State Government and Political News Briefs: Walker proposes expanding state mental health servicesWisconsin News
-- Wisconsin would expand its mental health services under a proposal that Governor Scott Walker announced today.
MADISON - Wisconsin would expand its mental health services under a proposal that Governor Scott Walker announced today.
Governor Walker said he’ll include almost $29-million dollars in his proposed state budget to help state-and-local governments expand their services to those with mental issues. Walker has been talking about the need to expand mental health care in the wake of the mass shootings last year in Oak Creek and Milwaukee, as well as other U-S communities. But the governor says his new proposal is not just a response to gun violence – it’s also intended to end a stigma for the mentally ill who seek help. Among other things, Walker wants to expand the Comprehensive Community Services program, which offers community-based care for those with severe mental illnesses. Walker’s budget would also create a new state Office of Children’s Mental Health. He says it would make sure that the state’s services are doing their best to meet the needs of young people. Walker’s budget proposal goes to the Legislature two weeks from today. Final approval of the package is expected before the next fiscal year begins on July 1.
Majority Republicans said no this morning to a one-month delay in considering the bill to make it easier to open a new iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin. Democrats asked the Assembly’s Mining Committee to immediately adjourn, and wait on endorsing the package. But the Republican majority on the panel kept going, and moved forward on 11 amendments the GOP proposed on Monday. The Republicans said the amendments would improve environmental protections, but Democrats said they didn’t go nearly far enough. Meanwhile, the Senate’s Mining Committee was meeting at the same time this morning to endorse the GOP package. Democrats spent the first hour railing against the measure, saying it ignored people in the north where the mine would be located. Yesterday, the Democrats offered six amendments which would scrap the GOP bill, endorse the Democratic alternative from Senator Tim Cullen, and give more tax revenue from mining minerals to the communities where the mines are located. Committees in both houses were expected to endorse the GOP package today. It then goes to the full Legislature for final votes in the next few weeks.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court said it was okay for police to secretly plant a GPS tracking device on a vehicle spotted at numerous burglary sites in the Janesville area. 47-year-old James Brereton said officers violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches. But the Supreme Court disagreed on a 6-1 vote today. The justices said there was probable cause that the vehicle was involved in a crime – and therefore, a seizure of Brereton’s vehicle and the installation of a GPS device were both constitutional. Police stopped the man’s vehicle in late 2007, after it was seen in the area where numerous burglaries took place in Rock and Walworth counties. Brereton was later convicted of five charges in Walworth County, and one in Rock County. In his final case, 10 charges of burglary, theft, and criminal damage were dropped in a plea deal.
Governor Scott Walker’s office says the promise of more federal Medicaid money is not as secure as Democrats want you to believe. Cullen Werwie of the governor’s office says fiscal uncertainties put the funding in question. And Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) says there a chance the money will be cut in the future due to Washington’s quote, “massive debt.” Yesterday, Democratic lawmakers called on Walker and the GOP to take the option of expanding tax-funded health programs like Badger-Care and Senior-Care. Milwaukee Assembly Democrat Jon Richards called it a “good deal.” The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said the state would save $66-million over the next three years, since it would get enough federal money to add up to 175,000 more people in its Medicaid rolls. And in the four years after that, the Fiscal Bureau said Washington would provide $66 for every one-dollar the state spends on Medicaid. Vos said Democrats are too focused on the state’s current savings. As he put it, “We need to consider what’s best for Wisconsin not just for the next three years, but for the next 30 years.” Walker has yet to say if he’ll pursue a Medicaid expansion. He’ll announce that decision when he unveils his next state budget package in two weeks. Nine other states have said no – and the decision does not always fall on party lines. Republican governors in Ohio and Arizona are taking the extra funding.
Top Republican adviser Karl Rove will speak at Ripon College late this afternoon. He’s expected to give his thoughts on last November’s presidential election, and why Republican Mitt Romney lost. He’s also expected to encourage activism on campus – and getting young people to become more engaged in current events and more active in politics. Rove is now a regular contributor on the Fox News Channel. He was the top political adviser to former President George W. Bush. His Ripon College appearance today is open to the general public. Tickets and more information are available on the school’s Web site at Ripon.edu.
Wisconsin is among the best in the nation in the way it runs its elections. That’s according to the Pew Charitable Trusts, in what’s being called the first-ever comparison in the way elections are administered in all 50 states and Washington D.C. The Pew report showed that Wisconsin rated the best in the 2008 presidential election in 17 different categories – and it ranked eighth in the 2010 mid-term and governor’s elections. Figures from the 2012 voting are expected late this year. State Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy said a number of factors led to Wisconsin’s high election marks. They included consistently high voter turnouts, low rates of non-voting due to problems with registration and absentee ballots, short waiting times at the polls, and relatively few provisional votes which are counted later. Pew said Wisconsin also had all possible voting information tools online in both 2008-and-2010 – while California and Vermont didn’t have any. Kennedy said waiting times and the accuracy of technology were not included in the 2010 rankings – and that’s why Wisconsin dropped from first place to eighth that year. Neighboring Minnesota and Michigan were among those that also received high marks in the Pew survey. California and New York were among the worst.
Governor Scott Walker is taking applications for a new student member on the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents. The new person will replace Katherine Pointer, whose term expires May first. Student members serve for two years. They must be Wisconsin residents at least 18, enrolled half-time or more in a UW school, and in good academic standing. They must also stay in school for the entire two-year term. Applications are available online at Walker.wi.gov They must be submitted to the governor’s office by February 20th. Students from UW-Madison and UW-Parkside will not be considered, because both those schools have been recently represented on the Board of Regents, which sets policies for the 26-campus UW System.