Capitol Update

May 15, 2017Like us on Facebook

Contents Include:
1.  Senate Passes Treatment and Diversion Bill
2.  Assembly Passes Wisconsin Shares Benefit Drop-Off Mitigation
3.  Assembly Passes Work Experience Program Drug Testing
4.  New Bills of Interest
5.  Websites of Interest
Senate Passes Treatment and Diversion Bill
On May 2, the Senate unanimously passed an amended January 2017 Special Session AB-2 (Committee on Assembly Organization), which increases by $2 million in each fiscal year 2017-18 and 2018-19 the amount spent for grants to counties operating treatment and diversion programs, expanding the grants to more counties.  The bill also, subject to approval of the Joint Committee on Finance, creates a pilot program to divert certain nonviolent persons to treatment options instead of the criminal justice system.  The WCC registered in support.   The bill, which previously passed in the Assembly, now awaits the Governor's action.
Assembly Passes Wisconsin Shares Benefit Drop-Off Mitigation 
On May 10, the Assembly unanimously passed an amended AB-241 (Rep. Jessie Rodriguez, R-Oak Creek), which would allow an individual to remain eligible to receive a child care subsidy under Wisconsin Shares if his or her family's gross income exceeds 200 percent of the poverty line.  The bill would mandate that the individual's copayment increase by $1 for every $3 by which the family's gross income exceeds 200 percent of the poverty line.  The WCC registered in support.  The bill now goes to the Senate.
Assembly Passes Drug Testing for Work Experience Programs
On May 10, the Assembly passed an amended AB-242   (Rep. Cody Horlacher, R-Mukwonago) by a vote of 62 to 35,  to expand existing substance abuse screening, testing, and treatment requirements to more work programs.
Last session, the final state budget mandated that every individual who applies to participate in certain work experience programs administered by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) is re qu ired to complete a questionnaire that screens for the abuse of a controlled substance.  If there is a reasonable suspicion that an individual who is otherwise eligible for a program is abusing a controlled substance, the individual must undergo a drug test.  If the test results are positive, the individual must participate in substance abuse treatment to remain eligible for a program.  While the individual is undergoing treatment, he or she must submit to random testing for the use of a controlled substance to remain eligible for a program.  If any test results are positive she or he may begin treatment again one time and will remain eligible for a program as long as all test results are negative, or positive with a valid prescription.  If the individual completes treatment he or she will have satisfactorily completed the requirements for the program.  The WCC and other faith-based organizations unsuccessfully opposed these new requirements in a letter to the Legislature.
AB-242 eliminates reference to the questionnaire for screening controlled substance abuse and instead allows DCF to determine the appropriate mechanism by which to screen applicants.  Certain individuals, such as dependent children or pregnant women, remain exempt from the drug testing provision.
Compliance will be required for custodial parents in the Temporary Employment Match program, which provides a subsidy for wages to an individual's employer, and the Community Service Jobs program and Transitional Placement program, both of which provide a participant with a monthly grant.  The bill also applies the screening, testing, and treatment requirements to all adult members of an individual's W-2 group whose income or assets are included in determining the individual's eligibility for a program.
Dependent children may still be eligible for the grant funds if their parents test positive for drug use.  However, DCF would reduce the monthly grant and pay it to a protective payee who must hold the money and use it exclusively on behalf of the children.  The bill limits this partial eligibility to 12 months or until the individual again becomes eligible for full participation in a W-2 program, if sooner.  The bill requires DCF to promulgate rules to establish and implement the monthly grant eligibility and the protective payee structure.
The WCC registered in opposition to AB-242, which was also included in the proposed state budget.  As noted in the WCC's Budget Issue Brief , "While the WCC supports helping people escape drug dependency and embrace healthy and responsible lifestyles, these kinds of measures fail to recognize that drug abuse afflicts all income levels and that most of those in drug treatment programs relapse several times before achieving lasting recovery.  Nor is the partial payment that will continue to a recipient's child likely to help alleviate family hardship."
New Bills of Interest
SB-222  Pupil Exam Information (Stroebel, Duey) Providing information about mandatory pupil examinations. Referred to Senate Education
SB-234  Pupil Exam Opt-Out (Stroebel, Duey) Allowing a pupil's parent or guardian to opt out of certain statewide examinations. Referred to Senate Education
AB-300  Pupil Exam Information (Thiesfeldt, Jeremy) Providing information about mandatory pupil examinations. Referred to Assembly Government Accountability and Oversight
AB-304  Pupil Exam Opt-Out (Thiesfeldt, Jeremy) Allowing a pupil's parent or guardian to opt out of certain statewide examinations. Referred to Assembly Government Accountability and Oversight

Websites of Interest
WisconsinEye - Independent, nonpartisan news service that provides uncut video coverage of state government proceedings, as well as interviews with lawmakers and policy experts.
To find out who your legislators are, go to the Wisconsin State Legislature's home page  and type your address in the top right hand corner under "Find My Legislators."

Capitol Update is a periodic e-mail on legislative issues from the Wisconsin Catholic Conference.
Wisconsin Catholic Conference
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Madison, WI 53703