawmakers. We depend on your input.
Sometimes I think to myself after reading your comments, "sorry, I don't agree," but what's important in the process of governance is the ability to self-express-- to be heard. Our weekly survey has provided us with many great thoughts and ideas, and as indicated by your answers, we may not agree on all the little things, but we do agree on the stuff that matters most.
There's not another organization in Wisconsin that gives its members the freedom of expression this survey offers. Why? Because most organizations want to control the discussion. They don't want to consider your thoughts or ideas, they have enough of their own. They desire to control the discussion, but that's what makes us unique and why we are Wisconsin's largest taxpayer group, because everyone's view is welcome in WPT.
We're not going to agree on all matters, and quite frankly I'm glad we don't. We are the voice of many diverse thinkers with one common denominator, WE PAY TAXES AND WE WANT A VOICE IN THE PROCESS OF GOVERNANCE. Keep it up, speak your mind and don't be offended by the varying views of others. There's already enough angst raging against the machine. Best success in 2018.
Thank you for your valuable time,
President, WPT, Inc.
NEWS FROM THE CAPITOL
AND AROUND WISCONSIN
LOCAL GOVERNMENTS RECEIVE $118 MILLION IN STATE AIDS
Governor Walker announced last week that local governments received their quarterly payments from the State of Wisconsin, totaling more than $118 million for transportation, highway, and expressway policing aids.
The breakdown for the 1,925 local governments were $114,933,268 in General Transportation Aids, $3,015,875 to 117 municipalities for "connecting highway aids", and $255,975 to Milwaukee County for expressway policing.
The general transportation aid payments are used to lower the costs of constructing, maintaining, and operating roads and streets under local jurisdiction, according to a statement from the Governor's office. Connecting highway aids give money back to municipality for maintaining control of traffic for certain state highways within municipalities.
Total for 2018 local aids is expected to be $473 million.
LEGISLATION AIMED AT FARMERS PROVIDING CROPS TO STATEWIDE FOOD BANKS
A bill in the state legislature has passed through committee that would have the Department of Agriculture (DATCP) provide grants up to $250,000 per year for associations providing food to food banks, helping farmers cover the dollars used to donate their crops.
State Rep. Scott Krug, the author of the bill, said that many farmers wish to give their unsold or surplus crops to food banks, but often times the cost of transporting and harvesting the crops hinder their donation abilities. Additionally, the grants could help framers with the cost of food processing, where they would be able to put their crops into cans.
Feeding Wisconsin and Second Harvest, both of which would qualify for the grants, have said that this new program could help them provide fresh and healthy foods to the food pantries they serve in 16 counties.
HOMEOWNERS NEAR FOXCONN ALLEGE PLEASANT PRAIRIE ILLEGALLY TAKING THEIR LAND
A dozen property owners living in the direct vicinity of Foxconn are saying that the Village of Pleasant Prairie is illegally taking their homes and land by unconstitutionally claiming eminent domain.
An attorney representing the homeowners called property rights basic and protected rights, and is arguing that the land is being used to benefit a private interest, and eminent domain can only be used to provide public projects like roads and utilities for the common good. The village is taking 2,900 acres for Foxconn, 18 of which belong to the dozen homeowners.
The lawsuit is asking for an injunction to block the Foxconn project permanently. A Pleasant Prairie Attorney said that the lawsuit will not halt the Foxconn project, though all court decisions that are appealed go directly to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as per the legislation passed last year.
WAL-MART BOOSTING MINIMUM WAGE, GIVING BONUSES
America's largest employer will be bumping its minimum starting wage up to $11 per hour, and handing out bonuses of up to $1,000 to their workers, according to the company. The company is crediting President Trump and the new tax overhaul for the wage increase.
Other companies have acted similarly since the massive tax code change was signed into law on the federal level, hoping to continue the streak of a near-two decade-long low for unemployment, and a large cut for the corporate tax rate. Other companies that have increased their wages and or delivered employee bonuses are AT&T and Wells Fargo.
According to several publications, economists are arguing that long-term wage increases are more meaningful than one-time bonuses, however those bonuses can be significant for workers living on limited means.
Wal-mart is also handing out more money for paid maternity leave. The new changes will take effect next month.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OK'S STATES WANTING WORK REQUIREMENTS MEDICAID RECIPIENTS
President Donald Trump's administration gave the green light last week to states that want to require individuals to work or receive worker training in order to receive Medicaid. This is the first time in America's history that work requirements be attached to the program.
The administration provided guidance through a letter to state Medicaid directors, allowing them to cut off benefits unless an individual is in school, is a caregiver, has a job, and a few other exceptions. If states provide to make such a move, it will only apply to able-bodied adults, defined by those states.
Ten states are currently waiting for permission from the federal government. Wisconsin was the first to propose such a move. Medicaid has 68 million low-income Americans on the rolls currently, including children. It provides benefits with incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
CHANGES LIKELY TO WATERWAY ACCESS
An Assembly committee last week gave the nod to a bill that would deny the state government the ability to open up access to the public to waterways that were made deeper by a dam that was part of a wildlife project. The owners would also be exempted from shoreland zoning laws.
Under current law, if a body of water is deep enough to float a boat, it is considered public. A person can't cross private property to gain access to a body of water, but as long as they are in a boat or have their feet wet, the water is public.
The move comes as a private resident in Chippewa County feared the state would re-designate the water on his land from non-navigable to navigable after he dammed a shallow stream to create a pond. The Wisconsin Constitution provides that all navigable waters are "common highways and forever free."
The bills are available for full votes by the legislature.
WISCONSIN SCHOOLS HIGHLIGHTING YOUTH APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM
Governor Scott Walker visited schools around the state to discuss the Youth Apprenticeship Program. The program, administered by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, partners high school students with employers to provide hands-on job training and transferable skills to pursue more advanced career paths.
