A new year brings us each the opportunity to set goals, make plans and seek opportunities to grow. Whether you are planning to live healthier, travel more, finish a major project or make a change in your life, you have likely thought about how you would like 2018 to unfold.
Like you, I have spent time this week setting my goals, making my plans and studying my calendar to design the first three months of the year. The Wisconsin legislature is likely to complete our legislative session by the end of March, before the Easter holiday. As a result, we have a lot of work to do in three short months.
I am proud to report that nine bills I authored have already been signed by Gov. Scott Walker this session. I have another 23 bills that I am working through the legislative process, including two that have already passed the Senate and will, hopefully, be passed by the Assembly soon. These two bills were initiated by local residents. Senate Bill 420, initiated by the Eberle family at the Mixing Bowl Bakery, makes changes to law to allow children of any age to work in their parents’ business. SB 360, initiated by Brent Brown from Boscobel, will waive the specialty license plate fee for volunteer Emergency Service Providers who choose special license plates for their personal vehicles.
In addition to these two bills, I have 21 additional pieces of legislation that are at various stages of the legislative process. I will be working diligently to move them along the process. Some of these bills will get all of the way through, while others will be revived in the next legislative session in 2019.
Of the 21 bills, the following are particularly relevant and/or interesting to residents of the 17th Senate District:
- Telecommuter forward certification. It creates a certification program for communities to certify as being telecommuter friendly. The intent is to give communities with strong broadband and other assets an opportunity to recruit and promote themselves to individuals and companies that allow telecommuting. We have great places to live − and people who can work anywhere should live and work here!
- Agricultural producer security modernization bill. This bill makes several changes to laws related to agricultural production to reflect current and preferred business practices.
- EMT licensing renewal extension. It extends EMT licensing from a two-year renewal cycle to a three-year renewal cycle. This small extension will relieve some of the burden on our community EMTs, while maintaining requirements that ensure up-to-date training and preparation.
- GAAP constitutional amendment. It requires the use of generally accepted accounting principles for state finances, just like businesses, school districts, counties, town, cities and villages budget.
- Medical provider reciprocity for collegiate and professional sports teams. It allows out-of-state athletic team medical staff to be able to treat players on their team while in Wisconsin although they may not be licensed in Wisconsin.
- Fingerprinting and background checks for federal tax access service providers. It requires fingerprinting and background checks for all state employees who access the federal tax information system as a function of their job.
- Physical Therapist Licensing Compact. Similar to the recently signed Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, this bill allows Wisconsin to join other states that are members of the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact to create portability and opportunities for physical therapists in Wisconsin and organizations that employ physical therapists in Wisconsin.
In addition to legislation, I am also working on several initiatives and ideas that are important to the residents of the 17th Senate District such as rural broadband expansion, rural emergency medical services and school funding reform.
Rural broadband expansion is one of my top areas of focus. Our communities are working hard to ensure that residents and businesses have access to high-speed broadband technology. As your state Senator, I am working to clear the way, encourage investment and support new technologies. A relatively new opportunity is to potentially use cable television white space − or unused channels − to deploy broadband in a new way.
As I understand it, these channels operate at lower frequencies than the fixed wireless broadband many of us try to use. The lower frequencies may be able to overcome and go through obstacles like trees, hills and more. I am working with my colleagues to influence the Federal Communications Commission to commit to leaving white space open so that telecommunications companies will invest in this new technology.
I am also working with the Public Service Commission to continue promoting the Rural Broadband Expansion Grant program. The current application period closes this month, but a new round of grants will open later this spring. Stay tuned for more details.
Rural emergency medical services are very important to our communities. This spring, I will continue studying the challenges and opportunities our local rescue teams are managing. I will be scheduling a series of summits with leaders and volunteers to learn directly from those who work hard to keep us safe.
Last month, I attended the first meeting of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding Reform. The commission is planning listening sessions throughout the state and will be crafting recommendations in advance of the next budget cycle. I look forward to the work of this commission.
Finally, I have had more than 50 invitations and ideas for the Hire Howard for the Day project. I look forward to shadowing people in many different jobs and industries throughout the 17th Senate District. From farmers to teachers, doctors to snow plow drivers, small businesses to large manufacturers, I have received many terrific invitations and can’t wait to learn directly from those who work hard every day!
As I continue my work on your behalf, I encourage you to connect with me! Please 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.