Children and Families

Paid Sick Leave – working families shouldn’t have to choose between caring for a sick loved one and paying the rent. Healthy workers make for healthy workplaces.  Giving employees time to see a doctor or stay home when they’re ill will reduce overall absenteeism.  Requiring paid sick leave will strengthen Wisconsin’s workforce while keeping the playing field level for employers who are already doing the right thing by offering this important benefit.

S.B.I.R.T – Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment SBIRT is a public health screening protocol that uses motivational interviewing, not threats or punishment, to help individuals stop risky substance use before it develops into an addiction. This past summer, Milwaukee County recorded 20 heroin deaths in just two weeks, and ended 2016 with 299 overdose deaths.  This is occurring as use among young people aged 18-25 has doubled in the past decade.  Preventing addiction before it starts means reaching young people where they are, in a non-confrontational way. Training school district staff to administer SBIRT to all students during middle or high school will save lives, and save up to $11 in future costs on things like health care and criminal justice for every $1 invested in this preventative tool.    

Child Care Tax Credit – all families struggle with finding high-quality child care and then trying to pay for it. Having both parents in the workforce is good for the economy, but with years of stagnating wages, it’s also a necessity for most families.  This means that child care is a necessity, and we all benefit from having both a productive workforce and healthy families. Adopting the federal dependent care tax credit will provide real middle-class tax relief and strengthen developing young minds by giving Wisconsin parents a child care tax credit of up to $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two or more children.

Safe Harbor for Trafficked Youth – there is no such thing as a child prostitute. Right now in Wisconsin, a minor can be charged and convicted for prostitution, even though they are legally incapable of consent.  Adding to the problem is that most of these children are victims of human trafficking—forced or coerced by traffickers to engage in prostitution to survive. Safe Harbor takes the final step in recognizing children as victims by removing the ability to charge a child with prostitution. By changing this statute Wisconsin law will no longer conflict with the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which treats coerced children as victims, even if they have engaged in criminal prostitution activity. Sexually exploited children tend to be at-risk, vulnerable youths with troubled backgrounds. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, children who become involved with the act of prostitution often have histories of running away, homelessness, and drug dependency. An estimated 70 to 90 percent of youth victims of sex trafficking have histories of sexual abuse.  With our greater understanding of human trafficking and its presence in our state, we can no longer view these children as criminals, and neither should our laws.

Public Safety

Milwaukee had 125 gun homicides in 2016, 81% of all homicides in Wisconsin.

Universal Background Checks – background checks have prevented two million convicted felons and other prohibited purchasers from buying guns. Federal law requires criminal background checks for guns sold through licensed firearm dealers, but this covers only 60% of all gun sales in the United States. A loophole in the law allows individuals not “engaged in the business” of selling firearms to sell guns without a license—and without processing any paperwork. Two out of every five guns sold in the United States change hands without a      background check.

Habitual Criminal Gun Prohibition – keep guns out of the hands of repeat offenders. People with misdemeanor convictions for nonviolent offenses are five times as likely to commit violence in the future than people with no criminal records. People who had multiple prior misdemeanor convictions for violent misdemeanors--simple assault and battery or brandishing a firearm, are 15 times as likely to be arrested later for crimes like murder and rape and robbery and aggravated assault.

Straw Purchaser/Human Holster Felony – stop those who help felons and prohibited persons from getting guns. Currently, you can continue to buy firearms and obtain a concealed carry permit after being convicted of making a straw purchase for a prohibited person because it is a misdemeanor. Milwaukee Police have reported a problem with “human holsters,” non-prohibited individuals who hold guns until a prohibited associate needs to use it to engage in criminal activity.

Reporting Lost or Stolen Firearms – eliminate a common post hoc defense to making a straw purchase. Obtaining convictions against straw purchasers is rare because a defendant can usually claim that their gun was lost or stolen, thereby raising a reasonable doubt.  Requiring notification of a lost or stolen firearm within a reasonable time after discovery will assist prosecutors in going after people who skirt the law and fuel the underground gun trade to prohibited persons. 

Prohibited Purchaser Notification to local law enforcement – notify local law enforcement know when a prohibited person is trying to purchase a gun. In 2014, the FBI and state law enforcement agencies denied more than 125,000 gun sales to prohibited people, the majority of them to convicted felons.

Criminal Justice Reform

Mandatory Reporting by Juvenile Correctional Officers – Lincoln Hills School juvenile correctional facility is under investigation for allegations of prisoner abuse, child neglect, sexual assault, intimidation of witnesses and victims, strangulation and tampering with public records. Juvenile correctional officers are not currently required to report suspected child abuse or neglect under the state’s mandatory reporting law.

Child Interrogation Protection – protecting the rights of children and their parent or guardian requires restraints on inherently coercive interrogations. Both the Wisconsin Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court have ruled that age must be taken into account when determining the voluntariness of confessions and the waiver of rights during interrogations by police.  Failure by police to take a child’s age into account in this way has resulted in evidence being thrown out and overturned convictions. Providing a bright-line rule by requiring a parent, guardian, or attorney to be present for all interrogations of children will give vulnerable children the opportunity to have an adult to advocate for their rights present during questioning, and reduce the amount of wasted law enforcement and prosecutorial resources spent on cases built upon faulty evidence.

