Republicans eye pre-existing conditions bill for lame duck

Nov. 30, 2018

MADISON Republican lawmakers are considering passing a bill guaranteeing health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions as part of a lame-duck legislative session next week that could also include measures to weaken Wisconsin's Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos have been in discussions on exactly what will be taken up in the session, designed to give outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker once last chance to sign bills into law.

In an emailed newsletter late Thursday, Vos confirmed that the pre-existing conditions issue would be on the agenda. He noted that the Assembly passed such a bill last year; it stalled in the Senate.

Vos didn't specify what else would be part of the session.

Other ideas being considered include moving the 2020 presidential primary election; limiting Evers' ability to appoint members of the state economic development agency; restricting the governor's rule-making powers; enacting work requirements for Medicaid recipients; and enshrining in law rules related to Wisconsin's voter photo ID mandate.

Republicans want to move the presidential primary because of expected high Democratic turnout that would make it harder for conservative Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly to win election, Fitzgerald said Tuesday. Kelly's election is in April 2020, the same date as the presidential primary. Kelly was appointed by Walker and is part of a 4-3 conservative majority on the court.

Court spokesman Tom Sheehan said Kelly declined to comment.

Debate over protecting people with pre-existing conditions was central to Walker's losing bid for re-election, Wisconsin's U.S. Senate race and other campaigns this year. Walker said he favored enacting the same protections that are in federal law, which goes much further than what the Assembly approved earlier this year. That bill stalled in the Senate.

Evers supports the federal Affordable Care Act and its provisions guaranteeing insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. He has said he would remove Wisconsin from a federal lawsuit, authorized by Walker, seeking repeal of the law on his first day in office.

The lame-duck session could begin as soon as Tuesday, Fitzgerald told the Wisconsin State Journal on Thursday. The bills would be made public on Friday with a public hearing on Monday, he said.

Fitzgerald's chief of staff Dan Romportl said a public notice related to the lame-duck session was expected to come later Thursday. He said Fitzgerald and Vos were still negotiating details of what will be taken up.

Lawmakers are moving quickly to take action before the holidays but, more importantly, before Evers is sworn into office on Jan. 7.

They originally discussed returning only to consider a tax incentive bill designed to keep consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark Corp. from closing an Appleton-area plant, at the cost of about 390 jobs.

But Republicans still don't have the votes for that bill, making it unlikely to be taken up.

Republicans agree on lame-duck bill line-up

MADISON, Wis. The Latest on the Wisconsin Legislature's lame-duck session (all times local):

12:15 p.m.

Wisconsin Republicans have agreed on which bills to take up during their lame-duck session next week.

Assembly and Senate Republicans circulated paper ballots to their leadership committees on Friday. The ballots include vague descriptions of the same six bills on each house's agenda. Rumors had been circulating around the Capitol that Assembly and Senate Republicans would develop separate agendas.

Both houses expect to begin floor debates on Tuesday. The session offers the GOP one last chance to pass laws before Gov. Scott Walker leaves office.

The ballots offer vague, one-sentence descriptions of each bill.

One measure would guarantee coverage for pre-existing health conditions. Another deals with spending federal transportation dollars and individual income tax cuts. The others relate to state agencies' rule-making process, moving the 2020 presidential primary from April to March, work requirements for state benefits and the composition of state agencies.

Group: Outside spending in elections topped $60 million

MADISON A government watchdog group says outside groups spent more than $60 million in Wisconsin's 2018 fall elections, a record for midterm contests.

The Wisconsin Democracy Group released a report Thursday that found outside groups spent $61.4 million. The previous record for outside spending in a midterm election in Wisconsin was $36.6 million, set in 2014.

Republican-leaning organizations spent nearly $31.2 million. Democratic-leaning groups spent $30.1 million.

The Democratic Governors Association spent the most at an estimated $13.5 million. The Republican Governors Association spent $10.9 million through Right Direction Wisconsin PAC and ACC Wisconsin PAC.

The Republican Attorneys General Association spent almost $3 million. The Democratic Attorneys General Association spent $2.2 million.


Associated Press