The State Senate and State Assembly are scheduled to meet for session on April 4. This is likely to be one of only a few session days for both chambers this spring, with the Legislature currently focused on the state budget debate.
The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) officially kicked off the Legislature’s role in the state budget debate earlier this week when it held three days of briefings by state agency heads. Over the course of the three days the committee heard testimony from over a dozen state agencies and commissions, the UW System, the Department of Justice, and the Supreme Court.
The JFC will hold a series of public hearings throughout the state, beginning on April 3 in Platteville and concluding on April 21 in Marinette. After the completion of the public hearings, the JFC will begin voting to approve or modify the hundreds of provisions included in the Governor’s proposed 2017-2019 biennial budget. The full JFC process is expected to last through the end of May or into early June. Once JFC is finished with the budget, both houses of the legislature will vote on the modified version before it goes back to the Governor for his approval.
Opioid Task Force Legislation
On Monday, March 27, the JFC voted to unanimously approved seven bills focused on combatting the growing opioid and heroin abuse epidemic in Wisconsin. These bills are part of the Special Session on Opioid Abuse requested by Governor Walker. The bills approved by the committee include:
- Special Session Assembly Bill 2, which would provide $4.3 million over the 2017-19 biennium to the Department of Justice to provide grants under the treatment and diversion program, which helps counties pay for alternative to incarceration programs for those who are abusing alcohol or drugs.
- Special Session Assembly Bill 6, which would authorize the creation of a pilot project charter school for no more than 15 high school students in recovery. The state superintendent could provide up to $50,000 in a start-up grant.
- Special Session Assembly Bill 7, which would provide the Department of Health Services (DHS) $126,000 to expand an existing graduate medical training program to increase the number of physicians trained in addiction specialty.
- Special Session Assembly Bill 8, which would add another two or three opioid treatment programs DHS must create in underserved and high-need, but not necessarily rural, areas. Current law requires two to three in rural, underserved, and high-need areas. The bill also would add $1 million annually to the program.
- Special Session Assembly Bill 9, which would require DHS to create an addiction medicine consultation program to aid clinicians in providing enhanced care to those with an addiction. It would provide $500,000 annually for the program.
- Special Session Assembly Bill 10, which would authorize four new criminal investigation agents at the Department of Justice to focus on drug interdiction and trafficking.
- Special Session Assembly Bill 11, which would require the Department of Public Instruction to provide training to aid in addressing mental health issues in schools.
These bills are now available to be scheduled for a vote by the full State Assembly and Senate before being sent to the Governor for his signature. It is possible that some or all of the opioid task force bills will be on the Senate or Assembly’s session calendars on April 4.