Dear Friends,

There are more positive signs for Wisconsin's economy. This week, the Department of Revenue posted preliminary tax collections through December. Collections for fiscal year 2020 are up more than 7% over the year before. Those numbers are a good indicator that our state is in good financial shape.

Don't forget, the state is collecting more revenue even after we cut taxes by more than $8 billion since 2011. Next week, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau is expected to release its revenue forecast. It's my hope this trend continues in their report and we will be able to send even more of your money back to you.

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

On, Wisconsin!
Tougher on Crime Bills Protect Victims, Witnesses
Protecting crime victims and witnesses will help ensure more convictions and make sure criminals can't intimidate their way to a mistrial. On Monday, I joined several of my colleagues to announce a series of bills to get tougher on crime.

Representative Dan Knodl and I are working on three bills that will make sure witnesses feel safe and more willing to testify. 
  
The first bill makes any attempt to intimidate a victim of domestic abuse a Class G felony. The other two bills give the courts additional options to conduct victim or witness testimony via video-conferencing or through deposition if there's a reasonable belief that they may have been intimidated or are at risk of not cooperating fully due to intimidation.
 
Too often criminals are let off the hook because witnesses are too scared to testify. These bills will get more criminals off the street because witnesses and victims will be protected.

Representative Knodl and I are seeking co-authors for our bills.
Bills to Address Mental Health, Schools Pass JFC
This week, the Joint Committee on Finance unanimously approved a bill I authored with Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke of Kaukauna to help make sure kids get the mental health care they need.

Assembly Bill 644 will allow the Medical College of Wisconsin to create a school-based mental health consultation pilot program. The pilot would be run by the Medical College of Wisconsin and funded with $175,000 annually from the Department of Health Services. School personnel will be educated on how to manage mental health concerns in the classroom, where to refer complex cases, and will also receive educational training seminars. 

According to a 2018 report from the Office of Children's Mental Health, 24% of Wisconsin teens have been diagnosed with a mental illness. The same report shows our state is lacking in providing access to the care they need. This bill will help connect school-aged children with mental health professionals.

The committee also approved a bill I authored with Representative Mary Felzkowski of Irma that will allow school districts to engage in "whole grade sharing." Some school districts find they don't have enough students to fill a class for a grade level. Our bill will encourage different districts to swap grade levels when needed by creating a financial incentive of $150 per student. 

I hope that school districts in both rural and urban areas can benefit from this change and make sure more money goes directly to teaching children.
Where Do Your Tax Dollars Go?
In the state budget, we made the largest investment in K-12 education in state history. In fact, more than 1/3 of the entire state budget goes to pay for our public schools.

Unfortunately, it's very difficult for taxpayers to see where and how their money is being spent. This week, I introduced legislation with Representatives Mary Felzkowski of Irma and Gae Magnafici of Dresser that will make it much easier for anyone to track school spending.

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) collects a lot data. Unfortunately, its very difficult to find. Our bill requires that DPI makes it available to taxpayers on their website in an easy to read format.

This transparency combined with school report cards will help make sure taxpayers are seeing a return on their investment in education.
Wisconsin is Still Winning!
Blue Books Available
Around the 8th...
On Thursday, Representative Dan Knodl and I had the honor of attending the retirement part for Germantown Police Chief Peter Hoell.

Chief Hoell served Germantown for more than 30 years - including 16 years as Chief.

Good luck in your retirement!
I-43 Reconstruction Meetings
In the state budget, we put rebuilding I-43 North-South corridor from Glendale to Grafton back on track. This important road project is critical to safety and commerce in our area. 

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation will be holding informational meetings about the project and you are invited. Experts from the DOT will be available to answer your questions at two upcoming open house events:

  • January 21, 2020, from 4-7 p.m. at Mequon City Hall located at 11333 N. Cedarburg Road, Mequon, WI 53092

  • January 22, 2020, from 4-7 p.m. at Nicolet High School located at 6701 N. Nicolet Road, Glendale, WI 53217

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