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State Capitol Update – This week’s votes “Under the Dome” PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Jennifer Shilling, State Senator 32nd District   
Friday, 15 May 2015 15:32

capital-madisonwiMADISON - This update is provided to help keep citizens informed about important decisions happening at the State Capitol and to stay updated on how elected officials are voting on key issues in Madison. Here are the key votes for the week of May 11-15, 2015.

Joint Finance Committee votes - May 12th and 14th
The Joint Finance Committee met on May 12 and 14 to continue voting on provisions of Governor Walker’s proposed 2015-17 State Budget. For a list of JFC committee members, click here


Student Loan Debt Refinancing (Motion #250 i.e. Higher Ed, Lower Debt)
Summary: This motion would have created the Wisconsin Student Loan Refinancing Authority and allowed Wisconsin residents to refinance student loans the same way home and auto loans can be refinanced.
How they voted: This motion was rejected by the Republican majority on a 12-4 party-line vote.

Financial Aid for Technical College Students (Motion #268)
Summary: To address the current waiting list of 37,000 technical college students who are waiting for financial aid, this motion would have fully funded the financial aid appropriation for Wisconsin’s technical college students.
How they voted: This motion was rejected by the Republican majority on a 12-4 party-line vote.

Funding for Domestic Abuse Services (Paper #204)
Summary: The Governor’s budget provided $5 million in additional funding to enhance services for victims of domestic abuse and their families.
How they voted: The committee approved the funding increase on a bipartisan 16-0 vote.

Mental Health Crisis Funding for Law Enforcement Agencies (Motion #288)
Summary: This motion would have provided $250,000 for law enforcement agencies that respond to a high number of mental health crisis situations.
How they voted: This motion was rejected by the Republican majority on a 12-4 party-line vote.

Community-Based Services for Victims of Sex Trafficking (Paper #205)
Summary: The Governor’s budget included $2 million to provide residential and community-based services for children who are victims of sex trafficking. Services would be available to children in all geographic areas of the state, including both urban and rural communities.
How they voted: The committee approved the funding increase on a bipartisan 16-0 vote.

Audit of Dept. of Administration Information Technology (IT) Contracts (Motion #325)
Summary: This motion would have required the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct a comprehensive audit of all IT contracts and activities overseen by the state Department of Administration. In the current budget alone, the Department is authorized to spend $349 million on IT-related activities.
How they voted: This motion was rejected by the Republican majority on a 12-4 party-line vote.

Mental Health Crisis Services Grants (Paper #376)
Summary: Gov. Walker’s budget included a number of changes regarding emergency detention procedures for individuals with mental illness, drug dependency and developmental disabilities, as well as $1.5 million in one-time funding for mental health crisis services.  
How they voted: On a bipartisan 16-0 vote, the committee approved the mental health crisis services funding but rejected the Governor’s proposed emergency detention changes.

Read more...
 
Legislators Propose WEDC Changes PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Assembly Democrats, Laura Smith   
Friday, 15 May 2015 15:05

walker-wedcMADISON – Today Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point)  proposed several changes to Gov. Walker's troubled Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

“The proposal advanced today is inadequate to the serious problems the audit found at WEDC,” Rep. Barca said. “Governor Walker still doesn’t get it – WEDC needs more than spuriously developed ideas for reform, it needs a complete overhaul.'

The serious legal and policy violations are not so much a problem with programs – although they also need significant changes – they are a result of failed leadership.

According to Barca, "Once again, at the 11th hour of budget deliberations, Governor Walker is lurching from one half-baked idea to another. The Governor’s new WEDC proposal comes without any careful planning, without meaningful input from stakeholders, and without any input from WEDC board members. The Governor’s proposal does not address central problems at WEDC including their failure to track job numbers and failure to follow state laws and the agency’s own rules.”

julie_lassa“We just met as a board about two weeks ago and Governor Walker as chairman of the board did not present any of these ideas," Sen. Lassa said. "What is the point of having a private-sector board if you are not going to consult with them? It is clear the governor does not have a plan and instead is focused on running for president."

WEDC has been plagued with problems from the start due to exactly this same lack of planning – without so much as a business or transition plan. The WEDC legislative board members have once again not been kept abreast of the agency's ongoing problems and were not consulted in addressing the serious issues identified by the recent audit or in the Governor’s plan released today.

Yesterday, Rep. Barca and Sen. Lassa called on Governor Walker, as Chairman of the WEDC board, and Dan Ariens, Vice Chairman, to hold an emergency WEDC board meeting in the next two weeks in response to the recent audit. They also asked Rep. Kerkman and Sen. Cowles (co-chairs of Joint Legislative Audit Committee) to schedule a hearing as soon as possible in response to the audit.

“Today’s announcement reinforces how vital it is that the WEDC board meet immediately to discuss the path forward,” Rep. Barca added. “Wisconsin is 40th in the nation on job creation and 42nd on wage growth and there isn’t a minute to waste.”

 
Democrats Call for Emergency Board Meeting and Hearing on WEDC PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Assembly Democrats, Laura Smith   
Thursday, 14 May 2015 17:26

walker-wedcMADISON - Today Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) called on Governor Walker (Chair of WEDC Board) and Dan Ariens (Vice Chair of WEDC) to hold a board meeting in the next two weeks in response to the recent Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) report that unveiled egregious problems with Gov. Walker's Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

Rep. Barca and Sen. Lassa, who serve on the WEDC Board, also wrote to Rep. Kerkman and Sen. Cowles, co-chairs of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, to ask that they schedule a hearing as soon as possible in response to the audit.

The recent LAB audit included incidents in which WEDC failed to follow state laws and its own agency policies. The LAB also found that WEDC has not adequately verified that its grants are being used properly or reporting clearly and accurately about the results of its job creation programs.

Copies of the three letters are attached here, here and here.

 
Democrats Move to Require Audit of DOA Info Tech Funds PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by State Senate Democrats   
Thursday, 14 May 2015 17:04

doalogoMADISON – State Senator Jon Erpenbach and his Democratic colleagues put forth a motion in the Joint Committee on Finance today to require an audit, by the Legislative Audit Bureau, of Governor Walker’s Department of Administration (DOA) Information Technology funds.

jon-erpenbach“Department of Administration had $11.9 million surplus spending last year in their main IT fund yet Governor Walker asked for more money and we are voting today to give them more money for next year. There needs to be some accountability here for the taxpayers of this state. In this budget DOA can spend $349 million on informational technology related expenditures. That’s a lot of money and we need to ask how it is being spent,” Erpenbach said.

DOA maintains eight active information technology funds for the state of Wisconsin. State agencies have budgets for their IT services in addition to the DOA allocations but also pay the DOA for services. Joint Committee on Finance increased the main IT fund from $101 million annually to $114.5 annually. Total expenditures by DOA alone for IT services in 2016-2017 can reach $174,522,900 without additional approval by the Legislature.

“Listen, all we want is an audit. As we saw with Governor Walkers Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, sometimes money is not tracked how we think it should be. Taxpayers have a right to know how this money is being spent. If DOA is spending this money wisely, then an audit will prove that; they have nothing to be afraid of,” said Erpenbach.

The motion failed along party lines. Also on deck today Governor Walker’s plan for the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare.

 
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