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May 28, 2015

Walker says GOP needs candidate who can ‘fight and win’

Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

One possible 2016 presidential contender says there are many good Republicans who have entered the race. However, Governor Scott Walker told those attending the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma Thursday that he has yet to see a candidate who can “fight and win…the battles we need to move this country forward with common sense conservative reforms.”

Walker, who is not expected to formally announce his own plans about a presidential run until this summer, said many of the candidates who have announced so far have either proven they can win at the ballot box or have been “fighting the good fight” on conservative issues. However, Walker said “I have yet to see anyone in the field, or emerging field, who has done both.”

Walker helped kick off the conference in Oklahoma, where attendees will also hear from a long list of other Republican White House hopefuls. He was introduced by Republican Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.

Bill coordinates obesity-related illness treatment for Medicare patients

Two Congressmen from the Midwest want to address the health issues tied to obesity among senior citizens. One of them is 3rd District Wisconsin Democrat Ron Kind, who says more needs to be done in the areas of care coordination and patient education.  “Erik Paulson, he’s a member from the Minnesota delegation, and I teamed up with legislation that would make it easier to coordinate care with seniors in Medicare when it comes to obesity related illnesses and healthy lifestyles.”

Kind told affiliate WSAU chronic disease management is a very important cost in the overall health care system, as well as a person’s quality of life when they have obesity-related illnesses.

The bill Kind and Paulsen introduced is designed to help coordinate care for seniors in the Medicare program when it comes to obesity-related illnesses and healthy lifestyles.  “This would help establish more care coordination system for them and make access to certain forms of treatment, alternative forms of medicine, and prescription medication more available so we can get out ahead of this cost curve, lead to healthier lifestyles, prolong the quality of life that our seniors should enjoy in their retirement and in their golden years.”

Kind says helping people live healthier lives also drives down the cost to the Medicare system, where 5 percent of the Medicare participants are responsible for 50 percent of the Medicare health costs due to chronic diseases, and most of it is tied to obesity.

Kind says his legislation is primarily education and outreach, and does not mandate diets or lifestyle choices in any way for Medicare patients.

Larry Lee, WSAU

Disability advocate criticizes JFC vote on special needs vouchers

A “sneak attack” on the issue of special needs vouchers. That’s how Stop Special Needs Vouchers spokeswoman Terri Hart-Ellis refers to late-night action by Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee, who inserted a program into the state budget.

Hart-Ellis contends parents of special needs kids may not be well served by vouchers. “They think they’re going to maybe get these services and this attention as far as special education is concerned. They get to the school and they find out that’s not the case,” said Hart-Ellis, whose 11 year-old daughter cannot speak and uses sign language and an iPad in her public school classroom.

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee unveiled the program on Tuesday, and voted to pass it at 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday. State funding – in this case $12,000 per student – would go towards a voucher which parents could use  to send their special needs student to a private school.

Similar measures have been previously rejected by the legislature, and the provision voted on Wednesday was not part of Governor Scott Walker’s proposed state spending plan.

“The process itself, sort of under cover of night with no public input, is really pretty outrageous,” said Hart-Ellis. “The opportunities that we did have in the past, we made ourselves so clear that legislation did not pass. So yeah, it’s kind of a sneak attack.”

Ribble, Kind reject short term highway funding bill

Two members of Wisconsin’s House delegation, 8th District Republican Reid Ribble and 3rd District Democrat Ron Kind, were among a handful of representatives who voted no this week on a two month extension of federal highway funding.

“This kind of kick the can down the road does nothing to reduce costs,” Ribble told WRN. “In fact I believe it increases costs to the taxpayer and increases uncertainty to the states. It does everything that the Congress should not be doing as it relates to transportation.”

Rep. Reid Ribble

Rep. Reid Ribble

“Enough is enough. Congress has extended this funding 23 times in the last 12 years, and we can’t keep having the same debate over and over again. Continued short-term stopgap measures are not the way to run a country as great as the United States,” Kind said in a statement released by his office. “A two month short-term extension will not give local and state officials the certainty they need. Wisconsinites deserve a long-term plan that will create jobs by investing in our nation’s roads, bridges and workforce.”

Ribble said that local and state transportation officials recognize that the stop-gap funding measures like that passed on Tuesday raises costs. “You can’t do any long-term strategic planning,” he said.

Ribble, who has authored a bipartisan “Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act,” said federal lawmakers are afraid to take the necessary step of increasing fuel taxes – but failing to do so merely pushes costs off on those who aren’t even yet old enough to drive.

Rep. Ron Kind

Rep. Ron Kind

“We’re saying to that 12 year-old in middle school, ‘you’ve got pay for our roads when you grow up, and you’ve got to pay for your roads when you grow up. Sorry, we don’t want to pay for our own, so we’re going to charge you instead,’” he said.

Tuesday’s vote on the funding measure (HR 2353) was 387-35, with 1 member voting present and 9 not voting.

The two-month extension leaves state and local transportation officials in the lurch as they plan for the balance of the summer construction season and ponder whether to embark on long-term projects that require the certainty of federal funding, the Washington Post reported.

Champion to head Wisconsin DOJ crime labs

Champion (DOJ photo)

Champion (DOJ photo)

Attorney General Brad Schimel has announced that former deputy director Jana Champion will serve as director of the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory. The 28 year Wisconsin Department of Justice veteran’s promotion puts her charge of day-to-day operations at the three DOJ operated crime labs in Madison, Milwaukee and Wausau.

Champion began her work at the crime lab in 1987 as a controlled substance analyst, following service with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in Chicago, according a press release from Schimel. In 2006, she was appointed director of the Milwaukee lab, and became Deputy Director of the Crime Laboratory Bureau in 2012.

She has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Mount Mary University.