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Guest columnist: Capitol update: 2015 highlights
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It's been a busy year serving as your state representative, and it's truly been a great honor. As we close the end of 2015, I'd like to share several of my top legislative highlights with you.

One of my first bills to be signed into law was a big win for Lafayette County. Act 26 enables timely emergency response across state lines by allowing out-of-state ambulance services in portions of Lafayette County. This law was prompted by the growing problem along the Wisconsin/Illinois state line where ambulance services were being unnecessarily delayed due to unnecessary regulation restrictions. We all know that in medical emergencies, time is of the essence. When a life is on the line, citizens shouldn't have to wait because of government red tape.

As a parent of two adopted sons, I was honored to author legislation that increases access to information between adoptees and birth parents. Assembly Bill 513 will allow greater opportunities for adoptees to learn important information about their birth parents that could assist in obtaining updated medical information and family history.

I was also proud to cast my vote in support of a package of bills that aim to protect public benefits from misuse and theft. The four proposals include measures to expunge unused FoodShare benefits after one year, reduce the number of FoodShare replacement cards, place a photo on FoodShare cards, and crack down on intentional fraud of unemployment benefits. These are common-sense precautions that will maintain the integrity and sustainability of these important programs.

Another highlight was to be selected as a member of the Speakers Task Force on Alzheimer's & Dementia. This is a bi-partisan Task Force committed to finding real solutions to the problems caused by Alzheimer's and Dementia. One of the Task Force's public hearing was held right here in the 51st District in Dodgeville. It was a great chance for the task force to hear innovative ideas, suggestions, and testimony from the area and a unique opportunity for people of Southwest Wisconsin to speak on the issue and be involved in raising awareness.

Lastly, I worked hard over the past year to add significant improvements to the biennial state budget. I advocated for specific measures that benefit Southwest Wisconsin that were included in the budget - like creating an economic development fund for our region to help grow our economy, tax incentives for teachers, initiatives to promote tourism in our communities and even assistance that will help law enforcement combat drug abuse in our neighborhoods. While I was pleased that the budget prioritized our public schools and preserved SeniorCare, and long-term care programs, I felt that ultimately I could not in good conscience support the budget bill's final passage.

As an independent voice for our community in the state legislature, I will continue to work hard to represent your views in our state capitol. The input I received from many of you was crucial in helping me reaching this decision, and I believe that my vote on this budget best reflects the views of our district.

Most of all it's been a pleasure to serve the constituents of the 51st District this past year. Since I was first sworn into office in January, I have appreciated hearing directly from so many of you either through my office hours, community events or through my office in Madison. It is only through consistent interaction with the people who I serve can I accomplish all that we still need to do in 2016. I look forward to continuing to work on your behalf in the coming year.

- Rep. Todd Novak represents the 51st Assembly District. He can be reached at 608.266.7502 or email