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News & Press: Legislative Updates

WPA Legislative Update, June 2019

Thursday, June 20, 2019  
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Eric Jensen, WPA Lobbyist

It has been a busy time since our last Legislative Update in January…

Governor Evers introduced his first Biennial Budget proposal in late February.  Among the myriad items included in the Governor’s budget were:

A proposal to accept the Federal Medicaid expansion money that was a part of the original Affordable Care Act legislation (projected to bring hundreds of millions of new Federal dollars to Wisconsin) and to then provide nearly $70 million to be spent for “non-institutional” (physicians and clinics) Medicaid payments for mental and behavioral health services.  

A proposal to legalize Medical Marijuana, and decriminalize minor marijuana possession.

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC -- the 16-member committee made up of 8 senators and 8 representatives – currently controlled 12-4 by Republicans) began and completed its lengthy process of reviewing, analyzing, debating and voting on a State Budget proposal piece by piece.  Relevant highlights of JFC’s budget activity:

As they had consistently said in media reports, the GOP majorities rejected the Governor’s Medicaid Expansion proposal.

A proposal to increase payments for “non-institutional” Medicaid providers by $24 million for “behavioral and other health services” to be allocated at the discretion of the Department of Health Services, and subject to approval by JFC.  If retained in the final Budget, this would represent the first time in more than a decade that physicians have received any Medicaid payment increases.

No marijuana related proposals were included.

As of the date of this article, the JFC-version of the Budget Bill awaits approval by the full Assembly and Senate, after which it will be sent to Governor Evers for review and signature, veto or partial-veto.  There remains much speculation about whether the Governor will veto the entire budget as proposed by Legislative-majority Republicans, or whether he will veto portions.  Either way, budget negotiations (including Medicaid spending) may stall completely, or may stall and resume later in the Fall.

In addition to the State Budget, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) created the Speaker’s Task Force on Suicide Prevention[1], made up of a bipartisan group of Assembly representatives.  The Task Force has held meetings thus far featuring invited speakers and designed to identify current state suicide prevention efforts.  There will be several meetings yet this summer, with a Task Force report likely coming in September.  WPA will be looking for suicide prevention experts to provide testimony at future meetings.

Finally, WPA has continued to partner with the Wisconsin Chapter, American College of Emergency Physicians (WACEP) on the WPA-WACEP Emergency Detention Task Force.  The Task Force was created nearly two years ago after emergency detention legislation was proposed by several law enforcement organizations.  WPA and WACEP joined forces to express opposition to that legislation, which did not advance during the 2017-18 Session.  The Task Force has met a number of times since, completing a white paper and now beginning outreach to law enforcement organizations who have shown interest in addressing issues relating to emergency detention.