UPDATED: Violent Legislation: Wisconsin GOP's Power Snatch

Update 2:03pm 3/10: The Wisconsin Assembly just passed the bill as amended, with 4 Republicans voting no.

This is a PDF of what the Wisconsin Senators passed last night. It isn't just unions they're aiming at. Every public program, worker, and Wisconsin citizen will be at risk as a result of this "legislation", if that's even what it is. Here are as many of the highlights as I can gather in one place. This is intended to be a laundry list. Each of these topics probably deserve a post of their own, but I want a list of the crazy all in one place.

  • Day Care Providers - Eliminates all authority for collective bargaining units, and rescinds authority for the Milwaukee County child care provider services unit to negotiate with union representatives to modify hours or conditions of employment as part of a state takeover of that program.
  • University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority Board - Eliminates all collective bargaining rights terminates contracts with UWHCB, transfers all employees to the UWHC Authority, who will negotiate all compensation and benefits as existing contracts expire.
  • Medical Assistance (BadgerCare) -

    Orders a study of:

    • ways to increase cost-effectiveness, efficiency of care, and care delivery system for existing programs.
    • Fiscal impact of limiting switches from private health insurance to Medical Assistance

    After the study:

    • Require cost-sharing from recipients;
    • Authorize providers to deny care or services if recipient cannot pay cost-sharing
    • Modify (reduce) existing benefits or establish tiered benefits
    • Mandate enrollment in managed care
    • Restrict or eliminate presumptive eligibility (allowing participants to be excluded via arbitrary definition)
    • Restrict benefits to individuals who are not US citizens (note there is no distinction for documented vs. undocumented)
    • Reduce income levels for purposes of determining eligibility (currently 185% of Federal Poverty Level)

    Note on BadgerCare changes: Those impacted will be those most needy, as well as students. According to this document, programs affected would be BadgerCare Plus for childless adults and the family planning waiver program; Medicaid for elderly, blind and disabled people, Medicare premium assistance programs, Wisconsin Well-Woman Medicaid and SeniorCare to the extent permitted under the Affordable Care Act (which Congressional Republicans seek to repeal, of course)

  • Reduce funding for Aging and Disability Resource Centers
  • Repeal all statutes relating to Wisconsin Quality Home Care Authority. Such a repeal would also repeal authority to establish a process for WQHCA to establish a single statewide collective bargaining unit to bargain for wages and benefits. (Note: In May, 2010, independent home care workers voted to make SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin their representative. In December an agreement was reached for wages of $9 per hour, effective 7/1/2012. The legislature has not ratified the agreement, and repeal will nullify them.)
  • State Employees -
    • Rearrange employment structure to replace department administrator "classified" positions with unclassified positions, and delegate authority to the Office of State Employment Relations to appoint a deputy director or executive assistant from outside the group of classified employees. (Cronyism, anyone?)
    • Allows the director to arbitrarily reassign anyone in a career executive position to a different agency provided the receiving agency approves the assignment. (Hmmm, DMV to DHS might be awkward, you think?)
    • Allows the Governor to terminate any state employee during a state emergency if the employee: (a) fails to report to work for 3 working days without approval; (b) participates in a strike, work stoppage, sit-down, stay-in, slowdown or "other concerted activities", including sick calls and/or mass resignations.
  • Retirement and Health Insurance Contributions -
    • Employee pays any required contribution in excess of 5% of earnings. Executives and elected officials will not be required to make any additional contribution. Employees who are entitled to additional contributions for negotiated benefit increases, will have to contribute an additional amount.
    • Repeal authority for state and local employers to pay all or part of employees' contributions unless the employees are police, firefighters, state troopers or state inspectors.
    • Employees required to make contributions would begin making them on the first payday after March 13, 2011. If the withholding can't be implemented in time, employees will be subject to make-up withholding until all amounts are caught up.
    • No local government can establish a Defined Benefit Plan unless employees are required to pay one-half of the actuarial cost.
    • Requires employees to contribute 12% of the cost of health insurance.
    • Require feasibility study to require employees to shift to a "low-cost health care coverage plan" (???) or a high deductible plan with HSA, or via a state exchange as established in the PPACA.
    • Lower pension accruals for elected officials and state executive.
    • Increase co-payments and re-design benefits in existing health plans.
  • Collective Bargaining Agreements - Consistent with what has been reported as to requirement that unions be recertified annually, prohibits local governments from entering into agreements with unions, ties wage increases to the CPI, repeals and terminates all agreements with University of Wisconsin employees, prohibits payment of union dues via payroll deduction. There are more provisions, but they're quite specific and a little too wonky for what is already a too-wonky post.
  • Wetlands - Gives tax preference to municipalities who convert existing wetlands to non-wetland parcels. In addition, such areas would also be exempt from water quality standards applicable to wetlands, provided that area is used for business.

I realize this is long, but there's really more you need to know. If you go back to King Walker's proclamation and call for a Special Legislative Session on January 3, 2011 and use it as a road map, you'll see the following bullets:

  • Check - Creation of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
  • Check - Tax credits for small businesses
  • Check - Tax credits for new businesses
  • Check - Passing legislation adding penalties to health savings accounts for state income tax purposes
  • Check (for this session only) - Requiring a supermajority for passage of tax increase legislation (Californians have come to LOVE this one...not)
  • Check - Claiming state authority to grant exemptions to water quality standards in wetland areas.
  • Not Yet - Limiting noneconomic damages in actions against long-term care providers, manufacturers, distributors, sellers and promoters of certain products, health care privacy violations, health care providers, homicide or injury due to careless weapon handling, criminal abuse of disabled or the elderly, damages for frivolous claims and punitive damages awards. Let's call this one tort reform on steroids.

If you don't feel like you've been beaten up and left bruised and battered on the side of the road after reading this list, I don't know what to say. Each bullet point is an act of violence against working people. Each one. And I wonder what Koch Industries wants with those wetlands. Obviously it's something fairly nasty if they need water quality exemptions.

Let's all take our pain reliever of choice and then get to work tossing these despots out of office.

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.