Government and Political Roundup: Sex ed classes required to teach abstinence as the only way to avoid pregnancyWisconsin News
-- In what Democrats called a “war on women,” the Wisconsin Assembly voted overnight to require school sex education classes to teach abstinence as the only way to avoid pregnancy.
In what Democrats called a “war on women,” the Wisconsin Assembly voted overnight to require school sex education classes to teach abstinence as the only way to avoid pregnancy.
And the house voted to ban most abortion coverage in insurance plans offered as part of the federal health care reform law. Both measures now go to Governor Scott Walker for his signature. The G-O-P majority zeroed in on women’s health issues after failing to achieve two of its main economic goals for the session – mining and the creation of venture capital for new businesses. The two-year session ends late Thursday night. And by then, Assembly Republicans hope to approve another abortion restriction. It would allow abortion-inducing drugs to be given only after the patient gets a physical exam – and if the doctor is in the same room and not on a Webcam. Ashland Democrat Janet Bewley said she felt like she was back in the 1950’s in decrying what she called a “war on women’s rights.” But Oconomowoc Republican Joel Kleefisch said he was interested in protecting the rights of the unborn. The sex education requirement for abstinence passed 60-to-34, with Democrats Peggy Krusick and Tony Staskunas joining all Republicans in voting yes. Republicans said it gives schools the choice of teaching kids about contraceptives instead of making it a mandate. But Whitefish Bay Democrat Sandy Pasch said it would cause more teen pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases. And she said it would put young lives at risk.
The enrollment limit for Wisconsin’s Family Care program is one step closer to disappearing. But the state Assembly left the door open to limiting the program to the 57 counties where it’s now offered. The House voted 87-to-6 early today to comply with a federal order to end an enrollment limit adopted a year ago for Family-Care – which helps the elderly and disabled stay in their own homes instead of going to nursing homes. But under an amendment that was approved, the 15 counties which don’t offer Family-Care would only get it with the blessing of the Joint Finance Committee. And Milwaukee Democrat Jon Richards said he doubts those counties would get approved because the committee’s chairman – Robin Vos – was among those voting against ending the enrollment limit. Vos has said that Family Care is too expensive for the results it provides. About 43-thousand people are currently in the program. The Senate had voted earlier to end the enrollment cap. But now, the Senate must either approve the Assembly’s change – or both houses would have to agree to something else – before the bill can go to Governor Scott Walker.
Special education students could get state aid to attend any public-or-private school they choose, under a bill passed by the state Assembly last night. The vote was 55-to-39 to provide vouchers worth up to 13-thousand-500-dollars a year. The measure now goes to the Senate – and it has to pass in the next two days or it will die for the year. Republicans say it would let disabled students go to private schools if they’re not getting what they need from the public schools. But Democrats say there are groups for the disabled who oppose the measure. And they said it’s part of a national effort to pull 80-million-dollars away from public schools to boost up private-and-religious schools. Lawmakers worked well into the night to complete action on numerous bills before their session ends late tomorrow.
The Assembly gave final legislative approval overnight to a proposed wolf hunting season. Some Democrats questioned the need for the hunt, and they objected to way it’s being organized. But supporters say a hunt is needed to reduce attacks by wolves on farm animal and hunting dogs. The bill would allow hunting-and-trapping of grey wolves from mid-October through the end of February. It was proposed after the federal government removed grey wolves from the federal endangered species list earlier this year.
A bill to protect young Wisconsin athletes who get concussions is on its way to Governor Scott Walker. The Senate gave final legislative approval to the measure yesterday on a voice vote. There was no debate. The bill requires participants in youth sports to leave the competition upon getting a concussion or head injury – and they cannot return until a health care provider gives written clearance. The W-I-A-A and the state Department of Public Instruction would come up with guidelines and educational materials for coaches, parents, and athletes. And adult coaches and referees would be exempt from liability unless gross negligence or misconduct can be proven. Senate Republican Alberta Darling of River Hills said the measures will raise awareness about the dangers of concussions, and make sure youngsters get the time they need to recover. The State Medical Society supported the bill, as did a number of health care providers.
A bill passed by the state Assembly early today makes it a felony to give things to people for signing recall petitions. It’s currently a crime to offer anything-of-value to get people to sign nomination papers, vote, or not vote. Whitewater Republican Evan Wynn suggested adding recall petitions to that list, saying it’s become a big loophole that a number of recall supporters have apparently taken advantage of. The measure now goes to the Senate. Also, the Assembly okayed a bill to end the requirement that high schools provide voter registration for students. Democrats called the bill an assault on voting rights. And they said it’s part of a larger goal by the G-O-P to discourage voting by groups most likely to favor Democrats. But Republicans say they have other options for registering – and it’s a burden for school officials to offer it. The bill now goes to Governor Scott Walker for his signature.
The Wisconsin Senate has voted to let crime victims sue public officials who harass them. The bill was proposed in response to former Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz – who was accused of making sexually-explicit moves toward several women who sought his help. The case came to light after Kratz sent 30 racy text messages to a domestic abuse victim while he was prosecuting her boyfriend in 2009. The bill passed by the Senate yesterday demands that public officials treat crime victims fairly, and respect their personal privacy – and it allows lawsuits if victims feel that officials violated them. The state Assembly approved the bill last fall, but the Senate made some changes yesterday – and the Assembly would have to ratify them in the next couple days before the bill can go to the governor.
Governor Scott Walker has not decided whether to ban cell phones for young drivers behind-the-wheel. The Senate gave final legislative approval yesterday to a bill that prohibits the use of wireless devices by drivers with instruction permits and probationary licenses. Cell phones can be used to report emergencies. First-time violators would be fined up to 40-dollars, and repeat violators could be fined up to 100-dollars. Senators okayed the bill on a voice vote with no debate. The governor’s office says Walker will evaluate the measure before deciding whether to make it a law.
State Assembly Democrat Tamara Grigsby of Milwaukee returned to the Capitol yesterday, after battling cancer for three months. The 37-year-old Grigsby gave an emotional speech to her colleagues. She thanked them for supporting her, and she was happy to be back. Grigsby was hospitalized for a month until late January – and she spent two weeks in intensive care while being treated for an undisclosed form of cancer. In a statement, Grigsby said she was glad that lawmakers defeated a bill to speed up the state’s approval process for new iron ore mines – and she was happy that two judges struck down the Republicans’ voter I-D law. Grigsby has been in the Assembly for eight years, and is a member of the powerful Joint Finance Committee.