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WALHDAB Legislative Update - January 2020

Monday, January 27, 2020  
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HOPE Agenda Bills Pass Assembly

On January 21, the State Assembly convened to pass several bills advocated for and supported by WPHA and WALHDAB relating to drug addiction treatment. The bills are part of the ongoing Heroin, Opioid, Prevention and Education (HOPE) Agenda spearheaded by Representative John Nygren (R – Marinette) during the 2013-14 legislative session. The agenda has now produced over forty bills aimed at combatting Wisconsin’s opioid crisis. All three bills, Assembly Bill 645, Assembly Bill 646, and Assembly Bill 651, passed the Assembly on unanimous votes

Assembly Bill 645 allows jailers to receive the training necessary to safely and properly administer opioid antagonists to individuals suspected to be undergoing a heroin or opioid overdose, just like EMTs and first responders.

Assembly Bill 646 dictates that state employees will not be penalized for undergoing medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and requires the Department of Health Services to establish and maintain a registry of approved recovery residences throughout the state to provide individuals in need of such services a resource to guide them to an approved recovery residence.

Assembly Bill 651 repeals the sunset provisions relating to probation, parole, or extended supervision and aided persons so that current law will remain in place and continue to help save lives. Under current law, an “aider” is a person who summons emergency medical assistance to another person because they believe the person is suffering from an overdose. Current law grants immunity to an aider from prosecution for certain controlled substance crimes and from having probation, parole, or extended supervision revoked for possessing a controlled substance. This law has a sunset date of August 1, 2020. The bill repeals that sunset date.

The Senate version of Assembly Bill 645 and 646 passed the Senate Committee on Health on January 23, which means Assembly Bill 645 and 646 can be voted on at the Senate’s next floor session. Assembly Bill 651, and its Senate version Senate Bill 590, still need to undergo public hearings and committee votes in the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety before being eligible to receive a vote on the Senate floor.

WPHA/WALHDAB will continue advocating for all three bills in the State Senate. The bills have broad bipartisan support, which is a good signal the bill should continue moving forward and will receive Governor Evers’ signature if they pass the legislature.

Action Needed to Move Homelessness Bills

Last year, the State Assembly introduced a bipartisan package of bills aimed at addressing homelessness in Wisconsin. WPHA and WALHDAB supported and advocated for these bills since their introduction, as steady housing is fundamental social determinant of health. 

The six bills do the following:

·         Assembly Bill 119/Senate Bill 122: Provides for additional funding for grants to supplement operating budgets of homeless shelters.


·         Assembly Bill 120/Senate Bill 145: Provides for additional funding for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant program to make grants to shelter facilities for case management services for homeless families.


·         Assembly Bill 121/Senate Bill 120: Provides for additional funding for federally designated Continuum of Care organizations to enable them to hire housing navigators.


·         Assembly Bill 122/Senate Bill 124: Requires the Council on Workforce Investment to identify certain populations for services under its federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act strategic plans.


·         Assembly Bill 123/Senate Bill 119: Provides for additional funding for grants to a local governing body, local governmental agency, community action agency, or a private nonprofit for the purpose of providing housing and associated supportive services to homeless individuals and families.


·         Assembly Bill 124/Senate Bill 144: Provides for additional funding for grants or loans to individuals and families of low or moderate income to defray housing costs.


The State Assembly passed all six bills on June 18, 2019. However, since that time they have stalled in the State Senate. The Senate only recently passed Assembly Bill 119 on January 21.

Read the full action alert by clicking here.

Governor Tony Evers Gives Second State of the State Address

Last night, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers delivered his second annual State of the State address before a joint session of the State Legislature. Evers highlighted his administration’s successes over his first year in office as well as set policy goals for 2020.

“As I reflect on my first year in office, although there were setbacks and occasional political posturing…we also had a lot of success, and I am proud of everything we accomplished in just a year’s time,” Evers told legislators and attendees.

