Despite opposition from Democrats and some veterans groups, legislation dealing with asbestos-related lawsuits is on its way to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The bill passed the Assembly Thursday on a partisan 55-to-38 vote, drawing criticism from numerous Democrats, including Sun Prairie Representative Gary Hebl.
“The bottom line is you have done a great disservice to the veterans of this state when you vote in favor of this bill,” Hebl said. Democrats charged the bill denies the rights of veterans and others to recover costs of treating mesothelioma, a cancer linked to exposure to asbestos. Representative Sandy Pasch of Shorewood spoke about her father. “I’m very lucky that my dad’s 90, and he doesn’t have mesothelioma. But he does have asbestosis, a chronic degenerative lung disease which makes his later years very painful,” Pasch said.
Under the bill, cancer victims suing an existing company would have to disclose whether they have also filed a claim with any of asbestos compensation trust funds, something Republicans say has been widely documented. “The Wall Street Journal has down numbers of investigations on this, and there has been numbers of people, particularly certain law firms, who will go after a solvent company, and also go after a trust but not disclose it” said Mequon Representative Jim Ott.
“This bill does not hinder veterans, or any victims of asbestos exposure, from being fully compensated for their injuries,” said Representative Andres Jaque of DePere, the bill’s author.