February 20, 2018

Contact: Senator Robert Cowles: (608) 266-0484

Cowles’ Bills to Combat Child Neglect and Hire Heroes Pass Senate

MADISON– A bill to combat child neglect and the exposure of children to drug endangered environments was one of four bills which Senator Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) authored that passed the Senate during today’s floor session. Assembly Bill 355 was one of the key proposals that saw Senate approval.

“Study after study has concluded that children exposed to abuse or neglect are at a greatly increased risk for future emotional or behavioral problems. In 2015, there were over 3,000 substantiated reports of child neglect in Wisconsin, but because of gaps in our current system, children are often forced to stay in neglectful situations for months before they receive help. I’ve authored this bill to try and combat this problem by closing the loophole that puts these kids at risk and protect more vulnerable children. AB 355 is not designed to create more criminals and it does not override the ability of Child Protective Services to improve the situation, but instead it serves as a barrier to protect the child if other systems fail.”

2017 Assembly Bill 355 reforms Wisconsin’s neglect statutes to add substance and clarity for law enforcement, prosecutors, social workers, community leaders, and caretakers. Under current law, prosecutors are required to prove that there was intent to neglect a child, a standard which is inherently contradictory. AB 355 changes the standard to ‘negligently failing to act’ while adding language to combat the issues of repeated acts of neglect and subjecting a child to a drug endangered environment. AB 355, which was co-authored with Representative Horlacher (R-Mukwonago) with the help of Attorney General Brad Schimel, has already passed the Assembly and now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.

Senator Cowles also passed 2017 Assembly Bill 422 through the Senate to create the Hire Heroes program. Under current law, veterans with children or who are between the ages of 18 to 24 may be eligible for the Department of Children and Families transitional jobs program. Eligible veterans are placed in the workforce, and the participant’s employers are provided wage subsidies. The Hire Heroes program, which is created by AB 422, makes all veterans eligible with preference given to those who need it most. AB 422, which was co-authored with Representatives Horlacher (R-Mukwonago) and Riemer (D-Milwaukee), has already passed the Assembly and now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.

“For veterans, too often one of the hardest parts of transitioning from military service to civilian life is finding gainful employment. While their sacrifice is often revered by employers, their relevant work experience in comparison to other applicants may be lacking. Wisconsin has a long tradition of serving those who have served their country, and the current transitional jobs program is part of that service. The Hire Heroes program is meant to close the gaps in the current system to make the path to employment simpler for all veterans. By giving veterans a chance to get their foot in the door with a potential employer, we can ensure that employers see the value that veterans bring to a workplace.”

Senator Cowles is also the Senate author of two other proposals that passed the Senate today, including:

  • Assembly Bill 442 creates uniformity in the placement of signs designating ATV routes that are posted within a municipality. This bill, which was co-authored with Representative Jacque (R-DePere), has already passed the Assembly and now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.
  • Assembly Bill 538 aligns Wisconsin’s emergency detention laws with federal standards. This bill will help law enforcement and medical professionals ensure that those suffering from a mental health crisis are not a danger to themselves or others. AB 538, which was co-authored with Representative Jagler (R-Watertown), has already passed the Assembly and now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.