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Dear Friends and Neighbors, 

Happy Spring! Thank you for your interest in the April edition of Community Connections. Along with the weather, budget season is heating up. This means there are a lot of updates included in the newsletter this month. 

In last month's newsletter, I gave a brief overview of Governor Evers' budget. This month, we will dive a little deeper into the health care provisions of his state budget. With April being Minority Health Month, I am filled with a sense of hope that we have a governor who is making real investments towards reducing disparities in health care: from increasing health care access and reducing infant mortality to creating a Health Equity Council. 


As always, please let my office know what state and community issues are important to you! 


Sincerely, 

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LaTonya Johnson
State Senator

 

Contents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Take Action During Minority Health Month!

It is promising to have a governor who understands and is taking action toward addressing racial and ethnic health disparities. On an individual level, there are steps we can take to positively impact our own health and the health of communities of color. April is Minority Health Month, which is a great time to reflect on ways we can reduce disparities.  From increasing awareness about the disparities that exist to serving as a role model and mentor to others in the community by educating about healthy lifestyle choices, we can all work together to create a healthier, more prosperous community. 


For more information about health care disparities and what community members can do to take action, click here. 

 

Governor Evers Budget:
A Healthier Future for Every Wisconsinite
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A key part of Governor Tony Evers' state budget proposal is the increased investments in health care access and outcomes, including investments in improving women’s health and reducing infant mortality rates. By investing in the health and well-being of every Wisconsinite, the governor is helping to ensure a healthy workforce and healthy families. This is both good for our economy and for our communities as a whole. 

The governor's budget expands BadgerCare, saving the state over $300 million. This opportunity is a win-win for Wisconsin as it allows us to reinvest in other areas of our health care system, such as the Healthy Women, Healthy Babies initiative.

Here are some of the  key components of the governor's health care budget provisions include:

  • Utilizing Medicaid funding in a more holistic way. 
    The governor's budget creates a benefit for Medicaid recipients that includes nonmedical services, such as housing referrals, nutritional counseling, stress management, and transportation services. 
  • Keeping our kids safe from lead poisoning.
    Governor Evers invests in an initiative to improve lead testing and abatement in homes. This program would also expand our state's Birth to Three program to children who have tested positive for elevated lead levels. 
  • Investing more in our long-term care services.
    In order to move the dial on addressing the struggles that nursing homes and personal care workers face, the governor increases nursing home rates and personal care worker rates. By improving wages for direct care staff, we will be able to retain high-quality workers and increase care quality for our loved ones. Governor Evers has also created a Task Force on Caregiving, which will further analyze ways to attract and retain a strong direct-care workforce and improve caregiving quality in our state. 
  • Increasing access to mental health care. 
    The governor's budget makes significant investments in mental health care resources. For instance, the budget adds $22 million each year to help schools pay for social works, counselors, and nurses to help students facing mental health challenges. The budget also expands access to mental health and AODA resources available to inmates.
  • Lowering prescription drug costs. 
    Through a prescription drug importation program, generic prescription drugs would be able to be imported, as long as they create savings and have no more than three domestic competitors. Prescriptions for families of modest means would also be lowered by the elimination of copays for Medicaid and BadgerCare members. 
  • Allowing medical marijuana usage. 
    The governor dedicates staff within the Department of Health Services to establish and maintain oversight of individuals certified to use marijuana for medical purposes. 
  • Ensuring healthy women and healthy babies.
    As mentioned in last month's newsletter, 
    Governor Evers includes close to $28 million in his budget to improve women’s access to preventive care, supporting healthier maternity care, and addressing racial disparities in maternal and child health.
  • Expanding BadgerCare to more Wisconsin families.
    In order to provide more Wisconsinites with access to affordable, quality health care, the governor is taking advantage of federal funding available to expand Medicaid. This move will cover 82,000 hardworking people in our state, while also saving Wisconsin money. It's a win-win for Wisconsin. 

Expanding our state's Medicaid program allows us to put those savings back into health care and make needed investments like those listed above. As stated, these initiatives are made possible through the expansion of Medicaid, something Republicans in the State Legislature have traditionally opposed. 

The majority of Wisconsinites approve of the Medicaid expansion option. I am confident that community members also want to see an increase in mental health care access, lower prescription drug prices, and an expansion of the dementia care specialist program statewide; all of which are made possible through the increased federal dollars and state savings that come by expanding Medicaid.

I hope that Wisconsinites will make their voices heard throughout the budget process so the Republican-run Joint Finance Committee knows that these are popular and needed investments; Wisconsin can no longer afford not to take advantage of the benefits of expanding Medicaid.

