Sunday, June 02, 2013

Sen. Tom Tiffany's E-Update

May 31st, 2013

Voter ID Law Upheld

The District IV Court of Appeals unanimously ruled the voter ID law, 2011 Wisconsin Act 23, did not violate the state constitution, overruling a Dane County judge’s decision.  There are still some legal challenges facing the law, so other injunctions are still in effect.  However, I am confident Wisconsin will ultimately join the thirty states that have laws in place that require voters to show ID at the polls.

Common Core State Standards Implementation Paused

Wisconsin adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for mathematics and English language arts in 2010. This was done through action taken by the Department of Public Instruction, without legislative review, in an effort to receive a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act under the Obama Administration. So far these standards have been adopted by 45 other states.

Wisconsin is also participating in a multi-state project to develop new common standards for science. Led by the National Research Council, a framework was developed to guide the writing of science standards. Achieve, Inc. is leading the development of Next Generation Science Standards based on this framework. A final draft version is expected this spring.

Wisconsin has a proud history of strong academic achievement and educational independence. Milwaukee was the first city to offer vouchers to students and for many years, Wisconsin was among the highest scoring states in reading tests. But over the last ten years our scores have stagnated, allowing other states to pass us. While I am still reviewing constituent input from both sides regarding CCSS, we cannot continue to sit by idly while other states make necessary educational reforms.

While I recognize the need for educational reform, this issue has been historically left to individual states to determine how best to educate their students. I believe CCSS, with its ties to waivers from No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top funds, is an intrusion by the Federal government into what has clearly been a state issue. The Joint Committee on Finance decided to take a second look at Wisconsin’s implementation of CCSS. A motion, authored by Representative Dean Knudson, passed with bipartisan support to require the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to conduct at least six public hearings and report back to the legislature its findings on the cost to implement these standards. It also prevents DPI from implementing science and social studies standards until the report is concluded. I support JFC’s decision and am wary of federal government intrusions into state decisions.
 

Free DNR Weekend Across the State

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is offering a free weekend of activities across the state.  This is sort of a "free sample" to showcase the fun summer activities available to Wisconsinites and visitors alike.  Here is a list of some of the free activities:
Free Fishing June 1-2
  • Wisconsin residents and visitors can fish anywhere for free in Wisconsin. No license is needed -- this includes inland trout and Great Lakes trout and salmon fishing. (Fishing rules such as limits, size, and species of fish that you can keep do apply during free fishing weekend.)
  • Free fishing clinics hosted around the state.
  • Free fishing equipment for loan at 50 state parks, DNR offices, and partner organizations.
Free Trails June 1-2
  • All state trail pass fees on all DNR-owned properties are waived.
  • Cooperatively-run state trails also may waive fees.
  • State Parks Open House Day is on June 2.
Free ATV/UTV June 1-2
  • On June 1 & 2, ATV/UTV owners can ride free; you do not need to have your machine registered in Wisconsin.
  • Nonresident ATV/UTV owners do not need to have a trail pass on these days.
  • Find organized rides and events here and on the Wisconsin ATV Association's Registration-Free Weekend webpage.
  • All other rules apply -- safety education certification is required for all UTV and ATV operators who were born on or after Jan. 1, 1988.
State Parks Open House Day June 2
  • On June 2, all state park vehicle admission fees on all DNR-owned properties are waived.
  • All state trail pass fees on all DNR-owned properties are waived.
  • Cooperatively-run state trails also may waive fees.
If you have any questions or desire more information, check out the DNR's website.

Joint Committee on Finance Update
  1. Representative Kooyenga came out with a simplified tax system proposal this past week that he is hoping to include in the budget.  Together with Senators Grothman and Gudex, I released my thoughts on this proposal.
  2. The Joint Committee on Finance has just about wrapped up its review of Governor Walker's proposed budget.  There are a handful of topics to be discussed next week, the most notable being funding for public schools and the proposed voucher expansion.  If you want to tune in to watch the discussion, it will be taking place on Tuesday, June 4th at 10 a.m.  You can also stream it online through Wisconsin Eye.

Deer Trustee Report Meeting with Dr. Kroll
The Department of Natural Resources will be holding a public meeting at UW-Stevens Point next weekend in order to share updates and provide a forum to answer any questions regarding the ongoing implementation process of the Deer Trustee Report.  The author of the report and deer specialist, Dr. James Kroll, will be in attendance.

The June 8 meeting will take place from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at UW-Stevens Point Dreyfus University Center, 1015 Reserve Street. Action teams will continue to meet in the afternoon until 3 p.m.

The morning portion of the meeting will be webcasted live online here.  Online participants will have the option to submit questions via their computers for panel response throughout the presentations.

Four action teams were formed and have been hard at work building the framework for implementation, incorporating multiple viewpoints to pull together proposals on how the 62 recommendations in the Deer Trustee Report should be put into action.  This meeting is an opportunity to incorporate any concerns or suggestions from the public on the implementation proposals the action teams have developed thus far before they work to complete the process. It’s all part of the effort to ensure this is a public-driven process with diverse input.

The action teams have met four times since March and will continue to meet June 29 and July 20. Rules will be drafted by DNR based on the action team proposals that will be subject to public hearings this fall. The Natural Resources Board will review comments to make decisions on rule adoption in December.

For more information, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords, “Deer Trustee Report.”

DATCP Warning on Traveling "Construction Crews"
Wisconsin’s deep freeze has given way to warm, sunny days, and history tells us that this break in the weather will bring traveling construction crews to the state. This year is no exception. Reports of such workers in Wisconsin have already started coming in to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP), and the agency is asking consumers to be aware of fly-by-night contractors and their questionable claims of quality home repairs.                                   
Blacktop is big business for traveling work crews, and they often offer consumers a great price to seal-coat driveways based on a story about having leftover materials from a job at a neighbor’s property. They may also offer to do siding, roofing or paint work, particularly after a major storm. A number of outcomes are possible if you agree to their services:
  • The contractors may ask you to pay upfront for work that is never completed.
  • They may agree to a set price for a job with a homeowner, but continually up the price as the project progresses. If a homeowner protests, a crew member may “cut a deal” by splitting the difference – but the end price will still be above the original set fee.
  • If a project is completed, the quality of the job and the material used is often suspect.
  • They may offer you a “free inspection” of your home, but actually plan to steal your valuables.
Consumer Protection offers the following tips if you are visited by traveling contractors:
  •  Do not answer your door if they knock.
  •  Do not give into their high-pressure tactics.
  •  NEVER let them in your home. They are experts at finding and taking valuables.
  •  Determine the make and model of their vehicles and get license plate numbers. Alert local law enforcement.
  •  Call the police immediately if they begin a job without your authorization.
Home repair contractors are required to register with the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). Make sure that any contractor you consider hiring shows you their state registration card.  Contact DATCP if you have questions about contractors – they can tell you if the state has received complaints about the business in question. DATCP can be found online at datcp.wisconsin.gov, and can be contacted via e-mail at DATCPHotline@wi.gov or toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.

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