News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
We hope you had a chance to relax over the weekend, and that your work week is off to a productive start.
As always, this week will bring you our weekly Property Taxpayer of the Week, News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin, circulating legislation, your weekly poll responses, and an all new Weekly Member Poll.
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,
PROPERTY TAXPAYER OF THE WEEK
This week, we introduce you to Mark Passi, Aflac Agent and founder of Cancer Insurance Specialists. We asked Mark to give us a bit of his background, and explain a bit about his field.
"I grew up in Virginia, MN up on the Iron Range, and in high school, I found an interest in computers just as the first PC's and Apple personal computers started coming out," Mark said. "I took computer science courses at the University of Minnesota Duluth and the Minnesota School of Business then started my first career in Information Technology field as a Systems Analyst at Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly Law Firm in St. Paul."
After working in that career for a while, Mark and his wife up-and-left Minnesota and headed to Eau Claire, to be closer to family.
"...even though I'm a die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan," Mark quipped.
Mark told us that he was tired of being away from his family while working in the IT field for 25 years, so he decided he needed a professional change.
"I started with Aflac in 2014, and it has been a great fit for me as one of the things I enjoy the most is helping people," he said. "In my past, I have organized a large benefit fundraiser for a friend who was fighting cancer, was a program advisor at CVTC and a volunteer soccer & basketball coach. I also regularly give blood at the Red Cross and usher at my church."
There's no double, Mark is an active individual, but what about Aflac and Cancer Insurance Specialists?
"Many people are confused with what Aflac does, and only know that we have a funny duck in our TV commercials!"
But Mark focuses on assisting the small business community.
"What I Do is help businesses offer voluntary benefits to their employees that can come at no cost to the business," he said. "Employees select what benefits are best for them from our variety of options, then the employer deducts the premiums, many times pre-tax, from the employee's payroll and then pays Aflac," he explained.
Mark said that offering these benefits helps employers attract and retain employees.
"Benefits plans that Aflac offers include Short Term Disability, Accident, Cancer, Critical Care (heart issues), Hospitalization, Dental, Vision, and Life Insurance," he explained. "I have provided benefits to the employees of WPT since 2015."
Mark, and his wife Kim, also work to help individuals battling cancer.
"Kim and I support many things related to cancer care and prevention since Kim is an Oncology Nurse at Mayo Health Systems in Eau Claire," he said. "Last year, in an effort to provide access to Aflac's Cancer Insurance to individuals, I founded Cancer Insurance Specialists."
"It is a great feeling to help put cash in the pockets of people who are fighting cancer when they need it the most. I do my best to get claims paid quickly and I help educate my clients on Aflac's One Day Pay where they get paid for their claim the very next day."
Mark and his wife Kim met in 1990, and have two daughters, Lauren and Alyse, ages 24 and 21 respectively.
"In my time as a WPT member, I have found great value in learning about the many legislative issues that Wisconsin businesses are facing. By knowing more about these issues, with the help of WPT, I am better able to understand and serve my customers."
We appreciate Mark's commitment to his field, his family, and his community, and encourage our members to reach out to him for any of their insurance needs, or to learn more about the various products offered.
"If you have any questions regarding Aflac for yourself or your business, please contact me at email@example.com or 715-579-5107."
Last week, a member sent an e-mail to the general WPT inbox that was forwarded on to me. It said that a question in the survey needed clarification, particularly regarding the Assembly having adjourned its session.
The member said that we needed to clarify that the Senate is still in session, and can only act on bills that had already been passed by the Assembly. In reality, the Senate can act on whatever legislation they wish to act on, and that has gone through the committee process in their chamber. However, the Senate can only act on legislation that has been passed by the Assembly if they wish for it to become law. This tactic is used at the end of nearly every session, and often times one chamber will pass legislation after another has wrapped up their business, and then blame the adjourned chamber when a piece of critical public policy hasn't been passed. The Senate is only expected to be in session for perhaps as few as one remaining day before adjourning their session. At that point, the legislature will stand adjourned until January's inauguration.
With all of that in mind, and considering the way the two chambers have been butting heads since the budget, and on various topics such as transportation, education, and other bills, it would not surprise me if the Senate took action on bills that the Assembly has not even yet considered.