 

Ensure your Voice Heard During the State Budget Process! 

In the age of split government, with a Democratic governor and Republican-run Legislature, it is critical for you and your neighbors to come and share your thoughts about Governor Evers' state budget.

A lot is at stake during the state budget process, as Republicans have been quick to dismiss many provisions of the governor's plan. Communities across the state have made it clear they want increased investments in education, special education, health care, housing access, and more. We need every Wisconsinite to come and tell the Joint Finance Committee how this budget will benefit their family to ensure the positive provisions of this budget remain in the final version of the bill upon passage. 


Below is a list of upcoming Joint Finance Committee budget public hearings. Follow the Joint Finance Committee Democrats' Facebook page for more update about the public hearings. In the meantime, you can also email your comments to members of the Committee at budgetcomments@legis.wisconsin.gov.

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In the News

I'm working hard for Wisconsinites and am fighting to make our communities a better, safer place to live and raise a family. This section of 'Community Connections' will keep you up-to-date on hot topics happening locally, statewide, and nationally. Additionally, I frequently talk to residents of our community, and share your voice and values when talking to members of the media. That said, I'll share articles that I am quoted in, too. 

 

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Republicans Reject Evers' Capital Budget 
Recently, the State Building Commission took up Governor Tony Evers' 2019-2021 Capital Budget, which makes historic investments in state infrastructure projects and addresses much-needed building projects across the state. For 48 years, the Commission has held the tradition of recommending the governor's Capital Budget, putting traditional partisan politics aside. Republicans chose to depart from this longstanding tradition of recommending the Governor’s Capital Budget projects to the Legislative Joint Finance Committee in a bipartisan fashion by voting against every single item in a Capital Budget. These investments included funding for veterans homes, a cancer research facility, mental health facilities, public safety, and more. By rejecting these projects, Republican leaders are jeopardizing thousands of jobs across the state. My colleagues and I on the Joint Finance Committee put out a press release on this topic, which you can click to view. 


Green Alert Legislation Marks One-year Anniversary in March 
The last week of March marked the one-year anniversary of the Corey Adams Searchlight Act, also known as the 'Green Alert' bill, being signed into law. 
The family of Corey Adams turned a tragedy into hope for other families by advocating for more to be done when an at-risk veteran goes missing. Together, we were able to successfully enact a first-of-its-kind piece of legislation that is now being pushed nationwide. FOX6 News Milwaukee recently covered this important story.

 

Joining Governor Evers in Signing an Executive Order to Create a Health Equity Council 
Health equity, improving outcomes, and reducing disparities are crucial to achieving a healthy population and vibrant neighborhoods. 
I was proud to join Governor Tony Evers as he signed an Executive Order to create the Health Equity Council, which will look at addressing health disparities based economic, social, racial and other factors. The creation of this Council is a much-needed step in the right direction to achieving a healthy Wisconsin for all communities and I appreciate the governor's commitment on this issue. Watch the governor's press conference, here. 

 

Update on 'Lame Duck' Lawsuit(s) 

The 'Lame Duck' legislative session occurred when Wisconsin Republicans called an 'extraordinary session' in December 2018, during which they passed a number of laws to reduce the powers of the governor and Attorney General, as well as to confirm 82 appointments to boards and commissions that are appointed by the governor. This was done after legislative Republicans knew that Governor Walker had lost his November 2018 re-election race to Tony Evers and Attorney General Brad Schimel had lost to Josh Kaul.

In an effort to prevent newly-elected Governor Evers and Attorney General Kaul from exercising the same powers as their Republican predecessors, a rare December session was called to change laws and confirm appointees before Evers and Kaul could take office.

  • "Lame Duck 1"

On Thursday, March 21, Dane County Judge Richard Niess ruled that all of the laws and appointments passed by legislators were unlawful because they met in what's known as an "extraordinary session," which isn't explicitly allowed under the State Constitution. Judge Niess granted a temporary injunction barring enforcement of the laws.

Judge Niess' decision was immediately appealed to the 3rd District Court of Appeals.

On Wednesday, March 27, the Court of Appeals issued a stay of Judge Niess’ injunction, which had the effect of reinstating the lame duck laws while the appeal is pending. Next, the 3rd District Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the underlying lawsuit and decide whether or not to uphold Judge Niess' initial ruling.

  • "Lame Duck 2"

On Tuesday, March 26, in a separate lawsuit, Dane County Judge Frank Remington struck down parts of the 'Lame Duck' session laws as unconstitutionally violating the separation of powers between executive, legislative, and judicial branches in the Wisconsin State Constitution.

In his ruling, Judge Remington noted that "Wisconsin’s constitution is like a keel on a great ship. It defines the structure of state government," however, "In December 2018 the Legislature and then Gov. Scott Walker upended the balance that this state has had for most all of its 171 years. The time has come to right this ship-of-state so Wisconsin can resume smooth sailing ahead."

Remington’s decision struck down a lame duck law that would have prevented Governor Evers from withdrawing the State from federal lawsuits, a power Wisconsin Governors have long exercised. He also struck down a law that would have prevented the new Attorney General from settling cases on behalf of the State without legislative permission.

Judge Remington also refused to stay his temporary injunction against those lame duck laws that he deemed unconstitutional, so the Court of Appeals will again be asked to decide whether or not to stay the injunction while they consider the Legislative Republican’s appeal.

Depending on the outcome of these cases in the Court of Appeals, the parties would then have the option of appealing the decision to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court for a final determination on the validity of the December 2018 lame duck laws.

 

Addressing Human Trafficking in our State

Last month, I was thrilled to see two important bills that seek to stop human trafficking in Wisconsin be given public hearings. One of the bills, Assembly Bill 22would help combat human trafficking by training truck drivers on how to identify trafficking.

Given that truck drivers are literally where the rubber meets the road when human trafficking occurs along our highways, they can and do play a critical role in identifying and preventing traffickers who create victims through the exploitation of our transportation system.

As of 2017, Wisconsin has 312,492 licensed commercial drivers. This is a huge network of eyes and ears within the interstate trade industry that can support law enforcement in the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of traffickers.

The other bill, Assembly Bill 41, prohibits children under the age of 18 from being prosecuted for acts of prostitution,
 preventing our child victims from being charged with prostitution while providing them with the opportunity to get the services, counseling, and treatment they need to go on to lead healthy, productive lives as an adult. This bill received a public hearing in the State Assembly on March 27 and I hope to see it continue to move successfully through the Legislature. 

 

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In the District

I frequently attend and host events in the 6th Senate District, tour local facilities, and visit schools in our neighborhood. Updates on what's happening locally in our community can be found in this section. I'll also include updates on listening sessions and EMPOWER-MKE events in this section in future editions. 

 

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Senator Johnson Staff Volunteer Day! 
My staff and I have recently begun monthly volunteer days, donating our time each month to a different place in the 6th Senate District. In March, we spent time at Next Door Milwaukee volunteering with the Read With Me program. By reading one-on-one or to a small group of children in their library, this program seeks to enhance children’s literacy skills and support their love of books. We had a great time reading with the children at Next Door during our visit and hope to be back soon! 

 

Visiting Churches Around the District 
This past month, I was honored to visit several worship centers around the community. I want to thank the community and leaders at Capitol Parklawn Assembly of God, Bait ul Qadir Mosque, Holy Temple Missionary Baptist Church, and Friendship Missionary Baptist Church for allowing me to visit your place of worship. 
 

Touring the Sherman Pheonix with U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin
A couple of weeks ago, I was happy to join Senator Tammy Baldwin in touring the Pheonix, meeting the local businesses owners housed in the Sheman Pheonix and hearing about their businesses. Senator Baldwin supported the $750,000 in federal grant funding that the Sherman Phoenix received from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services on last year, which was a huge help in making the Pheonix project a success. 
 

 

 


Wisconsin Democrats:
Under the Dome Update

Senate and Assembly Democrats provide a weekly update to help keep Wisconsin citizens informed about activity happening at the State Capitol and stay updated on how your elected officials are voting on important issues in Madison. Click on the links below to view recent editions of 'Under the Dome.'

 

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Useful Phone Numbers

There are many levels of state and local government that can help answer questions and get you connected with resources you may need. I have listed some useful phone numbers below. You can also see a comprehensive list of numbers by clicking the link below. If you see a change needed or an important number that should be added, please let me know! 

Congresswoman Gwen Moore.............................414-297-1140
Governor Evers.....................................................608-266-1212
Milwaukee Common Council...............................414-286-2221
Milwaukee Country Board....................................414-278-4222
Milwaukee Police Department.............................414-933-4444
Poison Control......................................................800-222-1222
Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program..............800-815-0015

Medigap Helpline.................................................800-242-1060
Consumer Protection Hotline..............................800-422-7128
Department of Health Services............................608-266-1865
Workforce Development......................................608-266-3131
Public Service Commission..................................800-225-7729
SeniorCare Wisconsin.........................................800-657-2038
WI Commissioner of Insurance Complaints.......800-236-8517


For other useful phone numbers, click here!