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— Republicans today touted a slate of abortion-related bills they argued would boost transparency, bar discrimination, and expand protections for fetuses and babies.
But Dems countered the legislation would ultimately limit options for women, as they championed Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal to boost health care for women and infants by $28 million.
The GOP bills include measures to: bar Planned Parenthood from getting money under the Medical Assistance program; ban abortions on the basis of a fetus’ race, gender and other qualifiers; require physicians to tell women considering taking an abortion-inducing drug the process could be reversed; and outline care requirements for children born alive following an abortion or attempted abortion.
In addition to the bills’ public hearing in the Assembly Health Committee, the legislation also received public hearings in a number of Senate panels throughout the day: the Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection Committee, the Health and Human Services Committee and the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.
Dozens lined up to speak before the Assembly panel today, with testimony from lobbyists, physicians and citizens lasting around half the day.
Detractors included Joan Schwarz, of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, who labeled the bills an attempt to “intrude on a woman’s right in the first and second trimesters of a pregnancy.”
She also blasted the bills’ authors for ignoring current federal law surrounding abortions.
“I think I am the first person discussing Roe v Wade, which is still the law of the land and has specific parameters that are not being honored by any of these bills,” she said.
But others — including Mauston resident Paul Shirek, a pastor at Faith Christian Church, and Wisconsin Right to Life Executive Director Heather Weininger — focused on each individual bill.
For example, Shirek and Weininger highlighted the high-profile “born alive” bill, which attracted national attention after President Trump touted it during his rally in Green Bay.
That bill, Shirek said, further codifies a “minimum moral requirement” — to provide care to someone that survived an abortion.
Dems this morning argued state statute already provides protections to those children and the current legislation would be redundant and unnecessary.
“This bill is a solution in search of a problem,” Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison said, adding: “It’s already illegal in Wisconsin.”
Still, bill authors Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke and Senate President Roger Roth countered they are providing details in a gray area.
“The statues are replete with examples of where there is some overlap in penalties for the same crime,” said Steineke, R-Kaukauna. “This is no difference. So unless you’re completely OK with there being gray areas or no penalties, no specific penalties in place, nothing specified in statute, I don’t understand why anyone would oppose this.”
Following is a rundown of the other bills discussed during today’s hearing:
*AB 183, which would prohibit Planned Parenthood from being certified to provide services under the Medicaid Assistance program.
Republicans argued the bill wouldn’t deplete available funding for women’s health care clinics; rather, they said it would ensure state and federal dollars aren’t backing abortion providers.
Between 2011 and 2018, Department of Health Services data shows Planned Parenthood received some $94 million in taxpayer money under the MA program, according to bill co-author Sen. Duey Stroebel.
“This does not diminish the amount of dollars,” co-author Rep. Barbara Dittrich said. “It redirects the funds to actual health care providers.”
She argued Planned Parenthood clinics aren’t present in rural parts of the state, so spreading the funds across other providers statewide would mean state residents “will get better and more widespread care through this proposal.”
— Dems defended Planned Parenthood’s services and raised concerns other clinics in the state wouldn’t have the capacity to pick up additional patients that could be affected if the bill advances.
Planned Parenthood, Subeck said, provides “preventative services that women in our community and around the state count on.”
In 2011, Republicans changed state law to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving state money for family planning activities. The bill would go a step further by cutting off from Medical Assistance by July 1, 2020, any private entity that provides abortion services or is affiliated with one that does.
The legislation is similar to another from Sen. Andre Jacque and Rep. Janel Brandtjen, AB 181, which was added to the committee calendar yesterday.
*AB 182, which would ban abortions solely because of race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex or due to a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome or another congenital disability.
Co-author Dittrich, R-Oconomowoc, gave emotional testimony in support of the bill, calling the decision to have an abortion based on those parameters “discrimination in the womb.”
But Dems questioned whether the bill was part of a “broader agenda to limit women’s health care” options.
The legislation is broader than a 2013 bill that would have banned sex-selective abortions. That session, it cleared the Assembly but died in the Senate.
*And AB 180, which would require physicians to tell women considering taking an abortion-inducing drug regiment that taking the first drug may not result in an immediate abortion.
GOP bill authors Speaker Robin Vos and Sen. Chris Kapenga argued the legislation would increase the spread of information and empower women to make decisions.
“This bill would have immeasurable benefits in saving more lives and giving more second chances to mothers,” said Kapenga, R-Delafield.
But Brookfield doctor Kathy Hartke argued the language would amount to lawmakers mandating treatment, “dangerous political interference” that could compromise patient care.
Under the bill, the woman would have to be informed she may be able to continue the pregnancy, but “time is of the essence” and she should contact a physician to discuss options to counteract the effects of the drug she’s already consumed.
The bill would also create additional reporting requirements for hospitals, clinics or other facilities performing induced abortions, which submit abortion-related data to the Department of Health Services. The changes, the bill’s authors said, are largely based off of Minnesota’s requirements.
— Elections Administrator Meagan Wolfe today sailed through a public hearing and executive session, garnering praise from county clerks and the unanimous support of the Senate Elections, Ethics and Rural Issues Committee.
Wolfe was first appointed in March 2018, after the Senate rejected the appointments of Mike Haas and Brian Bell as the administrators of the Elections and Ethics commissions, respectively. At the time, Senate Republicans cited the old Government Accountability Board’s handling of a John Doe probe and other concerns for the votes. The Elections Commission then selected Wolfe, who was serving as the assistant administrator, to replace Haas and requested the Senate confirm her.
But the confirmation process dragged on, and the Elections Commission in a January letter to Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald renewed the agency’s request for the GOP-controlled Senate to schedule a hearing and vote to confirm Wolfe as administrator at the chamber’s “earliest convenience.”
Wolfe told WisPolitics.com she received a response asking for her to meet with senators “to make sure they understood the priorities and the direction of the Elections Commission as we head into 2020.” Wolfe said she had the opportunity to meet with nearly every lawmaker in the body, and highlighted those meetings as key to the support she received today.
The Senate panel voted to confirm Wolfe for the remainder of her term, which is up in July, as well as an additional term ending in June 2023. If approved by the full Senate, Wolfe would be the first Elections Commission administrator to be confirmed.
A Fitzgerald spokesman said the majority leader has not yet set the floor calendar for next week.
Ethics Administrator Dan Carlton, meanwhile, continues to serve in an unconfirmed capacity since taking the job in August 2018. A spokesman for Sen. Kathy Bernier, the Chippewa Falls Republican who chairs the Elections, Ethics and Rural Issues Committee, said the committee plans to consider a number of legislative items at its next meeting and did not provide a timetable for Carlton’s hearing.
— The Senate panel also considered a number of bills today, including a measure that would allow voters to share pictures of their marked ballots.
SB 48 would remove a prohibition from “a bygone era” that prevents voters from sharing a marked ballot with others, said bill author Sen. David Craig. That restriction, Craig said, was a violation of free speech.
The Big Bend Republican pointed to a similar case the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up in 2017. That decision left in place a circuit court ruling that found New Hampshire’s restriction on showing a marked ballot was unconstitutional.
He also noted that Wisconsin is currently one of only 18 states that prevents voters from showing a completed ballot.
But clerks from Dane, Brown and Rock counties all slammed the measure, which they said could lead to voter coercion.
“Imagine a parent telling their child, ‘I want to see your ballot after you go vote, I’m paying for your college so you better vote for who I tell you to vote for,'” said Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, before citing similar hypotheticals with employers and unions.
Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson also raised concerns in written testimony about voter intimidation and privacy, questioning if the bill would put the safety of confidential voters — victims of domestic or sexual abuse, for instance — at risk.
“We have no problem with someone telling everyone how they voted,” she said. “We just do not want to open (the) door to vote selling and infringe on the right of other voters.”
The committee’s Legislative Council representative pointed to a number of state laws are already in place to prevent coercion and bribery at the ballot box.
But Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno said those cases would be “very, very low” on the list of a district attorney’s priority list for prosecutions.
“Their files are full of cases of the really serious kind, and this would be at the bottom of the stack and may never get addressed,” she said.
See the bill:
— A GOP bill giving municipalities more options for using immobilization devices for habitual parking offenders became law this week without the guv’s signature, the first time that’s happened since 1994.
Gov. Tony Evers received the bill April 25 and sent it back to the Senate Saturday without his signature or veto, allowing it to become law. His office didn’t provide an explanation for the rare move.
In addition to allowing a municipality to contract with a third party to immobilize vehicles, the new law adds a product called the Barnacle to the list of devices that can be used to target parking offenders.
The large, yellow device can be attached to a car’s windshield to prevent drivers from using the vehicle.
Bill co-author Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, said he heard no objections from the guv’s office about the legislation. He argued the Barnacle is safer for parking enforcement than a wheel boot, which requires someone to squat down — sometimes near traffic — to attach it.
“This is just an option for local communities,” Cowles said. “No one is forced to do this. It’s just a clever piece of technology that’s currently prohibited.”
The bill cleared both chambers on voice votes, and the Assembly Local Government Committee signed off 8-0. But it came out of a Senate committee 3-2.
Some of the concerns raised about the bill include that drivers would still try to drive their vehicles even with the Barnacle attached and that the legislation would benefit the manufacturer of that device.
Sen. Jeff Smith, D-Eau Claire, voted against the bill in committee and said he also heard from Milwaukee lawmakers over concerns the change would be punitive toward those already struggling financially.
“It just raised a red flag for me that it was really just helping one company,” he said.
See the bill history:
See more on the Barnacle:
— The Union of Operating Engineers has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Act 10, arguing it’s a violation of the First Amendment because it has to represent workers who aren’t paying dues.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled that public employees couldn’t be compelled to pay dues to a union, finding it was a violation of First Amendment rights.
The union, which filed the suit Friday, cites that ruling in arguing what it says is a logical extension: if employees can’t be compelled to pay dues, then unions can’t be forced to provide services to those who aren’t covering the costs of representation.
“Hence, the right of freedom of thought protected by the First Amendment against state action includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all,” the suit argues.
Act 10 has withstood various legal challenges before, and conservatives hailed the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus decision as a mirror of that Wisconsin law.
The Operating Engineers lawsuit, however, uses the court ruling as the foundation for its challenge.
For example, it argues that Act 10’s voting requirements for union recertification violated the First Amendment. The law requires 51 percent of all members — not just those who vote — to back recertification for it to be recognized by the state. According to the lawsuit, 100 percent of all ballots cast supported recertification of one union local. But because of the members who failed to vote, it left the union below the 51 percent threshold.
Counting a non-vote as a no, the suit argues, violates the First Amendment rights of those who “remain silent in the recertification process.”
Among other things, the suit also argues Act 10’s ban on public employees having their dues deducted from their paychecks infringes on their associational rights. State law allows for other voluntary wage deductions, including non-profits such as the United Way, the suit notes.
— The state Supreme Court has set a Friday deadline for parties to weigh in on the lame-duck appeal that it took over without first being asked.
The suit, filed by a union, Dem Sen. Janet Bewley and others, argued some of the extraordinary session actions violated the separation of powers. A Dane County judge sided with the union before GOP lawmakers went to the 3rd District Court of Appeals.
The Supreme Court decided to take over the case and initially indicated it would decide the request for a stay based on the existing briefs filed with the 3rd District.
But in today’s order, the court decided to give parties the chance to weigh in anew considering the stay it issued in the second lame-duck lawsuit. In that case, a Dane County judge overturned the extraordinary session actions, ruling lawmakers had improperly convened.
Separately, the court rejected a request by former GOP lawmaker Sheehan Donoghue to file a non-party brief in the appeal dealing with lawmakers’ ability to call extraordinary sessions.
— The state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance is highlighting a new independent report that shows premiums on the individual marketplace are up to 11 percent lower in states that expanded Medicaid.
Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable says “the evidence is clear.”
“There is a lot of misinformation being used in this discussion, so we wanted to set the record straight,” he said. “At the OCI, our goal is to maintain a strong insurance market so that people have more access to affordable, reliable coverage. Medicaid expansion will help us accomplish that goal.”
The report was created for OCI by Wakely Consulting Group, an independent actuarial firm. The group analyzed findings from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a report from the Journal of Health Economics.
The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which financed a study that found taking the federal dollars would shift costs to private consumers, knocked the most recent results for focusing on “a very narrow slice of the pie.”
