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August 17, 2019

7/20/2019 7:30:00 AM
Political Digest

Shilling: Health coverage for pre-existing conditions in jeopardy

Wisconsin Republicans are refusing to ensure coverage protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions at the state level, a Democratic state lawmaker charged this week.

Senate Democratic leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) said a Democratic proposal to protect Wisconsin families from being denied access to health coverage is stalled in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services and was recently rejected as an amendment during budget deliberations on the Senate floor.

"For the past eight years, Republicans have made it their mission to undermine the health care marketplace, limit access to coverage and protect the profits of wealthy insurance executives," Shilling said. "Instead of going back to the days when insurance companies could unfairly discriminate against individuals, we should protect the progress we've made and ensure families have the opportunity to access quality and affordable health care coverage."

The lawmaker said it was disturbing that efforts to strengthen state level protections have been repeatedly blocked by Republican politicians who refuse to help 2.4 million Wisconsin residents with pre-existing conditions.

"It's another reminder that Republicans can't be trusted when it comes to protecting health care for residents," she said. "Individuals with pre-existing conditions and Wisconsin families struggling to manage serious illnesses shouldn't be denied coverage through no fault of their own. When push comes to shove, Republicans have shown they will always side with wealthy insurance executives over the health and well-being of families."

In February, Shilling said, Democrats introduced Senate Bill 37 that would prohibit insurance companies from increasing costs or denying coverage based on a person's pre-existing condition. The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services has refused to schedule a hearing for SB 37, she said.

Additionally, Shilling claimed, Republicans rejected Senate Budget amendment 2 that included the same health protections on a party line vote.

Thiesfeldt, Taylor circulate bill creating sexual assault kit tracking system

State Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) and Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) are circulating a bill that would create a Wisconsin Sexual Assault Kit Tracking System, which they say would allow victims of sexual assault to access information regarding the status of their sexual assault kit as it proceeds through the criminal justice process.

This would be a survivor focused system that would ensure the privacy and protection of the survivor at every step, the lawmakers say, while adding a layer of autonomy that gives the survivor the ability to be informed and involved in the process.

The system would help revolutionize the criminal justice process for all involved in sexual assault cases, they say.

"Unfortunately, for so many victims, reporting their assault is just the beginning of a long road to healing and hopefully justice," Taylor said. "This bill puts victims back in control by allowing them to securely track their sexual assault kit throughout the entire criminal justice process, from the time it is collected to its disposal. This is truly a bill to empower victims as they navigate this incredibly challenging process."

Thiesfeldt said sexual assault is a horrific crime that happens way too often to girls and women, and even to boys and men.

"At the same time that these individuals are processing and healing from the trauma of a sexual assault, these individuals are also thrown into the criminal justice system and quickly pressed to navigate an often tricky process," he said. "This Sexual Assault Kit Tracking System bill will help all involved in the process attain surety and knowledge about where a sexual assault kit is in the criminal justice system. I am proud to stand up for victims."

Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Sen. Patty Schachtner (D-Somerset) are the Senate lead authors on the bill. The Sexual Assault Kit Tracking System bill is being circulated for cosponsors and will be formally introduced in the near future and begin going through the legislative bill-making process, the bill's authors say.

Kaul announces transparency reforms to opinion process

Wisconsin attorney general Josh Kaul unveiled this week a new process and website for all Wisconsinites to provide information and perspectives on proposed attorney general opinion topics prior to the beginning of the Department of Justice drafting process.

The new Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) webpage,, gives anyone the opportunity to weigh in on issues facing opinion review.

"With the changes announced today, we are making the AG opinion process transparent and open to input from the public," Kaul said.

With the new website, all commentary submitted will now be open to public review through the public records process. Public records requests can be made through the Department of Justice Office of Open Government by phone, mail, or online.

By statute, the attorney general must, when asked, provide the Legislature and designated Wisconsin state government officials with an opinion on legal questions. The attorney general may also give formal legal opinions to district attorneys and county corporation counsels under certain circumstances.

Opinions of the attorney general typically provide guidance when confusion exists about the meaning of a statute and Wisconsin appellate courts have not yet definitively answered the question. Wisconsin courts do not have any obligation to follow an interpretation provided by an opinion of the attorney general, but they often do, Kaul's office states.

As the Wisconsin Court of Appeals has written, "Well-reasoned attorney general's opinions have persuasive value when a court later addresses the meaning of the same statute."

Brandtjen calls for veto override for work requirements

State Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) is calling for the Wisconsin Legislature to override Gov. Tony Evers' partial budget veto that eliminated the funding needed to enforce the requirement that able-bodied adults work in order to qualify for the FoodShare program.

"It is wrong on many different levels to ask working families to pay taxes to support people who can work but don't," Brandtjen said. "It is also very destructive to enable people to become more dependent upon government when work is the only path for these families to escape poverty. Working gives people a sense of self-worth and achievement."

Brandtjen said those who can work should be required to work, for the good of all society.

"Precious resources should be used for those who cannot take care of themselves, not for people who won't," she said. "We should be voting to override this ill-advised veto."

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