State Government and Political Roundup: Decision to be made on wheter to expand DNA database
A legislative panel will decide on Thursday whether the new state budget should let police collect DNA samples from people who have not been convicted of felonies.
The governor and attorney general want to expand the state's DNA database which police use to find suspects in past-and-present crimes. Governor Scott Walker's proposed budget includes six-million dollars to have law enforcement collect DNA from all those arrested for felonies and sex crimes, plus those convicted of misdemeanors. Offenders would pay for the extra sampling with surcharges of up to 250-dollars on their fines. Law enforcement compares DNA to fingerprints - but DNA contains a person's health and genetic information, plus prospects about their future health. For that reason, the American Civil Liberties Union and others call the proposed measure an invasion of privacy. If it's approved, Wisconsin would join 25 other states and the federal government in collecting D-N-A upon felony arrests.
The state Senate chair of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee expects a compromise to the governor's proposed authority to sell off state property to pay down the government's debt. Republican Alberta Darling of River Hills said she was surprised that Governor Scott Walker's plan allows for the selling of highways and prisons - and she wants lawmakers to have more of a say. The finance panel will decide tomorrow whether the Walker plan, or a part of it, should be in the next state budget. The state owes about eight-billion dollars, and the Republican Walker proposed the sell-off plan to reduce the debt. The UW System is up-in-arms about it. They say dormitories that were funded with student fees could end up paying for new highways instead. Student leaders also fear that their campus union buildings would no longer be controlled by their schools. Milwaukee businessman Sheldon Lubar donated millions to build academic facilities at UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee. He said he could never imagine that the structures he helped build could go to an outside party. Lubar believes it could hurt the university's fund-raising. The governor would be allowed to negotiate with buyers, without having to go through a public bidding process. Milwaukee Assembly Democrat Jon Richards says he's against what he calls a "fire sale" process. The administration says it sought broad selling authority because it does not yet have an inventory of all state properties - and its focus is to sell things like land for expanded highways that was not needed.
The legislative committee that's working on the new state budget will decide tomorrow whether it should ban double-dipping by public employees. The Joint Finance Committee will consider Governor Scott Walker's plan to discourage workers from returning a short time after they retire, and then collect both a pension and a paycheck. The current law is designed to have experienced people mind the store until their replacements can get hired. School districts are among those opposing Walker's measure, saying it would be harder to fill jobs with the highest needs. The subject became a bone-of-contention in 2011, after a UW-Green Bay official joined others in retiring out of fear that Walker would reduce his pension - only to return to the same job later in a pre-arranged deal with his bosses. Under the budget measure, retirees would have to wait 75 days to return to government service instead of the present 30 days. If they work more than two-thirds of a full schedule, they'd have to stop taking pension money and pay into the retirement system again.
A proposed bill would make Wisconsin the first state to prohibit employers from firing workers who refuse to get flu shots. Assembly Republican Jeremy Thiesfeldt of Fond du Lac is seeking co-sponsors for his bill, after some hospital workers and health care contractors said they were fired for refusing to be vaccinated. In a memo, Thiesfeldt told his colleagues quote, "No one should have to choose between losing employment and having a large, ineffective vaccine injured into their body." Many health care providers require their employees to get flu shots to protect themselves from sick patients. Wisconsin's current law protects workers who refuse to get vaccinated for religious reasons, but Thiesfeldt says it's not enough. UW Health in Madison requires its workers to get vaccinated once-a-year -- but there are exceptions for medical and religious reasons. UW Health spokesman Lisa Brunette says she can remember of no one being fired for not getting a flu shot. Aurora Health Care says 95-percent of its workers are vaccinated, with nobody let go for not complying.