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June 17, 2019

4/27/2019 7:30:00 AM
Political Digest

Vos, Tauchen introduce Lottery Privacy Act

Assembly speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Rep. Gary Tauchen (R-Bonduel) are introducing the Lottery Privacy Act to allow prize winners to remain anonymous.

The authors unveiled the legislation on the day the Wisconsin Lottery is announcing the winner of the state's largest jackpot and the third largest jackpot in U.S. history.

"The government shouldn't force lottery winners to come forward publicly if they don't want to," Vos said. "Just because you win the lottery, it shouldn't mean you lose your right to privacy."

The legislation prohibits the Department of Revenue, lottery administrators, and the retailer who sold the ticket from disclosing the lottery prize winner's name, address, or social security number if the individual requests anonymity. More than a handful of states have similar privacy laws for lottery winners.

"Winning the lottery often makes you a target of fraud, abuse, and harassment," Tauchen said. "Winners often take steps of wearing costumes and other efforts to conceal their identity and protect their privacy."

The Lottery Privacy Act would maintain the integrity of the state's lottery program, the lawmakers said. It allows certain exemptions for disclosures in order to determine the withholding of winnings for unpaid taxes, court judgements, or child support. The location of the ticket sale will continue to be made public.

The bill will be circulated for co-sponsors this week and will be introduced in the Assembly in the coming weeks.

Bowen: Medical marijuana would boost Wisconsin

State Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) is calling for legalization of medical marijuana after a new study from UW-Madison's La Follette School of Public Affairs shows Wisconsin could see a $1.1 billion benefit over a five-year period from the legalization of medicinal marijuana.

"The results of this study should come as no surprise to those who have seen the fiscal benefits other states have enjoyed following the legalization of medicinal marijuana," Bowen said. "I have long advocated for the legalization of marijuana in no small part because it would provide added revenue to Wisconsin that could be used to invest in our public schools, fix our roads, and expand health care for Wisconsinites."

Bowen said the state would not only benefit from a large source of tax revenue, but would also save money as less people would be incarcerated for trying to access a desperately needed natural medication.

Two weeks ago, the lawmaker said, a Marquette University Law School Poll found that 83 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin support the legalization of medicinal marijuana, and he said the new study found that legalization could bring in over $200 million to the state every year.

"We are lucky to have a governor who understands the benefits of ending Wisconsin's outdated and unnecessary prohibition on medicinal marijuana, and whose 'People's Budget' would do just that," Bowen said. "I call on my Republican colleagues to embrace Gov. Evers's budget and legalize medicinal marijuana in our state. Wisconsinites already know this would be a slam dunk for Wisconsin, and it is past time for Republicans to get on board."

May 1 is NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards Day in Wisconsin

Severe weather can appear quickly in Wisconsin, making it important to have reliable ways of being alerted to changing weather conditions. Having an emergency weather radio in your home or office could save your life.

During NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards Awareness Day, ReadyWisconsin is encouraging everyone to make sure they have a working weather radio in their home and a portable radio in their vehicle. Those radios can provide a 24-hour source of weather forecasts, watches, warnings, and non-weather emergency information from the National Weather Service and its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"Having the ability to receive an early warning about danger in your area can help ensure you and your family can act quickly to take shelter," said Wisconsin Emergency Management administrator Brian Satula. "By listening to the alerts broadcast on those devices, you have a much better chance of reaching safety during dangerous severe weather."

NOAA Weather Radios operate with the help of the National Weather Service and the Educational Communications Board, which maintains the 28 NOAA transmitter stations around Wisconsin.

"These partners provide a critical service when it comes to making sure the people in the state know when dangerous severe weather is in their area," Satula said.

Weather radios come in many sizes, often have a variety of functions, and are typically battery-operated portables or AC-powered desktop models with a battery backup. They can be purchased at most electronic and home improvement stores. Portable weather radios are also an important item to take along when you are enjoying the outdoors. Many receivers can also be programmed to trigger an alarm only for hazardous conditions that affect the owner's county.

