WEAC Legislative Update – January 25

Attorney General Josh Kaul has issued a letter to Joint Finance Committee Co-Chairs John Nygren and Alberta Darling to withdraw Wisconsin from the ACA lawsuit filed under former Governor Scott Walker, but the co-chairs aren’t saying if they’ll grant the request. Earlier, Governor Tony Evers directed Kaul to withdraw the state – but lame duck laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in December took away the governor’s power to do so and instead gave it to the Legislature. Read more.

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State of the State. Gov. Evers reaffirmed his call for the state to pick up two-thirds of the costs for K-12 education, championed more funding for special education and mental health supports, and vowed to close achievement gaps by connecting the dots between the underlying causes of poverty in his first State of the State Address this week.

Pre-Existing Conditions Bill. The future of a bill Assembly GOP leaders say will protect people with pre-existing conditions is uncertain after the bill passed the Assembly, and turned it over to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. A similar bill to AB 1 failed to pass last session. The Assembly changed the bill to ban coverage limits to those with serious health conditions, but does not include a list requiring coverage for benefits like maternity care and prescriptions, a request made by Evers.

Redistricting. A poll released this week shows 72 percent of Wisconsinites polled say they support legislative and congressional district boundaries being drawn by a nonpartisan commission rather than the state Legislature.

Citizens United. Rep. Lisa Subeck and Sen. Dave Hansen reintroduced the joint resolution for a statewide advisory referendum to overturn the Citizens United ruling.

Marsy’s Law & the April Ballot. The Legislature did not take up this bill that would spell out rights for crime victims as a constitutional amendment. A vote may come later in the session, but the deadline to make it on the April ballot has passed.

Roads. Transportation was a huge issue in the November election, along with schools and healthcare. A few Senate Republicans were just named to the Transportation Projects Commission, which recommends major highway projects in the next budget. They include Sens. Robert Cowles, of Green Bay; Howard Marklein, of Spring Green; and Jerry Petrowski, of Marathon. See the full list here.

Lieutenant Guv Barnes speaks at Dr. MLK Jr. Day event. Mandela Barnes delivered remarks as a keynote speaker in Madison. He expressed his intention to be a leader for racial equity and education. He is the second African-American elected to a statewide office after former Secretary of State and civil rights leader Vel Phillips.

Red Flag Law. Attorney General Josh Kaul is voicing support for a Red Flag Law, which would allow a family member to signal someone they think is dangerous and make sure that person doesn’t have access to the firearms that they possess. Kaul said he thinks the legislation would make schools safer.

CPR for Teachers. Developing legislation could require Wisconsin teachers to learn CPR. “We don’t expect teachers to be fully trained first responders, but they should know a few basics and they should especially know when to call for professional help,” State Rep. Daniel Riemer/D-Milwaukee said.

Department of Justice requests funding to hire school safety training employee. The request, filed with the Joint Finance Committee, would allow one full-time employee for three years to provide the training in conjunction with school safety grants.

Bills Circulating. Among bills circulating for co-sponsorship are:

  • Ban the R-word. This would ban the “R-word” from administrative code. LRB-1327 explains that a 2012 law deleted this offensive term from our statutes, however did not go far enough. This offensive terminology is still found in some of administrative code. LRB-1327 would instruct the DHS, DCF, PSC, DSPS and DWD to strike “mentally retarded” and similar phrases found in their rules and replace them with the phrase “intellectual disability.”
  • Apprenticeship Tax Deductions. This would create a tax deduction for individuals or corporations that have individuals participating in apprenticeship programs. LRB 1159/1 is identical to a 2017 bill that passed the Assembly with wide support. Currently, all tuition for schooling programs that are approved by the Department of Workforce Development qualifies as tax deductible, but not apprenticeship programs are not included. Supporting the 2017 bill were building organizations and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local #139 and the Wisconsin Pipe Trades Association.