Dear Friends,

Happy New Year!

2018 is starting out with some great news.  Nearly 90% of Wisconsin's construction firms expect to hire in the new year.  According to the  Associated General Contractors of America, contractors are very optimistic about the economy.  The survey also showed about half of Wisconsin construction companies increased pay in 2017.

Construction is booming in our great state.  According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin's non-adjusted  construction unemployment rate was the lowest on record for the month of November.  Wisconsin's rate for that month was 5.7% - the old record was 6.2% set in November of 2000.

Wisconsin's job market is booming and with major employers like Foxconn and HARIBO moving in, I expect that trend to continue.

As always, if you have any ideas on how to improve our great state, please do not hesitate to contact me by email  at  Sen.Darling@legis.wi.gov or 608-266-5830.   

On, Wisconsin!

Statement on Governor Walker's Juvenile Justice Reform Plan

On Thursday, Governor Walker announced major changes to the state's juvenile justice system.  His plan includes transitioning the Lincoln Hills facility to an adult medium security facility and creating regional youth prisons.
 
I believe Governor Walker's plan is an important step in improving the outcomes for incarcerated youth in our state.  The safety of our children and our citizens are a top priority for me. 
 
Moving to a regional system will create a safer environment and make sure juveniles get the support they need from family members.  This change is critical to expanding access to mental health and trauma-informed care for our most vulnerable youth.  My hope is this move will reduce recidivism rates and increase positive outcomes when children finish their incarceration.
 
I look forward to working with Governor Walker on this important issue
Darling Applauds Edvest Passing $5 Billion in Assets  
 
As one of the original authors of Wisconsin's successful college savings program Edvest, I want to applaud the program passing $5 billion in assets.  

Helping children achieve is very important to me.  I helped author legislation which created the program and I have served on the board since 1999.   Edvest is now a model college savings program for the nation. With $5 billion in assets, more kids will get the opportunity to go pursue their dreams.
 
Edvest is Wisconsin's college savings program, also called a "529 plan" after the IRS code they fall under.  Wisconsin's plan is one of the lowest cost 529 plans in the nation.  Account owners can choose between 17 investment portfolios and benefit from in-state tax benefits.
 
In 2011, I also authored a budget motion which allowed parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, and uncles to receive a tax deduction when investing in a child's Edvest account.   Previously, only parents received a tax benefit from the investment. 

The motion helped increase investments in the program and increased opportunities for Wisconsin's kids.   This little change is making a big difference in children's futures.  More kids will have the opportunity to go to college because relatives who care about them are able to invest in their future.
 
More information on about investing in a child's future can be found by visiting Wisconsin's Edvest program website.
Honoring the Badgers

Congratulations to our Wisconsin Badgers for finishing their spectacular season by winning the Orange Bowl! 

I will be introducing a Joint Resolution to honor the team, Coach Paul Chryst, and their historic season.  You can read the full resolution here

On, Wisconsin!   
Darling School Choice 2.0 Bill Getting National Attention

Recently, I unveiled a bi-partisan bill that creates an education savings account program for low-income, gifted and talented students.  Those accounts can help parents pay for textbooks, curriculum, tutors, lessons, fees, and tuition for their gifted and talented child.   

The bill is being hailed as "School Choice 2.0" and getting national attention.  This week, the Washington Examiner posted a column from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL).  In the piece, WILL makes a strong case for how my bill will help low-income students achieve their dreams: 

"There's a strong belief that the program would be a success. An ESA for gifted students would give more low-income families the opportunity to access services previously unavailable. For example, a qualifying student at a choice school could take an online Mandarin course at a public school in Green Bay. Or a gifted child at a rural public school could use the ESA on Advanced Placement courses not offered at the school.

Most importantly, the ESA will help parents tailor education to the specific needs of their students."

You can read the entire article here.
Around the 8th...

Congratulations to Menomonee Falls for being named one of the safest places in Wisconsin by SAFEHOME.org.  The website ranked communities with populations of at least 27,000.  Menomonee Falls ranked #2 in state!
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2018 Senate Scholar Announced

Sussex-Hamilton High School junior Eric Doese will represent the 8th Senate District in the 2018 Senate Scholar program.  The Senate Scholar program is a week-long intensive program at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison. 
 
Students in the program are introduced to the legislative process.  Eric will spend time with Senator Darling and staff from her office.  He will also meet with support agencies, staff from Governor Walker's office, a Supreme Court Justice, members of the media, lobbyists, and UW faculty members.  

Senate Scholars also serve as pages during Senate floor sessions.  Finally, the scholars draft a bill and hold a hearing in a Senate Scholar committee.   Eric Doese is expected to participate in the Senate Scholar program the week of January 22nd.  
Senator Alberta Darling | Sen.Darling@legis.wi.gov | 1-800-863-1113| http://darling.senate.wisconsin.gov
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