Ban on Solitary Confinement for Severely Mentally Ill – solitary confinement for the severely mentally ill is inhumane and counterproductive. Solitary confinement is recognized as difficult to withstand; psychological stressors such as isolation can be as traumatic as physical torture.  In one study of California’s prison system, researchers found that from 1999 to 2004 prisoners in solitary confinement accounted for nearly half of all suicides. The negative effects of solitary confinement are especially significant for persons with serious mental illness.

Nonviolent Felony Redemption – restore the rights and status of non-violent felons who have paid their debt to society and maintained a clean record. Being a felon means a lifetime sentence of: employment discrimination; firearms prohibition, employment restrictions for jobs in fields such as child care, education, law enforcement, and the armed forces; denial of housing and public assistance benefits like food stamps; difficulty obtaining a loan; and many countries do not grants visas to felons. Allowing nonviolent felons to petition the court to have their conviction reduced to a misdemeanor after 10 years of good behavior will remove unnecessary barriers to them rebuilding their lives, and provide an additional incentive against recidivism.  

Officer Use-of-Force Reforms – police officers have an extremely difficult and often dangerous job to do, and unjustified officer-involved shootings and fatalities make the job even harder by undermining the community’s trust in those sworn to protect them. Reforms that require de-escalation tactics, training in the use of proportional, non-lethal force, and the use of deadly force as a last resort will reduce avoidable tragedies and strengthen community-police relations.

Crimeless Revocations – re-imprisonment of those on probation and parole should be reserved for only those who commit new crimes or are the most egregious and frequent rule violators. In 2015, 3000 people were sent back to prison even though they had not been convicted of a new crime, at a cost of more than $147 million to taxpayers. Minnesota does not re-incarcerate without a new conviction, and has roughly half the prison population as Wisconsin despite similar total populations. Capping crimeless revocations will save millions that can be better spent on our crumbling roads and in our kids’ classrooms while taking away a blank check for DOC to re-incarcerate thousands of individuals without due process.

Health

Workplace Protection for Breastfeeding Mothers – our strongest economy is one in which both mothers can work and babies can thrive. Breastfeeding decreases the possibility that your baby will get a variety of infectious diseases, ear infections, diarrhea; has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 50%, and decreases the mother’s risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer. Between 1970 and 2009, women’s share of the workforce went from 37% to 48% of all jobs.  Without that surge of women in the workplace, the U.S. economy would be 25% smaller, or the equivalent of losing the combined GDP of Illinois, California and New York. Extending federal labor protections to all breastfeeding mothers in Wisconsin workplaces-- giving them unpaid time and a clean and sanitary place to pump during the workday is a common-sense reform that is long overdue for this growing and vital population of workers.

Patient Privacy Protections – patients who direct their own healthcare decisions should also have the option to keep the details of that are private. Giving patients the option to have treatment information sent to an alternative address or email will provide a basic level of privacy between policyholders and patients. This issue has grown in importance with many young adults staying on their parents’ insurance policy until age 26, and is of particular concern for victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault seeking medical treatment.

Emergency Prescriptions – running out of a needed medication after doctor’s office hours shouldn’t result in an expensive ER visit. Currently, no prescription can be refilled unless authorization has been given by the prescribing practitioner. Allowing a pharmacist to dispense a one-time, short-term prescription to a patient receiving a consistent drug therapy makes sense for anyone who has ever realized that they were about to run out of a regular medication on a Saturday morning.   

Environmental Justice

4.6% of tested children under 6-years-old statewide had elevated blood lead levels. Flint, Michigan’s rate of 4.9% in 2015 was declared a state of emergency. Milwaukee’s rate of lead poisoning was 8.6% of tested children under 6. Over 10% of tested African American children less than 6-years-old in Wisconsin have elevated blood lead levels. Other Wisconsin communities with higher rates of lead poisoning than Flint include Watertown, Buffalo County, and Sheboygan County, ranging from 6.2% to 8.4%.

Lead Testing for Schools and Child Cares – testing and remediation of toxic lead exposures must be prioritized towards those places where young children live, learn, and play.  

Landlord Tenant Lead Risk Disclosure – tenants have the right to know if their dwelling may pose a risk to their family’s health. If a landlord is going to profit off of leasing their property and they do not want to undertake the cost of lead remediation, the least that they can do is to inform prospective tenants of known sources of toxic lead.

CDC Guidelines for Toxic Lead Exposures in Children – current state law regarding the safe levels of lead should mirror the best, most up-to-date medical evidence. While the switch from a 15 microgram (per deciliter) to a 5 microgram threshold has been included in the Governor’s Budget for 2017-19, it does not mandate an investigation by DHS when a child tests positive for a toxic lead exposure, and it should.

 Education

Early Childhood Education Teacher Loan Forgiveness – attract and retain the best educators for our children’s most important years of development by allowing early childhood education degree seekers to participate in the current teacher loan forgiveness program. Brain development is the most significant from birth to age 3--the brain’s capacity develops 90 percent before a child reaches age 5, so before a child start kindergarten. On average preschool teachers were paid $28,570 in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In six states (Arizona, Idaho, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin), preschool teachers earned less than $24,000 — a salary below the 2015 poverty threshold for a family of four.  

Tax Incentive for Donations to High Poverty Schools – provide extra tax incentives for individuals and businesses to donate money or new items like classroom supplies to high poverty schools. For the 2015-16 school year, DPI identified 504 public schools and 72 private schools as being “high poverty,” meaning at least 60% of all pupils qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch.