Dear Friends,

Congratulations to all of this year's graduates! Graduation isn't the end, it's just the beginning.  Good luck on your future endeavors!

Graduates will certainly have good opportunities in Wisconsin.  Our state's unemployment rate dipped again.  It's now at 3.1% which is the lowest since October of 1999.  And even more jobs may be on the way.  This week, President Trump hinted a major employer might set up shop in Wisconsin!  It's an exciting time in our state.

Finally, good luck to all the golfers participating in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills! Especially Mequon's Jordan Niebrugge and Madison's Steve Stricker.    You can follow the U.S. Open here .

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

On Wisconsin!

Budget Update

After a brief break, the Joint Committee on Finance is back in action.  On Thursday, we made a significant change to the budget proposed by Governor Walker.  We believe it will protect taxpayers and save money in the future.

Leading up to the budget, we have had serious concerns about the validity of projected savings from the proposed move to self-insurance. Data from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) shows that our concerns are legitimate and that savings would not be nearly as much as originally predicted. This has left the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) in a position to have to fill a significant budgeting hole.
 
It is for this reason that we've decided to reject the governor's proposed move to self-insurance and, instead, work within our existing fully-funded framework to ensure healthcare stability and savings for state employees. Specifically, we are directing the Group Insurance Board (GIB) to draw down their excessively high reserves and explore plan design changes to determine savings to state agencies and employees. Through these changes, we are expecting $63.9 million in savings -- a few million more than the governor's original projection and without limiting access to benefits.

We are also moving to increase legislative oversight of the GIB's processes. It's our firm belief that legislators need to be an active part of discussions concerning potentially risky changes to the State of Wisconsin's healthcare coverage. The GIB shouldn't be able to make decisions without public representation or approval. We want to ensure there is a checks-and-balances system in place before widespread changes are made on the backs of state employees and agencies.

As State Legislators, we are elected to serve our constituents across the state. Thousands of Wisconsinites benefit from our current, fully-funded, competitive healthcare market. Our decision today ensures state employees will continue to have access to this premier market while improving upon our state's efficiency and increasing  savings.

As the budget process continues, we look forward to reviewing the GIB's alternatives to self-insurance
Legislative Session
Senator Darling shares a laugh with Senator Kathleen Vinehout


The Wisconsin State Senate had a very busy agenda this week.  We finished up the Special Session by passing two more bills in the HOPE Agenda to fight opioid addiction. I am proud to stand with Representative Nygren in his efforts to address the heroin epidemic.  

The  HOPE agenda is a sea-change in how we deal with addictions and drug crimes. Wisconsin is definitely ahead of the curve when it comes to fighting and the two bills we passed this week will help save lives.

Here's a brief summary of this week's action:

Good Samaritan Law Expansion (Special Session Assembly Bill 3) - Part of the HOPE Agenda.  Too often addicts won't call 9-1-1 even when a friend is overdosing for fear they will be arrested. This bill expands our current 911 Good Samaritan law to protect the person experiencing an overdose. 
Emergency Detention (Special Session Assembly Bill 5) - I co-authored this important bill will help family members get help for their loved ones before they can get them into rehab.  The bill   allows for the emergency detention of an individual who suffers from addiction and is a danger to himself or others. Also part of the HOPE Agenda.
Carjacking Penalties ( Senate Bill 58) - I'm proud to be a co-author of this bill by Senator Leah Vukmir.  From 2013 to 2015, carjackings went up by 50%.  It's clear currently law is providing enough punishment for carjacking. This bill increases penalties for the crime and increases penalties for repeat offenders. The bill was approved by the Senate 25-7 and now heads to the State Assembly.
School Choice Improvements ( Senate Bill 293)  A bi-partisan bill that will protect children by adding background checks for choice school employees. It will also help prevent fly-by-night choice schools.  
Credit Card Skimming ( Senate Bill 133) - Our state is seeing a rise in credit card skimming, but our laws didn't specifically target this crime.  This bill provides serious penalties for skimming credit cards and allows our prosecutors to put these criminals behind bars.
Easing Cosmetology Licensing (Senate Bill 108 and Senate Bill 109)  We are one of the few states that require continuing education for barbers and cosmetologists. Those requirements are preventing many talented people from working in our state.  These bills make our state more competitive.
Olympic Greats Visit Capitol
This week, I had the honor of meeting Olympic speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Casey FitzRandolf! 

Fun fact: State Representative Joe Sanfelippo's wife Becky was a speed skater in the 1988 games in Calgary.
Around the 8th...
Donges Bay Elementary School in Mequon visited the Capitol.
______________________________________________________
Shady Lane Elementary School in Menomonee Falls also visited the Capitol. 
Senator Alberta Darling | Sen.Darling@legis.wi.gov | 1-800-863-1113| http://darling.senate.wisconsin.gov
See what's happening on our social sites: