Dear Friends,

The new legislative session is underway, and we are already hard at work. On Monday, all of the State Senators who won their elections last fall took the oath of office. The State Senate is now comprised of 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats. I'm looking forward to working with each of them.

On Wednesday, I attended a joint public hearing on a very important bill that will help protect the rights of crime victims. The bill is called "Marsy's Law," and I'm hoping you will get a chance to vote on this important issue in the April 2, 2019 statewide election. There's more information about it below.

Last week, Representative Jim Ott and I introduced our bills to toughen Wisconsin's drunk driving laws. This week, they are getting attention in the media. Fox 6 ran a story and TMJ 4 interviewed me this morning about our legislation.

The bills will increase mandatory minimum sentences for repeat drunk drivers and those convicted of homicide while driving intoxicated. An important new bill will make the first offense a criminal misdemeanor and eliminate look-backs for second offense OWI.

Under our bill a person convicted of first offense OWI and does not commit another OWI related offenses within a five-year period after the conviction, may petition the court to change the conviction to a civil violation. This helps people who have made positive changes in their life get a second chance. I'm very hopeful we can pass these important bills to keep our roads safer.

As always, if you have any concerns or ideas on how to improve our great state, please do not hesitate to contact me by phone at 608-266-5830 or by email at .

On, Wisconsin!
Step Therapy Bill Puts Patients First
In Wisconsin, patients often have to “fail” a drug or treatment plan before they can access the medicine their doctor prescribed. This is known as “step therapy” and it is meant to reduce costs by requiring patients to try cheaper alternatives first. 

Unfortunately, step therapy often ignores a patient’s medical history and creates red tape that blocks patients from the best healthcare for them.

On Friday, I joined Representative John Nygren from Marinette to introduce legislation to help patients receive the medicine their doctors prescribed by legislating a clear process to override step therapy protocols. Our goal is to put patients first.

It’s not cost efficient to require patients to try and fail a drug in order to receive the medicine their doctor actually prescribed. There are times when step therapy needs to be overridden, and this bill puts those situations into Wisconsin law.

Patients are often required to go through step therapy even if they already tried the cheaper drug under a different health plan or when the cheaper alternative interferes with other medications they are currently using. While insurers often have an exemption process from step therapy protocols, it can be unclear and results in unnecessary back and forth between the patient, doctor, and insurance company; all of which delays care. 

The legislation creates five common-sense exemptions for step therapy:
  • The patient has tried the required prescription drug while under their current or a previous health insurance or health benefit plan, or another prescription drug in the same pharmacologic class or with the same mechanism of action and such prescription drug was discontinued due to lack of efficacy or effectiveness, diminished effect, or an adverse event.
  • The required drug is expected to be ineffective based on the known clinical characteristics of the patient and the known characteristics of the prescription drug regimen.
  • The required prescription drug is not in the best interest of the patient, based on medical necessity.
  • The patient is stable on a prescription drug selected by their health care provider for the medical condition under consideration while on their current or previous health insurance or health benefit plan.
  • The required prescription drug is contraindicated or will likely cause an adverse reaction by or physical or mental harm to the patient.

Representative Nygren and I are currently seeking co-sponsors for the bill.
Marsy's Law Public Hearing
This week, the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety and the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety held a joint public hearing on a bill which could add protections for crime victims in our state constitution.

The legislation is known as Marsy's Law and is part of a nation-wide push to protect crime victims. It's named after a California woman named Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas. She was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. One week after her death, her mother and brother were confronted by the murderer who was out on bail.

Wisconsin has a proud history of protecting victim's rights. In the 1980's, we were the first state in the nation to pass a Crime Victims' Bill of Rights. In the early 1990's I supported a measure to add protections for victims in the Wisconsin Constitution. More than 85% of voters agreed and our constitution was amended. Marsy's law expands on that tradition.

In order for it to be part of the state constitution, the same bill has to pass two consecutive sessions of the Legislature, and then voters have to approve it on a statewide ballot. We are halfway there, and hopefully you will get a chance to vote on it as well.

Last session, Marsy's Law passed both houses of the Legislature by a total of 118-14. Now, there's hope both houses can pass the measure again before the spring election in April. If voters approve Marsy's Law, these are the victim protections that would be added to the Wisconsin Constitution:

  1. To be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, sensitivity, and fairness.
  2. To privacy.
  3. To proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
  4. To timely disposition of the case, free from unreasonable delay.
  5. Upon request, to attend all proceedings involving the case.
  6. To reasonable protection from the accused throughout the criminal and juvenile justice process.
  7. Upon request, to reasonable and timely notification of proceedings.
  8. Upon request, to confer with the attorney for the government.
  9. Upon request, to be heard in any proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated.
  10. To have information submitted to and considered by the authority with jurisdiction over the case pertaining to the economic, physical, and psychological effect of the crime or juvenile offense upon the victim.
  11. Upon request, to timely notice of any release, escape, or death of the accused.
  12. To refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request made by the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused.
  13. To full restitution from any person ordered to pay restitution to the victim and to be provided with assistance collecting restitution.
  14. To have any moneys or property collected from a person who has been ordered to make restitution to the victim be applied first to restitution of the victim before being applied to any amounts owed by that person to the government.
  15. To compensation, as provided by law.
  16. To timely information about the outcome of the case.
  17. To timely notice about all rights granted under this constitutional amendment and all other rights, privileges, or protections of the victim provided by law, including how such rights, privileges, or protections are enforced.

Both committees expect to vote on Marsy's Law soon.
Senate Inauguration
The Honorable Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack administer the official oath of office for half of the State Senate today. (Odd-numbered districts were up this fall, even-numbered districts will be up in two years.)
Around the 8th...
This morning I sat down with TMJ4 to discuss my bills to create tougher drunk driving laws in Wisconsin.
Aurora Medical Center Grafton is offering free tours on January 17, 2019 from 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM. RSVP by calling 262-235-9507.