RENT TO OWN
The Legislature's finance committee has blocked Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plan to exempt rent-to-own businesses from Wisconsin's consumer protection laws. Wisconsin's consumer protection laws require creditors to disclose interest rates in rent-to-own contracts. Rent-to-own critics maintain the industry preys on the poor with exorbitant interest rates and the consumer statutes help protect them. Industry advocates counter their contracts aren't credit transactions and shouldn't fall under the consumer laws. Walker's budget would create a new section of law governing the industry that wouldn't require the businesses to disclose interest rates.
The Legislature's budget-writing committee has approved a plan to require police seize DNA from anyone arrested for a felony, certain misdemeanors and anyone convicted of any crime. Wisconsin currently takes DNA only from convicted felons and sex offenders. Republican Gov. Scott Walker's 2013-15 budget set out nearly $6 million for the collection expansion, with most of the money coming through an existing $250 surcharge on felony convicts and a new $200 surcharge on misdemeanor convicts.
BACKGROUND CHECK FEE
The Legislature's finance committee has voted to reduce the handgun purchaser background check fee by $3. Background checks currently cost $13. The Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 today to lower the fee to $10 while revising the state Justice Department's portion of the governor's 2013 to 2015 budget.
The Legislature's finance committee has erased a plan in Republican Gov. Scott Walker's budget that would allow judges across the state to order GPS monitoring for people under restraining orders. The budget calls for handing the state Justice Department $3 million over the next two fiscal years to run a local grant program to pay for the tracking. But Republicans on the finance committee Thursday weren't comfortable with the idea, noting no other state has imposed GPS tracking as part of restraining orders.
Public safety workers could collectively bargain over their health insurance premiums but not other costs of their plan under action taken by the Legislature's budget committee. The Joint Finance Committee voted Tuesday to make the restriction for police, firefighters, and emergency medical service providers. They retained their collective bargaining rights two years ago while all other public workers saw them taken away. Republicans who control the committee say the change is consistent with the intent of the Legislature two years ago and with an April state appeals court ruling.
The Legislature's budget committee has approved Gov. Scott Walker's proposal requiring that able-bodied adults on Wisconsin's food stamps program spend at least 20 hours a week working or getting trained for a job. The Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to approve the plan over objections from Democrats. Those who don't meet the requirement would be limited to three months of benefits over three years. It is estimated that half of the childless adults subject to the work requirement would not meet it.That would result in 31,300 losing benefits. Democrats attacked the measure as a mean-spirited move that would hurt poor people. But Republican backers say it will help people become self-sufficient.
WISCONSIN BUDGET-SAND MINING
Wisconsin's budget-writing committee has approved pulling money from the state's environmental management fund to cover sand mining inspections.The Joint Finance Committee voted Tuesday to approve the proposal from Gov. Scott Walker. Walker's budget calls for using nearly $447,000 from the fund to enable the Department of Natural Resources to add sand mine compliance and inspection to the responsibilities of three to four existing staffers.
WISCONSIN BUDGET-STATE BUILDINGS
The Legislature's budget committee has approved Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to allow for the sale of public properties including power plants, prisons, University of Wisconsin dormitories and highways. The Joint Finance Committee on Tuesday altered Walker's original plan so that any proposed sale would have to be approved by the committee. It also voted to disallow the sale of any state-owned property that is at least 50 percent funded from federal funds or from gifts or grants.
HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS
The Legislature's budget committee has approved creating a high-deductible health insurance plan with health savings accounts for government workers in Wisconsin.The provision included in Gov. Scott Walker's budget was approved Tuesday by the Joint Finance Committee. Before the new plan is created, an actuarial study must be completed to ensure creating the program does not increase overall health insurance costs. The new health insurance option would be available for state and local government workers starting in 2015.Contributions to health savings accounts are tax-free and the money can be tapped for health-related expenses by the employee.
TOBACCO USE FEE
State workers who smoke would have to pay $50 more per month for health insurance under a Gov. Scott Walker proposal that has won approval by the Legislature's budget committee. The Joint Finance Committee on Tuesday voted 13-3 to approve the fee. Twelve other states currently impose similar fees but anti-smoking groups including the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association oppose them because they argue they are not effective in reducing tobacco use. Walker's administration says the fee is necessary because it estimates health care costs for tobacco users are about 35 percent higher than those who don't. Workers could face a surcharge if they are caught lying about their tobacco use, but they could not lose their insurance coverage as originally proposed.