Wisconsin's Catholic bishops have just released the third edition of their pastoral letter on end of life health care decision-making and advance care planning, Now and at the Hour of Our Death, along with a Questions and Answers resource. Both documents are also available at the WCC website: www.wisconsincatholic.org. Printed copies will be available mid-summer from local diocesan respect life or social concerns offices. A free paper copy can also be obtained by contacting the WCC at 608-257-0004 or [email protected] (multiple copies will include a shipping fee).
Senate and Assembly Pass Abortion Ultrasound Bill
By a vote of 17-15 in the Senate and 56-39 in the Assembly, Senate Bill 206 (Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin), also known as "Sonya's Law" passed both houses this week. The bill would require that a physician who is to perform an abortion 1) perform or arrange for a qualified person to perform an ultrasound using whichever transducer the pregnant woman chooses; 2) provide a simultaneous oral explanation during the ultrasound; 3) display the ultrasound images so that the woman may view them; 4) provide a medical description of the ultrasound images; 5) provide a means for the woman to visualize any fetal heartbeat if a heartbeat is detectable; and 6) require that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of an abortion clinic. The bill now goes to the Governor who is expected to sign it. The WCC supports the bill (testimony).
Assembly Passes Abortion Insurance Ban
By a vote of 58-39, the Assembly yesterday passed Assembly Bill 216 (Rep. Andre Jacque, R-DePere), also known as "The Health Care Conscience Act." The bill would 1) provide religious entities that have a moral objection to purchasing coverage for contraceptive services the same protection under Wisconsin law as provided for under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA); and 2) affirm that funds held by public authorities are prohibited from being used to subsidize the performance of abortions. The bill now goes to the Senate. The WCC supports the bill (testimony).
Assembly Passes Ban on Sex-Selective Abortions
By a vote of 58-39, the Assembly yesterday passed Assembly Bill 217(Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake), also known as "The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act." The bill would prohibit abortion providers from knowingly performing sex-selective abortions. The bill now goes to the Senate. The WCC supports the bill (testimony).
JFC Completes Work on State Budget
The Joint Finance Committee has completed its work on the state budget, voting 12-4 along party lines. The Assembly is expected to take up the budget next week, after which it goes to the Senate before being sent to the Governor for his signature.
Parental Choice in Education: The JFC retained the Governor's recommendation to increase the maximum voucher payment in 2014-15 from the current amount of $6,442 to $7,210 for K-8 students and to $7,856 for high school students.
However, the JFC significantly scaled back the Governor's proposal to expand vouchers statewide by limiting participation to 500 students in 2013-14, and 1,000 students in 2014-15 and each year thereafter. (This does not apply within the already existing Milwaukee and Racine programs.) Also, no more than one percent of any one school district's student population may participate in the program. Family income for voucher students statewide would be at or below 185% of the federal poverty level, significantly lower than the 300% cap for students in Milwaukee and Racine.
The JFC deleted the Governor's proposal to create a new Special Needs Scholarship Program for students with special needs who wish to attend private or other public schools. This will be considered as separate legislation.
The JFC created an income tax deduction for tuition paid to a private school. The deduction will begin in the 2014 tax year and is limited to tuition expenses of up to $4,000 per year for pupils enrolled in grades K-8, and up to $10,000 of expenses per year for pupils enrolled in grades 9-12.
The WCC supports parental choice expansion (Issue Brief).
Health Care: The JFC upheld the Governor's decision not to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid. Under the Governor's budget proposal, a nondisabled adult at or below poverty level (which is $11,490 annually for a single person or $23,550 for a family of four) would have access to Medicaid. Then, in 2014, any nondisabled adult earning above poverty level would be directed to sign up for subsidized coverage under the new state health insurance exchanges.
The JFC retained the Governor's proposal and added a process through which the Department of Health Services (DHS) would be permitted to continue providing health care coverage to certain individuals currently covered through Medicaid if there is not a federal certified health exchange for Wisconsin in place this fall. Those earning up to 200 percent of FPL may continue on Medicaid if they live in a county that does not have a qualified health plan offered through the exchange operating there. The JFC also voted an additional $73.5 million over two years for hospitals to care for uninsured patients.
The WCC urged legislators to accept federal funding for Medicaid expansion (Issue Brief, Joint Letter).
New Bills of Interest
SB-206. Abortions (Lazich) Requirements to perform abortions, requiring an ultrasound before informed consent for an abortion. To Health and Human Services.
SB-209. Child Abuse (Harris) The investigation of a child abuse report in which a person who is not a caregiver of the child is suspected of permitting, allowing, or encouraging the child to engage in prostitution. To Health and Human Services.
SB-212. Nurse Aides (Harsdorf) Instructional programs for nurse aides. To Health and Human Services.
AJR-43. (Craig) Religious liberty and the right of conscience (first consideration). To Judiciary.
AB-227. Abortions (Strachota) Requirements to perform abortions, requiring an ultrasound before informed consent for an abortion. To Health.
AB-233. Earned Income Tax Credit (Riemer) Repeals the changes made to the earned income tax credit in 2011 Wisconsin Act 32. To Ways and Means.
AB-242. Inmate Telephone (Barnes) Charges for inmate telephone use at a jail or house of correction. To Corrections.
AB-244. Special Plates (Kaufert) Special distinguishing registration plates displaying the words In God We Trust. To Transportation.