December 2013

Working for you!

Special Session on Medical Assistance and HIRSP Coverage

On December 4th, at the request of the governor, the Assembly met to address problems with the roll out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare. The federal government failed to have a fully operational website (also called The Exchange), and Wisconsinites would have suffered because of that failure. The governor called a special session to approve a plan for Wisconsin, which will extend the deadline for people moving to the federal exchange. The Assembly approved legislation to provide Medicaid recipients with three extra months to sign up through the federal exchange for insurance coverage.

We also take care of people who are insured with the Health Insurance Risk Sharing Plan (HIRSP). HIRSP was scheduled to end in our state on January 1, but now members have coverage through the end of March 2014.

Our Medicaid reforms will be fully implemented in April 2014. After that, every person living in poverty will be covered by BadgerCare. Those who are above the poverty level will be able to get coverage through the federal exchange, private companies, or their employer. Everyone under 100% of the poverty level will be covered.

So many concerns have arisen with the attempted roll-out of the ACA. It's not affordable for many families, accessibility is weak, and those who don't want to be insured will pay fines. This week, we kept our promise to Wisconsinites who received coverage through BadgerCare so that they can still have insurance until the national program moves forward.

Every year, Wisconsin sets records on state spending for Medicaid. In 2011-12, $1.8 billion was spent on Medicaid. In 2012-13 it was $1.96 billion, and the budget for 2013-14 is $2.3 billion. Wisconsin is the only state not expanding Medicaid that will have no gap in coverage starting April 1, 2014.

The expansion of these entitlements was to be covered by the federal government in the short run only. Our state cannot afford the long term costs. Because the federal government is unlikely to be able to honor this commitment due to rising national debt, we are now in a better position to fund what we can for the forseeable future.

This week, the Senate voted to pass this measure and today Governor Walker signed it into law.

Vested Rights Development Bill Becomes Law

My bill to freeze local regulations for a project once a local government receives the completed application has been signed into law. Assembly Bill 386/Senate Bill 314 is now 2013 Wisconsin Act 74. This act codifies case law so that development project rules and ordinances are grandfathered from the time the application is accepted through the duration of a project.

Every development and construction job starts with a permit, and every permit needs certainty. This bill helps create jobs and reduce litigation, and it will have a long lasting, positive impact on our state.

While Act 74 locks in project regulations, it in no way prohibits towns, villages or cities from creating whatever new ordinances or regulations they deem necessary. Political subdivisions are also allowed to set timeframes on application material submission, so that deadlines can be met.

As the Assembly author, I was pleased that both Republican and Democrat representatives cosponsored the bill, and that it passed unanimously in our house. I was also thrilled that upon passage, 20 of my colleagues, from both parties, added their names to the bill. Sen. Frank Lasee and Sen. Mike Ellis were instrumental in getting this law passed. The Governor signed it into law on December 12th.

Bill signing of Senate Bill 314 in Governor Walker's office. Among others, I am joined by Tom Larson (far left) of the Wisconsin REALTORS Association, and Rob Kovach of Senator Lasee's office (next to the Governor). Senator Lasee authored the Senate version of our bill.

Merry Christmas!

As the time grows close to celebrate the birth of Christ, my wife, Lynn, and I and our whole family wish you a very Merry Christmas and a joyous new year!

My Madison Office

2013-2014 BLUE BOOKS are still available! The Wisconsin Blue Book is published in odd years, and details the current members of the legislature, our federal representatives, the governor, the Wisconsin Constitution, courts, and all state agencies, councils and boards. The Blue Book is available online at: 2011-2012 Wisconsin Blue Book Home Page. Please contact my office if you'd like a hard copy at no charge.

I live in Greenville, but have an office at the State Capitol in Madison. If you are in downtown Madison, please feel free to stop by and say hello! Just go to the information desk in the rotunda, and they can direct you on how to find my office, 304 North. At the bottom of each e-news, you'll see my office contact information.

If your school or group plans to tour the Capitol building, please let me know. I'd love to visit with you for a few minutes and take a group photo.

Remember, anyone can watch the Assembly in session (and most committee meetings, as well) through WisconsinEye.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

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