GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL ROUNDUP: Public hearings to be held today to discuss Common Core standards
A public hearing will be held this morning on three bills aimed at keeping a close watch over Wisconsin's Common Core educational standards. The Assembly Education Committee will take testimony at the State Capitol. One bill would require periodic reviews of the standards for math-and-English that were adopted in 2010, plus new standards for other subjects. A second bill would prohibit schools from collecting bio-metric data from students that include finger-prints and retinal scans. The other bill seeks to ensure student privacy. G-O-P Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says the full Assembly could vote on the measures next month. However, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald recently said that any Common Core bill would have a hard time passing in his chamber.
Health care was among the topics discussed yesterday, when President Obama met at the White House with six governors including Wisconsin's Scott Walker. The Republican Walker said the governors expressed concerns about their ability to do what's best for their states under the Affordable Care Act. Walker said Vice President Joe Biden also sat in on the meeting, which involved state leaders from both parties in the National Governors Association. Besides health care, Walker said they discussed transportation infra-structure and worker training. The governors also mentioned that energy supplies are abundant both in the U-S and in North America.
More changes will soon be made on who's eligible for Badger-Care. Both houses of the state Legislature approved the changes yesterday, after a recent settlement between the governor's office and the federal Medicaid agency. Wisconsin adults who make more than poverty-level wages could still get Badger-Care through March 31st, if they sign up by the end of January. Starting February first, only those making poverty wages or less can apply for the Medicaid-funded Badger-Care. Those above the poverty line who apply after February first would have to sign up for Obama-care -- just like 77-thousand other current Badger-Care recipients above the poverty line who will lose their coverage at the end of March. That cut-off was originally planned for the end of December -- but because of problems with the Obama-care Web site, it was delayed for three months. There was also a three-month delay to start Badger-Care for 83-thousand impoverished people -- but that's being moved up two months under the new settlement. The Assembly approved the deal on a voice vote. The Senate okayed it 21-to-11, with all Republicans voting yes along with Democrats Tim Carpenter, Mark Miller, and Tim Cullen.
A Madison City Council member says most of her colleagues support her idea of creating legal buffer zones at abortion facilities in Wisconsin's capital. Under Lisa Subeck's measure, protestors would have to stay at least eight-feet away from others within a 160-foot protective zone of an abortion clinic. The proposal comes as the U-S Supreme Court is about to consider a Massachusetts law which keeps protestors 35-feet away from clinic entrances. State attorneys are scheduled to argue their case before the nation's highest court today. The group Vigil for Life has protestors at Madison's Planned Parenthood abortion clinic. They say they respect the clinic's parking lot and private property -- and for them, it already creates a buffer.
The Wisconsin Assembly has unanimously approved four bills aimed at curbing the growth in heroin abuse and overdoses. The package was sent to the Senate yesterday. Assembly Republican John Nygren of Marinette proposed the measures last year, as part of Attorney General J-B Van Hollen's campaign to curb heroin trafficking and overdose deaths. Nygren's teenage daughter almost died from the drug. Other lawmakers told stories about young heroin abusers in their own districts, and growing concerns by local law enforcement. Westby Republican Lee Nerison said quote, "We can't give up on our kids, no matter how bad the case is." Nygren's four bills would allow trained emergency responders to administer Narcan to ward off overdoses -- grant limited immunity for those who report overdoses cases to rescuers -- expand community drug disposal programs -- and require I-D's for those buying prescription narcotics. Nygren calls the package a good first start, and he promises other legislation in the future. Also yesterday, both houses approved new one-year contracts for five smaller state employee unions that cover about 24-hundred workers. If Governor Scott Walker signs the deals, the workers will get one-percent raises retroactive to July first.