Evers touted many of the executive orders he signed in 2019, which included ensuring equity and inclusion in the hiring of state workers to addressing climate change to implementing action plans to ensure coverage for individuals with pre-existing health conditions.

He also discussed his administration’s decision to reinstate the state pardon review board, a board that went inactive during former Governor Scott Walker’s tenure. “We granted the first pardons in our state in nine years, offering forgiveness and a second chance to folks who’ve made amends in their lives and communities,” said Evers.

In what many consider to be Evers’ highest area of expertise, he discussed his administrations accomplishments in K-12 education. “Although the budget I signed did not include my proposed $1.4-billion for our kids, we still provided the largest increase in general aid to Wisconsin schools in more than a decade,” said Evers. “Working together, we were able to invest more than $500 million in K-12 education, including the first increase in special education in 10 years. I also used my veto authority to add nearly $100 million more in per pupil aid than the budget passed by the legislature.”

He also mentioned his record on ensuring legislation signed into law has broad bipartisan support.

“In my last State of the State Address, I asked the legislature to set politics aside so we could work together on the issues facing our state. I said I expected bills to be passed with broad support and in the spirit of bipartisanship,” Evers stated. “So one of the things I’m most proud of is that more than 95 percent of the bills I signed my first year in office had bipartisan support.”

Looking toward the future, Evers highlighted his desire to make higher education more affordable for Wisconsinites.

“We have to understand how education-related debt affects not just our students, but their families, too. And we have to address the fact that student debt is preventing folks from buying a car, starting a business, saving for retirement, and starting a family,” he said.

Evers also laid out a plan aimed at helping Wisconsin’s farmers by calling a special session of the legislature to take up a package of bills investing in farmers, the agriculture industry, and rural communities. According to Evers, the bills will bolster the state’s dairy exports, increase staffing for UW Extension, as well as creating a new Farm-to-Fork program to connect farmers with universities, tech colleges, hospitals, and local businesses. The bills will also provide for increased access to mental health services for farmers.

Turning to legislative redistricting, Evers announced he plans to sign an executive order to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission called “The People’s Maps Commission” in effort to draw impartial maps for legislative districts.

“I believe, and Wisconsinites do, too, that people should get to choose their elected officials, not the other way around. So, when The People’s Maps are presented to the Legislature next year, I hope they will receive unanimous, bipartisan support,” Evers stated.”

He finished the address by calling for unity, saying, “Yes, we will most certainly face challenges. Yes, we will face adversity. But let us choose to be defined, not by our indifference, but by our decency. Let us choose to be defined by the depth of our empathy and the strength of our selflessness. And let us plunge into the new decade chasing the charge of the bearers who came before us, let us move forward, together.”

Following the address, legislative leaders were quick to react to the Governor’s remarks.

“Governor Evers is finally acknowledging the needs of rural Wisconsin. He has basically ignored our rural areas his entire term up to this point with an agenda focused on Madison and Milwaukee,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said in a statement to the media.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said, “During his first year in office, Governor Evers pushed a liberal agenda that taxed too much, spent too much, and would have undone a large number of reforms that turned Wisconsin’s economy around. I’ve been proud to stand with my conservative colleagues in the Senate in opposition to his left-leaning policies.”

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-LaCrosse) commended the policy goals while calling on her Republican colleagues to support them, stating, “I believe these goals are well within our reach, but time is of the essence. As legislators we cannot ask the people of Wisconsin to settle for any less than they deserve. The longer Republicans refuse to do their job, the longer these challenges facing our communities will persist.”

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) applauded the Governor’s address, saying, “Tonight, Governor Evers laid out a clear vision for Wisconsin’s future. He highlighted the opportunities we have as a state, and what we can accomplish in the remainder of the legislative session.”

The State Assembly and Senate plan to be on their respective floors multiple times over the course of the coming weeks. No doubt Democratic members will look to push the Governor’s agenda. It remains unclear how far Republican will look for areas of compromise on some of Evers’ more high-profile proposals. 

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