Under the DWD's Youth Apprenticeship program, funds are awarded to local consortiums that work with employers and high schools to pair students up with an employer. The participating students are enrolled in academic classes while they are employed and receive hands-on instruction from a mentor.
Governor Walker called the program a key tool for improving education and employment opportunities for students, and encouraged collaboration between students, schools and employers.
The statewide YA program offers up to 11 career programs for students to pursue, including Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources; Architecture and Construction; Art, Audio/Visual Technology, and Communications; Finance; Health Science; Hospitality, Lodging, and Tourism; Information Technology; Manufacturing; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics; and Marketing.
WEEKLY MEMBER POLL RESULTS
Governor Walker will support Rep. John Nygren's plan to allow low spending school districts to raise their property taxes for additional revenue for school districts. The plan will also send about $7 million directly to rural school districts from the state. Good idea or bad idea?
As some schools were locked into spending caps established in 1993, some updating is necessary; the new spending has limits and increments.
I don't need my taxes going up, I'm retired.
Like the state part. Don't like the raise taxes part.
I see in today's paper that a school district next to us will get help. I don't understand this as our district has low student population and we need help so our taxes don't continue to rise.
I used to work for the public schools. I see so much wasted money in schools...and I don't think that's changed. I think the schools need to get business people in them to streamline their costs first.
Only because we need to preserve rural schools. The farm economy is currently in trouble and so are our schools. Cities who lose their schools, don't last long.
Needed to be done before now. Must be an election year!
Local districts should be able to set their levy at whatever they decide is prudent for their district. If the local taxpayers don't like it, they can elect different representatives.
Governor Walker will close the two embattled youth prisons in Wisconsin, and instead open up six smaller more regionally-located facilities for youth offenders. Good idea or bad idea?
Smaller is better in this case; these youths need specialized training in coping skills, and sadly even basic skills. In many cases, they are the victim, their behavior was their way of coping. I would like to see the parents brought in for regular family counseling, or these young adults go right back to their abusers
Good idea to get the troubled youth closer to their source of support ie family
Puts offenders closer to families-if they have one. Not such a big mob of offenders to deal with in one place
Its better to offenders closer to their home and probably easier to manage
better to have the kids closer to family so they can visit
I think it will cost more money but might students
WHO ARES! The Journal Sentinel has been banging this drum ad nauseam.
A plan in the legislature would require law enforcement to notify a school if a student has been arrested for a violent crime. After reading the article: Good idea or bad idea?
I personally know of a young student whose mother called the police during a violent disagreement, after she took something away; phone, gaming unit. He was automatically locked up and I don't find him in the wrong. I think before a judge or jury finds someone guilty, we should treat them as innocent.
Teachers should know about their students records.
They definitely need to know for the welfare of all. If they were arrested for a violent crime, how come they are not in the slammer?
Better for their safety.
12 more Wisconsin counties have filed lawsuits against big pharmaceutical corporations for their role in the state and national opioid epidemic. What are your thoughts?
Husband on Tramadol and doctor acts like he is a dope addict. Come on, 90 years old and has used responsibility for years. Shame that innocent old people have to be stigmatized.
Where will it end. Lawyers are the only winners.
I think that the Counties should do more to stop the abuse in their communities before calling in a Lawyer. How concerned are they really? What steps did they take before this one? I believe filing a lawsuit should be a last resort.
Bad move. If there was no market for the drugs there would be no problem. Way too many people look for a quick fix for pain management and sueing the pharmaceutical companies will accomplish nothing but to raise the future prices of drugs.
If the pharm companies have done something to promote opioid use without a doctors prescription- that's wrong. On the other hand people who use opioids made that choice.
It's always somebody else's fault.
How are these people getting the drugs? Don't think the pharmaceutical companies are handing them out without prescriptions.
People need to get the pharmaceuticals they need, and they need to be monitored to ensure they don't become addicted. The Health Care System fails here again.
Double edged sword. The drug companies should pay dearly for creating this monster. Unfortunately they'll just jack up drug prices to pay for the damages, so lose/lose for consumers.
There is real lack of concern with side effects of pharmaceuticals when it comes to Doctors and this should stop!!
The holidays are now over, and the slow march to spring continues. When it's freezing or snowy outside, what spring or summer memory or activity do you look most forward to? Boating? Bonfires? Camping? Swimming? Or do you enjoy the winter cold.
Looking forward to festivals and reasons to be outdoors.
Being elderly, we let people come to us. We can still fill our wood rack and enjoy the coziness of the Fisher stove. Can keep up wtih the winter tasks and enjoy each season as it comes. After all, we moved up here 27 years ago.
used to enjoy snowmobile tours but it's an expensive sport so now enjoy woodworking and gardens in the spring/summer
Hard to beat a nice pontoon ride with friends and refreshments
I enjoy the winter, snow and cold. I look forward to hiking in the mountains in the summer/spring.
Camping, but love winter when it snows. Too bad it doesn't snow much anymore...
I look forward to hearing the melting rivers and streams and the smell of spring; but I do enjoy many things about winter including the clear nights you can see every star, the clean look of snow, the crisp, crunch sound snow makes as you walk in it, making snowmen, snowball fight with people under 10 years old, making snow angels, and going sledding and tubing. Cross country skiing is also fun.
I enjoy staying in my warm house, been doing January spring cleaning
The older I get, the less I like winter. Causes problems on our farm and I have to feed cattle etc every day.
Having a cocktail on the porch.
Enjoy the snow and hockey
I play more cards
Fishing. I can't wait to get the boat in the lake again!
Spending time on the lake with friends and family.
Arby's is good for all seasons
I look forward to cutting hay.
Looking forward to putting my state parks sticker to work again in 2018