In the legislature, for a bill to become a law, identical bills must pass both chambers. For example, if SB-123 passes the Senate, and is sent to the Assembly, the Assembly can pass the identical bill and it can be sent to the Governor for a signature to become law. If the Assembly were to amend SB-123, it would need to go back to the Senate for their consideration, and another round of votes. If two companion bills (two bills, one having originated from each chamber) are passed simultaneously, one bill can be concurred-in by the next chamber, and it's then ready for the Governor's signature.
Moving along, I wanted to also give you an updated list on which elected officials will not be seeking re-election. It's growing now by the week, so it's important that you know if your representative or senator will be moving on from his or her position.
Andre Jacque (R) - Currently AD-2, running for SD-1.
Dale Kooyenga (R) - Currently AD-14, running for SD-5
Adam Jarchow (R) - Not seeking re-election to AD-28
Jesse Kremer (R) - Not seeking re-election to AD-59
Terese Berceau (D) - Not seeking re-election to AD-77
Eric Genrich (D) - Currently AD-90, running for Mayor of Green Bay
Dana Wachs (D) - Currently AD-91, running for Governor
Leah Vukmir (R) - Currently SD-5, running for U.S. Senate.
Kathleen Vinehout (D) -Currently SD-31, running for Governor
NEWS FROM THE CAPITOL
AND AROUND WISCONSIN
GOV. WALKER SIGNS SPARSITY AID LEGISLATION INTO LAW TODAY
Governor Walker today signed Assembly Bill 835 into law, which increases sparsity aid per pupil from $300 to $400 per school year, beginning for the 2018-2019 school year, a total of about $6 million more for rural schools. Sparsity aid is provided to school districts that have less than 745 students, and if the the district's number of students divided by square miles is less than 10.
This legislation is seen as a major win for many rural districts across the state, and was taken out of the budget by the Governor initially. After push from several legislative leaders, the Governor decided to move forward with the initiative.
The legislation signed into law today also increases the revenue ceiling for low-spending school districts from about $9,100 to $9,400 next year, and up to $9,800 by 2023. The school districts that will allow higher revenues are districts that were locked into their revenue limits since 1993, without any room for adjustment. Additionally, taxpayer protections were put into place that do not allow these districts to raise taxes if a referendum has already failed in that community within the past three years.
To read more about sparsity aid or the districts eligible to receive the aid, click here.
WISCONSIN ADDS 8,000 PRIVATE SECTOR JOBS, 2,000 MANUFACTURING POSITIONS
The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) released the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates for January 2018, which showed that Wisconsin added 9,200 total non-farm jobs and 8,000 private sector jobs. 2,000 of those were added in the manufacturing sector.
Wisconsin's unemployment rate also sat at 3.1 percent for January, with the national average being 4.1 percent. This is the lowest January percentage ever seen in Wisconsin, and the lowest unemployment rate for all months since October 1999.
Other numbers relating to Wisconsin's economy were released, which showed that initial Unemployment Insurance claims ended 2017 at their lowest levels in 30 years, continuing unemployment claims ended 2017 with their lowest level since 1973, and Moody's Investor Service upgraded the state's credit rating.
WINERY BILL NOT LIKELY TO PASS SENATE
Legislation that would have allowed wineries in Wisconsin to extend their hours of alcohol sales from 9PM closing to midnight closing was so drastically altered in the Assembly, that the prospects in the Senate are very grim.
The legislation, which was supported by many in the beverage industry, was passed by the Assembly and would have been a victory for the expanding winery market in Wisconsin, and for many tourists who flock to the destinations throughout the summer months to get a taste of the local wines.
But the Tavern League lobbied to amend the legislation, so much to the point that tailgating would basically become illegal in Wisconsin- yes tailgating. Additionally, wedding venues throughout Wisconsin would be forced into obtaining costly licenses, even if licensed bartenders were contracted through "event" services or caterers.
Thankfully, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty called foul last week, proving that the law would apply to private property owners who rent out spots on their land for parking on their property for Lambeau Field or Camp Randall, effectively barring tailgating from taking place without a liquor license.
Many have joined in opposition to the legislation, including State Senator Rob Cowles, who called this an unintended consequence of the legislation, and withdrew his name from the co-sponsorship. He said tailgating is "synonymous with not only Green Bay, but with Wisconsin, and I believ eit simply unreasonable to ask a homeowner to apply for a liquor license to allow a few tailgaters to get ready for gameday in their yard."
The Tavern League called Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty's objection childish and sad. Author of the legislation, State Rep. John Nygren said that the issue would have to be revisited next session.
