- Associated Press - Monday, March 17, 2014
Assembly not scheduled to take up big bills

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Bills to rewrite Common Core academic standards and limit regulations on sand mining in Wisconsin are not scheduled for votes in the state Assembly before it adjourns for the year.

The Assembly also did not schedule a vote on a bill to make cancer drugs in pill form more affordable or a measure limiting the state’s ability to regulate high capacity wells

They were not included in the tentative agenda for Thursday’s final planned meeting day that was released on Monday. That agenda will be finalized on Tuesday and proposals could be added or dropped then.

The Assembly was to wrap up its work Thursday with the Senate planning to meet Tuesday and April 1.

Bills that don’t clear both chambers in identical form are dead for the year.


Veterans call for end to asbestos lawsuit bill

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Veterans opposed to a bill affecting asbestos-exposure lawsuits in Wisconsin urged Gov. Scott Walker on Monday to stop the measure, arguing that it would deny justice to asbestos victims.

The heavily lobbied proposal would require plaintiffs who have suffered from asbestos exposure to reveal how many businesses their attorneys plan to sue. They would also have to go after money from an asbestos trust before they could sue for more in court.

Proponents, including Wisconsin’s chamber of commerce and Republican sponsors, argue the bill is needed to prevent filing multiple claims against both trust funds set up to pay victims of asbestos exposure as well as individual businesses.

Opponents who gathered Monday strongly disagreed.

“If you think that the bill is protecting the rights of victims, it is not. It is about protecting corporations,” said a tearful Renee Simpson, state commander of the Wisconsin Veterans of Foreign Wars. She held up a picture of her dad, a U.S. Army veteran, who died in 2013 nine months after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

The Senate passed the bill last week on a narrow 17-16 vote. A similar version previously passed the Assembly and it’s expected to pass again Thursday, the last day of the session, which would send it to Walker.

Walker said Monday in Milwaukee that he has heard from veterans on both sides of the issue, and he’s waiting to see what happens in the Legislature.


Oral cancer drug bill backers not giving up hope

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Cancer survivors and others who back a bill that would make oral chemotherapy drugs more affordable in Wisconsin are not giving up hope that the measure can pass the Legislature, saying Monday that public pressure could force lawmakers to act now.

The Republican Senate leader has refused to bring the legislation up for a vote and the Assembly is set to adjourn for the year on Thursday without taking action.

“Our only option is that the transparency and public pressure will get these leaders to reconsider the longer term implications for them and their party,” said Paul Westrick, a 16-year blood cancer survivor. Westrick is the board chair for the Wisconsin chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The proposal, which has bipartisan support in the Legislature, would require insurance plans overseen by the state to provide coverage for expensive forms of chemotherapy drugs that patients take as pills rather than injections.

While a broad array of cancer support and health advocacy groups support the measure, it is opposed by health insurers that fear it will drive up costs. Lawmakers who are against it say they don’t support insurance mandates.

Last week, Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he wouldn’t bring it up for a vote because most of the 18 Republican senators didn’t support it, even though a majority of the Senate’s 33 members did.

But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Sunday that at least 13 of 18 Republican senators and all 15 Democrats have taken a public stance in favor of the bill.


Wisconsin Reps. Ribble, Pocan advocate compromise

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Before U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble was elected to Congress, he envisioned Democrats and Republicans gathering together to debate important issues and develop legislation. He was stunned when he arrived in Washington to find that members of the two parties often don’t come together until it’s time to mark up bills, and by then, they already feel antagonistic.

Rep. Mark Pocan said he received a lesson in partisanship soon after his election to Congress in 2012. He attended a two-week training for freshmen representatives in which participants were segregated by party nearly the entire time.

“They taught us bad behavior, not only on day one, but before day one,” said Pocan, who appeared with Ribble on Monday at Marquette University Law School.

Ribble, a Republican from the Fox Valley, and Pocan, a Madison Democrat, belong to No Labels’ Problem Solvers, a bipartisan group of lawmakers who meet weekly to get to know each other and discuss issues. They blamed the gridlock in Congress in large part on the lack of communication and personal goodwill between members and said voters can help solve the problem by choosing candidates who are willing to work with members of the opposite party.

Ribble, who described himself as a conservative Republican, started No Labels with Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va.

“I said to him, ‘Why don’t you go find a Democrat, I don’t even care which one, just pick one. And I’ll go find one, and let’s go to dinner,’” Ribble said.

Rigell brought Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and Ribble brought Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore. The gathering went well, and they agreed to meet again with each person bringing one more. The group is now up to 92 members, and each person who joins must bring a member of the opposite party to maintain an ideological balance.

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