STATE NEWS ROUNDUP: Republicans unveiled eight jobs bills Tuesday
Majority Republicans unveiled eight new jobs bills for Wisconsin yesterday. They're mostly aimed at training more workers for high-demand jobs like manufacturing. Governor Scott Walker, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said one of their main goals this fall is to improve worker training. The package would spend eight-and-a-half million dollars in state funds, with an extra 14-million in federal funds. One bill would add a million-dollars to the state's Youth Apprenticeship Program. Another would provide scholarships to top students who pursue technical education. The most expensive bill comes from Democrats. Stevens Point Representative Katrina Shankland and La Crosse Senator Jennifer Shilling proposed four-million dollars for vocational rehab services to help those with disabilities. The effort would generate 14-million in federal funds. Fitzgerald expects the entire package to be approved by the end of the year. Democratic Assembly Leader Peter Barca calls the measures "too little too late," and inadequate for a state that's lagging behind the nation in creating jobs.
Wisconsin health officials are starting a new campaign to get pregnant women to stop smoking. According to government figures, at least 13-percent of Wisconsin women smoke while they're pregnant. That's higher than the national average of nine-percent. The state's public health division says smoking while pregnant can lead to a number of complications for the women and the babies they're carrying. They include miscarriage, birth defects, premature birth, low-weight babies, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The state offers a First Breath program with counseling to help pregnant women kick the smoking habit. Those on Badger-Care-Plus can get cash incentives for quitting, under the Striving-to-Quit program. The programs are highlighted as part of National Infant Mortality Month.
A proposed anti-abortion license plate drew a host of comments yesterday at a public hearing at the State Capitol. Assembly Republican Andre Jacque of De Pere is trying for a second time to create a specialized plate that reads "Choose Life," with an image of a baby's foot-print. It would join almost three dozen other specialized plates that identify fire-fighters and U-W graduates, and celebrate everything from children to the Green Bay Packers. Assembly Democrat Chris Danou of Trempealeau said none of those other specialized plates raise politically-divisive issues like abortion. Julaine Appling of "Choose Life Wisconsin" said those buying the new plates would not be looking to make political statements, and instead would be expressing their personal beliefs. Appling's group would get 25-dollars from every plate sold. She says it would be directly given to pregnancy care centers throughout Wisconsin. The Assembly Transportation Committee also heard testimony on several other proposed new specialty plates -- including ones for Trout Unlimited, the A-L-S Association, and a plate that reads "In God We Trust."
Wisconsin has the nation's 14th-highest benchmark health insurance premium in the new Obama-care purchasing exchanges scheduled to roll out next week. The U-S Department of Health-and-Human Services announced premiums yesterday for Wisconsin and the other 35 states where the federal government is at least helping to run the exchanges. Plans are separated into several price categories within plans labeled as Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Those plans differentiate themselves by the percentage of total health costs that each plan one covers, with Gold being the highest. The government says a 27-year-old Wisconsinite can expect to pay 189-to-280-dollars a month for the lowest-cost plans. That's before the income-based federal tax subsidies. Families-of-four making 50-thousand dollars a year can expect to pay 106-to-282-dollars a month, after subsidies, for the lowest-cost Bronze and Silver plans. The state's benchmark Silver plan would cost 361-dollars, higher than the national average of 328. People can learn specific rates starting next Tuesday, when they can log onto Healthcare-Dot-Gov to start signing up for the exchanges. Around a half-million non-insured Wisconsinites will be required to get coverage by January first using the exchanges. Because the state had nothing to do with its exchange, officials in Madison are not discussing the rates until people start enrolling next month.
Two stars of the 1980 comedy film "Airplane" will be in a Wisconsin tourism ad to be unveiled next spring. Actor Robert Hays and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will appear in the original cockpit from the movie, with aerial footage of Wisconsin mixed in. This is not the first Wisconsin tourism ad in which Hays has appeared. He portrayed a confused fisherman in his first ad. The new one was shot earlier this month by directors David-and-Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams. It will be unveiled at next year's Governor's Conference on Tourism in March. Jerry Zucker, Hays, and Abdul-Jabbar will appear there. This is the first time Hays and Abdul-Jabbar have reunited since they made the movie. Abdul-Jabbar played for the Milwaukee Bucks before achieving Hall-of-Fame stardom with the L-A Lakers.
A soldier from Wisconsin has shattered a world record for running a mile while wearing a full 75-pound bomb-disposal suit. According to the Army's Web site, First Lieutenant Ashley Sorensen of Milwaukee ran her mile in 11-minutes and six-seconds -- more than two minutes faster than the previous record for a female officer wearing an Explosive Ordnance Disposal suit. Sorenson says it's vital for soldiers to be able to function in such heavy gear, and the competitive runs help them get ready for that. The Army said the record run was made recently on a track at the University of Hawaii in Manoa. Sorenson is her unit's executive officer. She graduated from West Point three years ago.