I-94 NEAR FOXCONN COULD BE DESIGNATED FOR SELF-DRIVING TRUCKS
The shoulders along busy I-94 from Milwaukee, south to Foxconn, could become traffic lanes, designated solely for driverless trucks, according to a study being conducted by state highway officials.
Although it sounds like something out of a futuristic movie, Wisconsin is looking to get funding to test at least one route for autonomous trucks as part of an application for federal grant dollars. $246 million of them to be exact. Foxconn has expressed interest in the driverless truck idea, which would help them move large amounts of equipment from the airport, just south of Milwaukee, to the new Foxconn location.
The state is currently undertaking a $500 million expansion of I-94, so state transportation officials are contemplating the autonomous vehicle lanes along with many other considerations. The massive project will be expanding the interstate from six lanes to eight lanes from College Avenue to Highway 142 in Kenosha County. Preliminary work has already begun.
STATE SUPERINTENDENT/GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE TONY EVERS OFFERS SCHOOL SAFETY PLAN
State Superintendent, the head of public instruction in Wisconsin, Tony Evers sent a letter to Governor Walker and legislative leaders, requesting a special session to adopt his plan for school safety.
In a statement, Evers called his plan "common sense," and said that they "address physical school environments, behavioral and mental health needs, school climate and culture improvements, as well as school policies and procedures."
Under Physical Safety and Environment, the plan would adopt a resolution to increase revenue limits in order to retrofit schools with modern safety features, such as controlled access, visitor management, student resource officers, and more.
The Climate and Culture section would focus on conflict resolution, dispute management, character education, suicide risk screening, and violence prevention curricula, among other items.
The Policies and Procedures provisions would be focus don requiring regular safety and security plan reviews in schools, and keeping sensitive school safety materials confidential.
If you want to read more about Superintendent Evers' plan, you can read it in its entirety by clicking here.
GOV. WALKER VISITS SEVERAL LOCATIONS TO SPEAK AGAINST PRESIDENT TRUMP TARIFFS
Governor Walker traveled around the state to meet with several employers who had expressed growing concerns over the impacts of President Donald Trumps new tariffs on aluminum and steel.
Governor Walker visited a plastics company in Oskhosh and a food distribution plant in Janesville, and assured individuals that he would make another pitch to the administration to make an exception for ultra-thin aluminum, a product that both of the companies he visited use regularly.
According to the Governor, the tariff could cost Seneca Foods in Janesville $25 million in one year, and at other major Wisconsin employers such as Harley-Davidson, MillerCoords, and others. But still President Trump argues that the tariffs will work to protect the aluminum and steel industries in the United States, and strengthen national security.
WEEKLY MEMBER POLL RESULTS
The state might shift about $90 million in transportation funding to Foxconn-related DOT projects, though a report shows that other projects might see reduced funding as a result. Good idea or bad idea?
We need the Foxconn jobs,but we need decent roads
While this doesn't make a good stand alone decision, it's part of a larger decision. Only partially following through on previous decisions is a great waste'
BAD BAD BAD! I hope Walker isn't turning into Thompson. He robbed the transportation fund dry. I thought there was a law now that states you can take from the transportation fund no matter what. Guess rules change.
Foxconn seems to be asking for more & more as time goes on without any results (jobs) yet
Let the developers pay these costs.
The Foxconn deal is already starting to cost all of us more than we thought
pet projects are never fully funded on the front end. next week/month/year - foxconn will be "needing" more of our tax dollars..."or...we're gonna have to pull the plug."
With all the businesses looking for help in Southern Wisconsin I think it is wrong that the taxpayers should be paying anything towards the Foxconn project. They should have to pay their own way as small business owners do.
Seems like the rest of the state gets slim pickins' while Foxconn is the biggest hog at the trough. Raise the gas tax and fix this road repair dilemma!!!
not the best situation but we're kind of committed to foxconn now
Bad idea. I answered that way because I guess that I am already tired of Foxconn.......
Just freaking perfect, thanks Gov. Walker.
Bad idea, we need our road kept up, a lot of roads need to be completed like hwy 23 Fond du lac to Plymouth.
Governor Walker last week said he does not support arming teachers in Wisconsin. Do you agree or disagree?
It would be better to have an armed security person in each school. More costs-yes,but what are the kid's lives worth?
Many teachers bravely put themselves in harms way, some have paid with their lives. Allowing them to be armed and making everyone aware that random individuals are prepared to defend the students in such a way may be a deterrent.
