March 11, 2016

Spring Legislative Session Update Part 3

Pictured above is the Kenosha/Racine area delegation. From left to right are State Representatives: Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva), Tom Weatherston (R-Racine), Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon), Robin Vos (R-Burlington), Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem), Cory Mason (D-Racine), Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), Tod Ohnstad (D-Kenosha).

Eliminating Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in Public Benefit Programs

The Assembly passed both AB 533 and AB 669, which are aimed at rooting out fraud in government programs. AB 533 creates a penalty for knowingly making a false statement in order to obtain unemployment benefits. Unemployment should be only for those that have lost their jobs, not those looking for another way to scam the government. Furthermore, AB 669 will fight fraud in the application process for Wisconsinís economic development programs. The bill would provide a criminal penalty for lying on a state economic development application and then using state funds for personal reasons. Senate action is needed if either of these bills are to become law.

Increasing College Affordability

The Assembly also passed a package of bills that are a part of Governor Walkerís college affordability plan. Together, they will educate Wisconsinís college students about the dangers of out-of-control student debt and help them get their debt under control by making the interest tax deductible. These bills will also help coordinate internship opportunities for college students to help make them more competitive for employment after they graduate. Coupled with our earlier tuition freeze that was enacted as part of the state budget, I believe that this is a step in the right direction toward the goal of more widespread college affordability.

Mental Health Reform

The Speakerís Task Force on Alzheimerís and Dementia helped develop 10 bipartisan bills to help some of Wisconsinís most vulnerable citizens. The Wisconsin Cares legislative package invests $1 million in respite care, expands the number of dementia care specialists across the state, and educates caregivers and employers about the unique challenges dementia and Alzheimerís present, and increases dementia training for mobile crisis teams. The package also provides an ongoing appropriation to the Alzheimerís Disease Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the hopes of finding a cure for this horrible disease. The package was introduced after a series of public hearings, which included input from industry experts, caregivers, state officials and local community members from all around the state. I believe that these bills are a step forward in Wisconsinís fight against Alzheimerís and dementia.

HOPE Agenda

This session Assembly Republicans passed the next segment of the HOPE Agenda. The HOPE agenda aims to help fight heroin and opioid addiction in Wisconsin. Assembly Bills 657, 658, 659, 660, and 766 are the most recent HOPE agenda bills to pass the State Assembly. Together, these bills increase support for addiction treatment programs and make them easier for patients to access. They also introduce a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, and make it a criminal offense to possess or use any device intended to circumvent a lawfully administered drug test. These bills will help the proper authorities to recognize at-risk individuals and get them the help they need. We have lost too many loved ones to heroin and opioid addiction, we must do all we can to stop the further spread of these drugs in our state.

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PO Box 8952 Madison, WI 53708

(608) 266-1190