“It examines the effect of Medicaid expansion on just 6 percent of the population, but has nothing to say about the impact on the 57 percent of Wisconsinites who have insurance through their employer,” Research Director Will Flanders said. “Providing Medicaid to individuals who already have access to heavily subsidized insurance through the exchanges will hurt more Wisconsinites than it helps.”
That WILL study was conducted in partnership with the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy in February. A later CROWE study — created by a separate team of economists than the WILL report — found Wisconsin could save $100 million annually by expanding Medicaid because of a reduction in uncompensated care costs. The second study, released in April, said the earlier WILL and CROWE study didn’t hold up.
See the full report:
— A series of caregivers and advocates for those with disabilities urged state lawmakers to keep Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed Medicaid expansion in the budget.
The advocates outlined the benefits of the Medicaid expansion, which they said included higher wages for direct and personal care workers, increased reimbursements for dentists and other medical health care professionals, expanded mental health crisis centers and funding for long-term services.
The speakers at a Capitol news conference today also outlined the ways they said the expansion would boost Wisconsin’s economy, including through job growth, as family caregivers would re-enter the labor force, and offsetting behavioral health and criminal justice costs.
“It is essential for our Legislature to consider the facts, and more importantly, to remember all these faces here today,” said Lisa Pugh, co-chair of the Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations.
The Joint Finance Committee’s co-chairs last week announced they plan to reject Evers’ call to expand Medicaid, in addition to more than 100 other items the guv included in his budget.
Currently, Wisconsinites with disabilities and their families face care worker shortages, limited access to specialized medical care and years-long waiting lists for critical financial aid, the advocates said, adding the proposed Medicaid expansion would help bolster the funding shortfalls in those areas.
“Where will Wisconsin find the funds for essential supports now, if Medicaid expansion is removed?” questioned Jenny Neugart, of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities.
LRB-2358: Recognizing June 2019 as LGBT Pride Month. By Reps. Zamarripa, Spreitzer, Novak and Cabrera and Sen. Carpenter.
LRB-3150, LRB-2568: Relating to liability of owners of vehicles involved in violations in highway work zones. By Sens. Testin and Ringhand and Rep. Plumer.
AJR 37: Proclaiming May 2019 as World Trade Month. Referred to Committee on Rules.
Track bills for free:
Journal Sentinel: Assembly to vote on abortion bill next week that Gov. Tony Evers has pledged to veto
State Journal: Proposed GOP changes create $1.4 billion hole in Tony Evers’ budget plan
AP: Report: Medicaid expansion would lower insurance costs
Cap Times: ‘It was rape:’ Wisconsin Army National Guard officer Megan Plunkett says she was retaliated against, disciplined for reporting sexual assaults
AP: Wisconsin voters could safely take selfies under bill
WPR: Chippewa County Study Links Sand Mining, Agriculture To Stream Declines
AP: Ex-Wisconsin district attorney lose another records fight
Politico: Don McGahn won’t comply with House Democrats’ subpoena
Politico: Surprised advisers downplay Trump’s tweet about Mueller testimony
Reuters: Two Reuters reporters freed in Myanmar after more than 500 days in jail
Reuters: Senate’s McConnell: ‘Case closed’ on Mueller probe, but top Democrat sees ‘cover-up’
Washington Post: FBI director tells Congress he has no evidence of ‘spying’ on Trump campaign
Washington Post: U.S. asylum screeners to take more confrontational approach as Trump aims to turn more migrants away at the border
New York Times: Trump Advisers Accuse China of Reneging on Trade Commitments
New York Times: How Chinese Spies Got the N.S.A.’s Hacking Tools, and Used Them for Attacks
– 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.: 2019 Wisconsin International Trade Conference.
– 7:30 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.: Clean Lakes Alliance Community Breakfast. Speaker is DNR Secretary Preston Cole.
– 10:30 a.m.: Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality public hearing. Members are to hear a presentation on the Southwest Wisconsin Groundwater and Geology Study and hear from various stakeholders.
– 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.: Luncheon fundraiser for Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling.
– 4 p.m.: Retirement celebration for University of Wisconsin-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer.
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