Wisconsin Senate to vote on police deaths bill

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Wisconsin state Senate plans to spend its last day in session for the year voting on bills to make oral chemotherapy drugs more affordable and establishing a new requirement for investigating police when people die in their custody.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s spokesman Dan Romportl confirmed Friday that the bills would be voted on during the Senate’s final day in session Tuesday. The Assembly has already wrapped up its business for the year.

A full list of all the proposals to be taken up won’t be released until Monday, Romportl said.

Another measure that will be voted on Tuesday, he said, is a bill to legalize the use of a marijuana byproduct to help relieve seizure disorders in children. The limited proposal would allow only the use of cannabidiol, an oil extract, to be administered under the care of a doctor.

The Assembly approved the bill last week on a voice vote. If it passes the Senate, it would go to Gov. Scott Walker. His spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said Walker would not say whether he will sign it, saying he will evaluate the bill should it pass.

Walker has said, however, that he would sign a bill to make chemotherapy drugs in pill form more affordable. The Assembly passed that proposal last week after adding a $100 monthly co-pay cap. The Senate had previously passed the measure without the cap, requiring a second vote before it is sent to Walker.

Once signed into law, the measure would take effect in January.

The bill would require health insurers to charge the same price for chemotherapy pills, which can be taken at home, as they charge for intravenous treatments that are administered at hospitals. Supporters say the proposal would help more people afford a more convenient form of treatment, which can cost patients thousands of dollars more than intravenous versions.

The health insurance industry initially balked at the plan out of fear it would drive up costs, and Republican leaders used procedural moves to bottle up the measure. But bowing to public pressure to act, both the Senate and Assembly passed different forms of the bill last week.

Historically, intravenous treatments have been the predominant route for administering chemotherapy to fight a wide variety of cancers. While chemotherapy in pill form has been available for decades, supporters of the bill say more of the new drugs being developed are in pill form, not intravenous form.

But oral chemotherapy can cost thousands of dollars a month, while intravenous treatments at a hospital or doctor’s office often cost a patient only a $20 copayment under the person’s insurance policy.

The police custody bill would require Wisconsin police departments to enlist outside investigators to look into officer-involved deaths. It was introduced in response to a number of high-profile cases over the last decade.

Police in Kenosha killed Michael Bell in 2004 while he resisted arrest after a traffic stop; Derek Williams, a robbery suspect, died gasping for breath in a Milwaukee squad car in 2011; and a Madison officer shot and killed Paul Heenan during a sidewalk scuffle in 2012. None of the officers involved were criminally charged.

Supporters of the Republican-sponsored bill said it is designed to allay concerns about the possibility of officers investigating their friends and covering up for them. It is supported by the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, the state’s largest police union.

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