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Lasee supports wind turbine limits, school vouchers

State Sen. Frank Lasee has introduced bills designed to make it easier for families and rural communities to challenge construction of 500-foot-tall wind turbines.

Senate Bill 71 would give local units of government the power to enact ordinances that protect their constituents, said Lasee, R-Ledgeview. A second bill would let families who believe they have been harmed by industrial wind turbines to sue in court for medical and moving expenses, damages and other costs associated with wind towers built too close to their homes.

“The wind industry has done their best to downplay the potential health issues,” said Lasee, who was in Sturgeon Bay on Monday for his monthly visit to the WDOR radio talk show. “I have three families in my district that have moved out of their homes; I have affidavits from 50 families that have been negatively affected.”

Large wind turbines have been a familiar sight in northern Kewaunee County for many years, but Lasee noted that newer machines are much larger – as high as 500 feet tall.

The main concern is that extremely low-frequency sound from the 50-story-high whirling blades makes people sick, he said. In a recent report to the state Public Service Commission, four experts concluded there’s enough evidence to warrant further study, he said.

After leaving Sturgeon Bay, Lasee was planning to visit a hearing in Green Bay hosted by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which is currently reviewing the proposed 2013-15 state budget.

The $68 billion spending plan includes a provision expanding the state voucher program for low-income students to attend private schools. Begun in Milwaukee two decades ago, the program was expanded to Racine in the last budget.

Gov. Scott Walker has proposed expansion to larger school districts where at least two public schools have been identified as failing. The idea is meeting resistance from those districts, which include Green Bay.

Kirk Foote, whose family helped a young man obtain his General Education Development (GED) degree, testified at the hearing that “a failing system,” not failing schools, is the root of the problem.

“It’s external issues such as poverty that need to be addressed. You are trying to solve a problem with the wrong solution,”Foote said. “Schools will be compromised. Vouchers will take away funding from a valuable community asset.”

Lasee has said children’s education is too important to trust to a “public school monopoly” and supports the voucher system. He expects that the governor’s proposal will be modified in the final version of the budget, which must be passed by the start of the fiscal year July 1.

“At the end of the day, we’ll see more choices for kids of lower income in schools in the area that school serves,” Lasee said.

Press-Gazette Media of Green Bay contributed to this report.