Dear Friends,

I hope everyone is enjoying the Winter Olympics as much as I am.  As the games come to a close this weekend, it's important to note some of the great Wisconsin athletes  in the games.

The gold medal winning women's U.S. Olympic Hockey Team is led by four Wisconsin Badgers. Meghan Duggan, Alex Rigsby, Hilary Knight, and Brianna Decker won the first gold for America in women's hockey in 20 years! 

I should also point out that there are five Badgers on the Canadian team.  Emily Clark, Ann-Renee Desbiens, Meaghan Mikkelson, Blayre Turnbull, and Sarah Nurse took home the silver.   Also good luck to McFarland's Matt Hamilton and Superior's John Shuster who will be going for gold Saturday morning in Men's Curling!

According to the National Council for Home Safety and Security, the city of Mequon is the sixth safest city in the state.  Whitefish Bay, Germantown, and Menomonee Falls also made the top 20 on the list.  It's great to see our area recognized as one of the best places to live in the best state in the nation!

There's more good news in the 8th Senate District.  Online giant Amazon is planning on moving into a facility in Sussex and creating as many as 364 jobs! Amazon plans on operating the facility 24 hours a day.  Amazon's announcement is more proof that Wisconsin is open for business!

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 call me at 608-266-5830.   

On, Wisconsin!

Senate Approves Bill Closing Gun Crime Loopholes

After talking with local law enforcement, it was clear they need more help putting repeat offenders behind bars. Their recommendation was to close loopholes that are letting criminals with guns go unpunished.  I'm happy to report a bill I authored to close those loopholes is now headed to Governor Walker's desk.

According to the Milwaukee Police Department, 2,420 guns were recovered in 2016, a rate of 407 per 100,000 people.  Chicago, a much larger city, recovered guns at a much lower rate of 247 per 100,000 people. 

My bill targets these dangerous criminals who shouldn't be carrying weapons in the first place, while still protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.

Here is a quick summary of the bill:
  • Mandatory Minimum for Repeat Offenders: Creates a mandatory minimum sentence of four years for a repeat offender convicted of illegally possessing a firearm or committing a crime involving a firearm.  The bill defines a repeat offender as an individual who has committed three misdemeanors or one felony within a five-year period. These individuals have often committed more serious crimes or crimes with firearms but plead down to lesser offenses.  Milwaukee Police often say they arrest the same offenders over and over again. 
  • Clarify Straw Purchaser Law: Often individuals who cannot legally purchase firearms will have someone purchase a firearm on their behalf - also known as "straw purchasing."  While it is already illegal to be a straw purchaser, this bill better defines the crime and makes straw purchasing a felony. Some district attorneys say the current law isn't clear enough, and it's difficult to get federal authorities to bring charges.
  • Penalties for Human Holsters: Another loophole criminals exploit is to have someone else carry the weapon for them. This bill makes it a felony for an individual to provide or possess a firearm for a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm. 
We want to continue to grow Wisconsin, we are going to have to tackle Milwaukee's  crime problem.   This bill is an important step forward, making it easier for prosecutors to lock up violent criminals without infringing on the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens.
Foster Forward Package Heads to Governor

In 2016, county social workers reported the most children in need of foster care in almost ten years.  Our opioid crisis is likely one reason so many children ended up separated from their parents.  

In response,  Assembly Speaker Robin Vos created the bi-partisan Speaker's Task Force on Foster Care.  After six state-wide public hearings, the Task Force introduced a number of important reforms for our foster care system called The Foster Forward package.  

