- Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014
Assembly adjourns session for year

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Wisconsin state Assembly has adjourned its regular session for the year following a marathon overnight session that didn’t conclude until 4:45 a.m. Friday.

During the more than 14 hours in session that began Thursday afternoon the Assembly passed a bill designed to make oral chemotherapy drugs more affordable, limit early voting hours, and impose new requirements for people exposed to asbestos who bring lawsuits for damages.

The chemotherapy bill must be passed by the Senate or it will die.

The Assembly scrapped its plans for a school accountability bill with sanctions for failing schools. Instead, it agreed with the Senate approach that only requires that test results and other data for all schools that take taxpayer money be made public.

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Assembly approves earlier campaign donations

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Lobbyists could start making campaign donations to candidates for office seven weeks earlier than current law allows under a bill that has passed the state Assembly.

The bill approved early Friday morning on a 54-37 vote would allow lobbyists to start making personal donations the day candidates can circulate petitions for office, which is April 15. Under current law they can’t make any donations until June 1.

State law would continue to bar lobbyists from giving campaign donations to members of the Legislature while it is still in session.

The Senate narrowly passed the bill 17-16 earlier this month. It now heads to Gov. Scott Walker for his consideration.

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Bill would change mental health governance

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Control of the troubled Milwaukee mental health complex would be taken away from the county board under a bill that has passed the state Assembly.

The measure approved early Friday morning on a 89-1 vote would transfer power to a group of medical professionals, patients and family members. Democratic Rep. Fred Kessler, of Milwaukee, voted against it.

The bipartisan proposal comes after six patients died at the facility in 2012.

In addition to creating the new board to run the facility, the bill would also require an extensive audit be done by Dec. 1 that would consider whether the state should take over operations.

The bill now goes to Gov. Scott Walker, who is expected to sign it.

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Assembly sends cancer drugs bill to Senate

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Republicans pushed a plan through the Wisconsin Assembly early Friday to include a $100 monthly copay cap for cancer patients buying chemotherapy drugs in pill form, a change that Democrats say could put the entire bill - intended to make the drugs more affordable - at risk in the Senate.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a version without the cap earlier this week. But Republicans in the Assembly argued that a copay cap was needed to prevent the costs from being even higher.

Democrats, who unsuccessfully tried to block the amendment, said the cap could allow insurance companies to charge a higher copay because the bill already states that the copay applied to pills be the same as intravenous treatments. IV treatments as a hospital or doctor’s office often cost only a $20 copay with insurance.

They also argued there was no need to change a bill that the Senate already passed and the governor has agreed to sign. The last chance for the bill to pass is April 1, the Senate’s only remaining session day.

“Why do you want to make it tougher for cancer patients in this state?” Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca said during the late-night debate. “Why do you want to do less for cancer patients in this state?”

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, argued that without the $100 copay limit, the cost for some patients could grow even higher without the cap.

Two Republicans, Reps. Andre Jacque of DePere and Dean Kaufert of Neenah, joined Democrats in trying to turn back the amendment, but their efforts failed on a 40-54 vote. All but 13 Democrats then joined Republicans in passing the bill 75-18. Thirteen Republicans voted against it.

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