I believe certain "trained" teachers could have a gun.
increase school security so they don't have to be armed to feel safe
Arm teachers?? Are you kidding me? You think we have some problems now, wait till you put a gun in some of our teachers.... Makes no sense to me. I stand with Walker
Right to Bear Arms should not be impacted by your choice of how you earn money. An armed teacher, with proper training, can help stop things faster...
Gun free zones only give the criminals more of an advantage to do their senseless killing. Maybe the school bullies should be forced to go in and take care of the kid they groomed to crack and shoot up their school
all Americans, constitutionally, have the right to bear arms - self defense/preservation/determination...at home, work or play. anyone who says otherwise, violates that right.
lets try something else first
I guess I agree, perhaps somewhat reluctantly. Certainly not convinced that arming teachers is going to be a fix for this serious problem. Do we have any evidence that an armed teacher anywhere has prevented or drastically reduced the severity of a school shooting?
If this wasn't an election year, Gov. Walker would have stayed silent about this.
Do not arm teachers, Do more with the entrances to schools and more cameras watching the doorways.
Wisconsin has some of the lowest auto insurance rates in America, at an average premium of $1,040. How much do you pay in comparison to this average?
I have high dollar coverage for my pickup truck-our only vehicle. Insurance from American Family
insure 2 teenage boys
Erie Ins company. 1 truck,2017 and a 2013 Chevy Avalanche..Classied under farm so less than a thousand per year with full coverage.
I had a bad accident, and found out that insurance just is a joke. It doesn't pay squat. They are there to take your money and not pay out. And the insurance commissioner doesn't give a damn either. SO you need to really hunt for a company that will actually set you up so you DO get coverage...
You need to shop your auto and home owners insurance every few years, as premuims tend to creep up when your agent feels you are not looking! It should not be that way, but unfortunately IT IS!
mandatory auto insurance, like the healthcare individual mandate, is keeping the ball in the insurance company's court and even if they are lower here, they are still too high.
We have two vehicles. Have been with Rural Insurance for many years and very satisfied .
Two cars, about $900. Costco has a very nice program through Ameriprise .. good rates that don't go up.
Seura, Appleton, have a truck & Car.
The two top Democrat leaders in the legislature are calling for an immediate and independent investigation into potential Russian meddling in Wisconsin's elections. Governor Walker said that somebody attempted to hack the state's information but was unsuccessful, and Wisconsin has a strong cyber-security system. Do you feel Wisconsin should launch an investigation into potential Russian hacking, and to ensure that our elections processes are secure from hacking?
Hire Scotland Yard
Someone needs to take a strong stand against Russian meddling. I'm glad our Govenor takes it seriously.
No. How would it benefit the Ruskies to hack our state elections, Feds should investigate "Slick Willy" and "Crooked Hillary" for all of the money they received from the Ruskies.
How many resources are we going to waste on these witchunts? and to what end?
I'm really sick of hearing about the "Russian" investigations. What a waste of time and money.
people just need to deal with the election results whether they are what they want or not. time to accept the facts
The Russians may have tried to meddle in the Wisconsin election but I don't believe they were sucessful. Our election had more danger from fraudulant voters before voter ID was approved. The state should just let the feds do the investigation as there are more pressing needs of the state's money for other projects.
STOP THE INSANITY. Everyone is meddling in the elections. Best way to fix this is to SHUT OFF THE TV and SHUT OFF THE INTERNET and go talk to people, face to face. Hard to hack face to face communication, folks. We are being made a laughing stock over this, and we rely too much on the TV and internet for information - MUCH OF WHICH IS FALSE. Russia is laughing at us. The more we investigate, the more we are laughed at, people.
NBC is an extension of the democrat party, isn't that obvious by now? Of course they want to keep the fake news of the Trump team doing something illegal with the Russians. NBC news, why aren't you asking about the fact that the Clinton team manufactured a fake dossier with the help of the Russians so that they Obama and his people could spy of the Trump campaign for her and the DNC. NOUGH SAID! Of course Russia is play both of the US political parties to mess with all of us, that is the only fact that I believe is true.
waste more taxpayer money
russians and other nations, like domestic political parties/organizations, may try to influence on the front end; but the election process is "off-line." it's not web-based, on the internet and cannot be hacked.
Sick of hearing about Russia.
I'd love to vote in a Russian election. Might finally give me a chance to vote for someone named Clinton.
States should investigate if their systems are secure on a continual basis. It's not just Russians who could have an interest in swaying elections.
Election is over with,, leave the investigations alone.