The Foster Forward package puts Wisconsin kids first.   I'm proud to be the Senate author of four of the bills in the package.  All four received unanimous support in the State Senate and are now headed to Governor Walker for signing.
  • Assembly Bill 775 opens avenues for adoption of foster youth by reforming laws dealing with the termination of parental rights.
  • Assembly Bill 776 removes licensing burdens for foster families who are already licensed.
  • Assembly Bill 781 makes sure foster kids are able to access dental care throughout our state.
  • Assembly Bill 782 allows mental health providers to share information with foster parents that they believe is necessary to care for the kids in their homes.
These are important bills which will have a real impact on our foster care system.  They will help stabilize situations for children and parents and help ease caseloads.
#NotifyMeNow Bill Heads to Governor

Wisconsin should soon be the 32nd state in the nation to create a breast density notification law.  This week, the State Senate voted unanimously for final passage of my #NotifyMeNow bill which gives women more information about their mammogram results.

Nearly 40% of women have dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue can make it harder to detect tumors in a mammogram and is itself a risk factor for breast cancer.  Cancer turns up five times more often in women with extremely dense breast tissue.  O ur bill requires facilities that perform mammograms to provide a breast density notification to women with the results of their mammogram.

As a cancer survivor, I know how important early detection can be. This bill will ensure that women in Wisconsin understand their test results and whether they might need more testing. With this information, women will be able to proactively discuss their options with their healthcare providers. 

Historic Tax Credit Bill Heads to Governor Walker

Many communities throughout Wisconsin owe the revitalization of their downtown areas to the Historic Tax Credit.   It's a low risk - high return program because the state doesn't provide the credit until the project is complete.  Instead of being an eyesore, these rehabilitated historic buildings are getting a new life and are popular destinations.  Unfortunately, funding for the credit was capped by a budget veto. 
 
This week, both the State Senate and State Assembly overwhelmingly approved my bipartisan bill to  restore the state's successful Historic Tax Credit to $3.5 million.  It now heads to Governor Walker's desk for final approval.
 
In 2014, 60% of all projects using the tax credit were vacant for more than 20 years.  A recent study by Baker Tilly shows over a 10-year period the Historic Tax Credit returned $8 to the state for every $1 invested.  The study also showed that between 2014 and 2016 the tax credit generated more than $600 million in economic output.  
 
Currently, projects in Thiensville, Oshkosh, Cedarburg, Fond du Lac, La Crosse, and Madison are in limbo because of the cap.  This legislation will provide the certainty needed for these projects to continue and for more buildings to be saved from the wrecking ball.
Celebrating Black History Month
This week, the State Senate declared the month of February as Black History Month in Wisconsin.  Thanks to the Legislature's Black and Latino Caucus for hosting a fantastic reception in the Capitol!
Children's Caucus Meets
One of the most important committees I serve on isn't one that passes any bills.  The Legislative Children's Caucus is made up of members of both parties and both houses of the Legislature.  I created the caucus back in 2016 and continue to serve on it.

Our goal is to improve the quality of life for all of Wisconsin's children.  Together we hear from experts about research evidence-based public policy to achieve that goal.

This week, we heard about the amazing work being done at Penfield Children's Center and their research on the mental health of preschoolers in poverty.

The Children's Caucus is seeking presentations for this year.  If you or your group are interested, please visit this website and apply.
Wisconsin Proud!
  • State funding for K-12 education reached an all-time high in actual dollars in the budget.  
  • We made an investment of $11.5 billion in Wisconsin's students. 
  • Wisconsin has a $579 million surplus.
  • Madison tied Boston for having the most college graduates in the nation.
  • Wisconsin's unemployment rate of 3.0% ranks 8th lowest nationally and is the lowest in our state since 1999. 
Around the 8th...
Graphic: Menomonee Falls High School

Congratulations to these amazing ladies from Menomonee Falls High School!  They were honored with the  National Center for Women & Information Technology Aspirations in Computing Award! Leah Kreiter, Giana Songstad, Brianna Nienhaus and Robyn George have exhibited excellence  in computer science!
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Graphic: Village of Brown Deer
Senator Alberta Darling | Sen.Darling@legis.wi.gov | 1-800-863-1113| http://darling.senate.wisconsin.gov
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