Administration officials discuss student loan debt

State treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Department of Financial Institutions secretary-designee Kathy Blumenfeld, and executive secretary of the Higher Educational Aids Board, Connie Hutchison, sat down recently to discuss the $24 billion student loan debt problem in the state.

Gov. Tony Evers has included the creation of a task force focused on refinancing opportunities for high-interest borrowers in his budget request. Other states have already created refinancing opportunities for their borrowers and with Wisconsin lagging behind, the officials say they are working to advocate on the issue to ensure that it is included in Wisconsin's upcoming budget.

Godlewski referenced her own personal experience with high-interest student loan debt.

"When I graduated, I had $75,000 in student loan debt and was paying interest rates up to 9 percent," she said. "I did everything I could to prevent this debt. My parents saved as much as they could, I worked during college, I went to a public institution, and I graduated within four years."

Student borrowers should be able to refinance their debt like a home mortgage, Godlewski said.

"It's just common sense," she said. "While borrowers in Wisconsin were paying up to 15 percent in interest last year, they had no public option to refinance. Without the undue burden of this high-interest debt, more Wisconsinites could contribute to our state's economy."

Blumenfeld said Wisconsin citizens from all parts of the state are shouldering more than $24 billion in student-loan debt.

"Bringing down their monthly payments will help them manage their finances and save for a car, home, emergency or vacation and it will also be a boost to our state economy," Blumenfeld said.

As the Joint Finance Committee wraps up its statewide tour to consider the governor's budget recommendations, the group is working to elevate the issue and ensure that the task force is included and funded in the state's next budget.

Groups challenge requirements for student IDs

This week the Fair Elections Center and Pines Bach LLP filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin on behalf of Common Cause in Wisconsin and individual plaintiff Ben Quintero, challenging what they say are Wisconsin's unnecessary requirements for student IDs to qualify as voter ID.

The lawsuit argues that the student ID requirements are a pointless barrier for casting a ballot in Wisconsin. Most students are newly registered voters and new to the voting process, the lawsuit claims, and the unnecessary requirements on student IDs can confuse and deter new voters rather than making elections more accessible for them.

The lawsuit is challenging specific student ID requirements, not the voter ID law as a whole.

"The completely unnecessary hoops that the Wisconsin voter ID law forces students to jump through to be able to vote, need to be eliminated," said Jay Heck, the long-time director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. "These pointless obstacles create confusion, frustration, and ultimately disillusionment with what should be a simple and uncomplicated process for students to be able to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. This suit seeks to remove these superfluous barriers."

Jon Sherman, senior counsel at Fair Elections Center, said busy students with exams and jobs already bring multiple documents to the polls in order to register and vote on Election Day, but Wisconsin law requires them to request a separate form of photo ID that displays information poll workers do not need or use.

"Just as states cannot lawfully require voters to bring a toothbrush or sandwich to the polls, they cannot insist a voter present useless or irrelevant information," Sherman said.

Wisconsin's current voter ID law singles out student voters, the lawsuit contends, requiring information election and poll workers do not need or use if the voter presents a college or university photo ID when they cast a ballot. Current law allows Wisconsin students to use their campus photo ID if it contains their name, photo, issuance date, an expiration date not more than two years after the issuance date, and the student's signature.

Students must also show proof of current enrollment, such as an enrollment verification letter or tuition fee receipt. This proof of enrollment requirement makes issuance and expiration dates unnecessary and irrational for student ID cards, and other forms of accepted ID do not have expiration dates and are indefinitely valid.

The lawsuit also claims the signature requirement is unnecessary. Wisconsin's voter ID law does not require election officials and poll workers to match the signature on an ID with the voter's signature on the poll book or voter registration form, and other forms of accepted voter ID, such as Veterans Health Identification Cards and some tribal ID cards, do not contain signatures.

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