Dear Friends,

After years of working to improve our status in the rankings, our state is now among the best states to start a business! Wisconsin is now rated near the top for entrepreneurs. Improving our state's reputation for business is an issue I have worked on for several years. It's great to see our state get the recognition that it deserves.

In 2013, I authored legislation creating the "Badger Fund of Funds" to keep our state competitive by investing in homegrown start-ups. I wanted the next great idea to have a "Made in Wisconsin" label on it.

At the time, entrepreneurs were struggling to get their ideas into the marketplace. The Badger Fund of Funds is a Limited Partnership formed by the state of Wisconsin to invest in state-based venture capital funds that will invest in new Wisconsin-based ventures.

There are now seven new funds in our state: the Idea Fund of La Crosse, Bascom Ventures, the Winnebago Seed Fund, Rock River Capital Partners, 30Ventures, NM Future Ventures, and CMFG Ventures. Every $1 invested by the state is being matched by nearly $3 from investors and that money is going directly to Wisconsin startups!

Wisconsin's best resource is our people. I'm excited so many people want to invest in our state and get concepts into the marketplace. With a little help, a great idea can lead to many family-supporting jobs. Often one idea leads to another and another. Now that we have established a resource to help grow these ideas, there is no telling how Wisconsin can change the world.

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!
Combating Carjackings, Protecting Witnesses
Carjackings continue to be a big problem throughout our state. It's not only the loss of a vehicle that is a problem, but car thieves often drive recklessly and lead to chases that put drivers and police at risk.

In 2018, more than 5,400 cars were reported stolen in our area. It's time we give law enforcement the tools and the funding to stop carjackings.

On Thursday, I announced a bill with Representative Jim Ott to provide grants to communities to combat car theft. With this funding, communities can put more police on the streets and develop strategic plans to reduce crime.

Our bill had a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety on Thursday. It's my hope the committee will vote on it soon.
This bill is part of our Tougher on Crime agenda. Representative Knodl and I are also working on more bills in the agenda that will help protect victims and witnesses at trial.

Dan and I testified in favor of our bills on Thursday in front of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.

Protecting crime victims and witnesses will lead to more convictions and make sure criminals can't intimidate their way to a mistrial.

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. 
Darling Bills on Mental Health, Adoption Now Law
Thanks to these great advocates, a bill I authored with Representative Mike Rohrkaste is now law.

Our bill will enable mental health providers to receive reimbursements for consultations with parents about their children. This will help make sure parents are aware of and participating in their children's treatment plan.
Also signed into law this is week is my bill which allows foster parents to be a party to a proceeding in a change in placement case for children who have been with the foster parent for over 6 months.

On average, foster kids go through 2.5 changes in placements. According to the Department of Public Instruction, 34% of 17 and 18-year-olds in the child welfare system experience 5 or more school changes. Students lose four to six months of academic progress with each change.
 
Changing homes is very traumatic for kids. They lose the brief stability they had, often switch schools, and need to learn a new daily routine. Foster parents should have standing in courts when determining a change in placements for kids who have been part of their family for more than six months.
Finally, my bill to help prevent suicides among young people is now law.

My bill will help fund peer-to-peer suicide prevention programs for our schools. Peer-to-peer programs like Hope Squad and Sources of Strength are making a real difference in preventing suicides. The programs help change the way kids talk about mental health, train peers to identify signs of crisis and seek help, and train student leaders for kids to contact when they need additional support. 

Tragically, suicide is the 9th leading cause of death in our state. For kids between the ages of 10 and 18, it's the second leading cause of death. Peer-to-Peer programs will help kids see a support network in their school and help them understand that they are not alone. 
Bill Investing in Water Research Advances
This week, my bill to help Wisconsin become the "Silicon Valley of Water" received unanimous support from two committees. Both the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy and the Assembly Committee on Colleges and University approved my bill that could make Wisconsin a world-wide leader in water research. 

Water is the fastest-growing sector of the world's economy. It's expected to have an impact of $800 billion every year by 2035. One issue that kept coming up was investing in water research. My bill is one of the recommendations of the bipartisan Speaker's Task Force on Water Quality. The task force held 14 hearings throughout Wisconsin and heard from hundreds of citizens.
 
It's my hope this legislation will make Wisconsin a world leader in water research and solutions that lead to safe drinking water. The bill is now available for a possible vote in both houses of the Legislature.
February is Heart Month
It's always an honor to stand with my colleagues to recognize American Heart Month.

In the U.S., a woman dies from cardiovascular disease nearly every 80 seconds. The good news is we can change that because 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes.

Find out more about how you can improve your heart health by clicking on the picture.
Wisconsin is Still Winning!
Blue Books Available
Around the 8th...
I had a great time at the Germantown Community Scholarship Fund annual dinner and auction on Thursday evening.

The event raised more than $100,000! That money will help Germantown students pursue higher education.

Congratulations to everyone involved.
Can the Knights Repeat?
This week, TMJ4 did a nice story about the defending state champions Nicolet Knights. Watch this video to see how the champs are trying to repeat!
Click the picture above for more information.