Dear Friends,

Wisconsin's economy continues to shine.  The state's unemployment rate dipped to 3.4% in September.  We added 9,500 jobs in October, which is the highest since January when we added 10,400 jobs.  Judging by the news this week, many more jobs are headed our way.

Internet giant Amazon says it plans to hire 1,000 seasonal workers in Southeast Wisconsin during the Christmas shopping rush. Molson Coors plans to open a global services center in Milwaukee with 150 employees.  Up in St. Croix County, iMARK Molding says it will triple in size and hire 40 more employees.   And just a couple years after moving to Wisconsin from Illinois, pressure washer manufacturer FNA Group announced plans to expand in Pleasant Prairie.  Wisconsin is on a roll!

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!

Rise Act Could Stop Revolving Door

Wisconsin's economy is booming, our unemployment is low, and businesses are growing.  Where will they find enough workers?  I'm working on two bills to help companies find dedicated workers and end the revolving door of prison. 

Studies show the sooner an ex-offender finds employment, the less likely they are to return to prison.   It costs taxpayers between $30,000 and $40,000 a year to house one inmate.  Helping a reformed ex-offender will stop the cycle of returning to crime when they can't find work and sa ve taxpayer money.

A new bill I am authoring with State Representative Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) will help give ex-offenders another chance and employers more confidence to hire them.   The RISE (Reduce Incarceration, Secure Employment) Act would create a Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE) for ex-offenders who are not likely to pose a risk to public safety.  Those with certain offenses, particularly those involving violent or sexual crimes, would not be eligible to apply under the bill.  

Many inmates try to learn new skills while they are in prison, but still can't find a job when they get out.  The RISE Act will help make use of those skills which are growing in demand in our state.  This bill provides reassurance to employers that these individuals are ready to work.

Regardless of the crime committed, the CQE would still not apply to certain facilities, like childcare centers or some healthcare facilities-where our most vulnerable populations could be at risk.  A CQE does not apply to jobs substantially related to the applicant's crime.  For instance, someone convicted of accounting fraud could not use the CQE to get a Certified Public Accountant license.

Under the bill, an ex-offender can apply for a certificate after they have been released from confinement.  They would submit an application to the Council on Offender Employment. The Department of Corrections (DOC) will provide documentation including the ex-offender's highest level of education, treatment completed, work evaluations, and risk assessment reports for the council to determine if the offender would be likely to pose a risk to public safety.

I am currently seeking co-sponsors for this bill.
Reducing Recidivism, Increasing Opportunity
Occupational License Reform Can Change Lives

According to the National Institute of Justice, surveys of ex-offenders show between 60 and 75 percent of ex-offenders are jobless up to a year after release.   Jobs are a proven way to reduce recidivism. Our laws currently stop many individuals with a criminal record from receiving an occupational license.  

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University states, "The total number of regulated occupations in Wisconsin has also grown from 90 to 166-an 84 percent increase in the last 20 years. This increase in licensed occupations has outpaced Wisconsin's growth in population, labor force, and employment."   This means many family-supporting careers are off limits to those who are trying to turn their lives around.

A bill I am authoring with Representative Warren Petryk (R-Eleva) will give ex-offenders a chance at a new life.   The bill creates a process where an ex-offender can petition a state agency to see if they are eligible for a license.  They would be able to receive an individualized review of their history when they apply and show evidence of rehabilitation.  If they are denied a license, the agency would have to send a written rationale to the applicant.
 
The bill does not affect private employers.  People convicted of violent felonies, and crimes against children, are excluded from this bill. 
 
Workforce development is about creating opportunities for people to get back to work and remain employed.  That means fewer people being stuck in the cycle of government dependence.  This legislation will offer those with criminal records an opportunity to secure meaningful employment that will change their path and at the same time reduce their risk of returning to crime.

On Wednesday, I spoke with Vicki McKenna on WIBA Radio about both of these important bills.  You can listen to the podcast here.
Wheelercast Interview



Recently, I was interviewed by Gwyn Guenther of The Wheeler Report about my experiences as the longest serving woman in state history.   You can hear the interview here  or on iTunes .
Good Luck Hunters!

Tomorrow, Wisconsin's gun deer season gets underway.  The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources think we could have a record buck harvest.  Watch the video above for the full forecast and good luck out there!
Around the 8th...
Germantown High School visited the State Capitol recently.
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Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron gave a fantastic speech at the Medical College of Wisconsin's healthcare dinner on Tuesday night!
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Senator Alberta Darling | Sen.Darling@legis.wi.gov | 1-800-863-1113| http://darling.senate.wisconsin.gov
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