State Views: Fall agenda moves Wisconsin forward

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Rep. Tyler August
Friday, November 22, 2013

We recently finished our fall floor period in the state Assembly. Our agenda built upon the previous accomplishments of balancing the budget, reducing the tax burden and improving the job-creation climate for private-sector businesses. Numerous bills passed that move Wisconsin in the right direction.

 With more than 11,000 new businesses having been created since I was elected in 2011, I am proud to say Wisconsin's economy is continuing to improve. In fact, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia recently ranked Wisconsin second in the nation for growth. In addition, Wisconsin continues to rank in the top five states for manufacturing, according to CNBC.

However, in order for our state's economy to continue to improve, we need to ensure our workforce is properly trained. For this reason, we recently passed a set of bills aimed at improving Wisconsin's workforce development. Our workers need to possess the necessary skills to compete for jobs nationally as well as in the global marketplace.

The workforce development package of bills had three main objectives: addressing the skills gap, helping the unemployed, and eliminating hurdles to the workforce. For example, we expanded the Youth Apprentice Program, which provides a way for high school students to train for in-demand careers. We also expanded the Wisconsin Workers Win program, which allows unemployed workers to get temporary, on-the-job training and allows companies with job openings to train and try out prospective employees.

Additionally, the Assembly passed a comprehensive package of legislation aimed at reforming Wisconsin's mental health system. It is estimated that roughly one in four adult Americans suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. The mental health reforms were the result of findings by the Speaker's Special Task Force on Mental Health. The task force was led by Rep. Erik Severson, R-Star Prairie, who is an emergency room doctor, and Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood, a psychiatric care nurse. The reforms focused on two main goals: the need for increased access to care and the importance of improved coordination between treatment providers.

Finally, the Assembly passed a reform package that strengthens the integrity of our elections. We passed an improved version of photo ID, which requires a photo ID to vote. You might recall that we had already passed photo ID legislation, but it was held up by a liberal Madison judge. The new bill was closely modeled after Indiana's photo ID law, which was upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

We also passed a constitutional amendment that reforms the recall election process. The amendment would limit the recall process to only be available in cases of criminal or ethical misconduct. You might remember that Wisconsin recently had 15 recall elections, creating recall fatigue and costing taxpayers roughly $16 million, much of it burdening local units of government.

I'm proud of all we were able to accomplish to move Wisconsin forward. I look forward to our next floor period after the holidays to build upon the reforms we've already passed.

Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, represents the 32nd Assembly district in southeast Wisconsin. Serving his second term, he is speaker pro tempore of the Assembly. Readers can contact him at P.O. Box 8952, Madison, WI 53708; 608-266-1190; Rep.August@legis.Wisconsin.gov.

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