Felzkowski participates in Q & A with Lincoln County Supervisors
Listening sessions with Rep. scheduled for this week
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor
MERRILL – Representative Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) took part in a Q & A session with Supervisors at the Lincoln County Board’s meeting in Merrill on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Felzkowski provided a walkthrough of “what happened in the budget that was a positive for counties” and existing legislation that is being worked on during the State Legislature’s current session before answering questions from Supervisors.
When discussing the budget, Felzkowski noted increases in funding for county transportation projects ($75 million), secured residential care centers for children and youth ($40 million), nursing home reimbursement ($37 million), support for child welfare services ($25.5 million annually), and the new Next Generation 911 system ($6.3 million to keep the transition on schedule). Additional money was also allocated for circuit court support payments, county child support, fraud funding for county income maintenance agencies and county conservation funding.
Felzkowski also noted an increase in the number of Assistant District Attorney positions, an increase in the state public defender rate to $70/hour and an extension of the state’s stewardship program, “which benefits counties greatly.”
A bill regarding the legalization of medical marijuana, of which Felzkowski is the author, will be introduced within the next few weeks, she stated.
The first question for Felzkowski, regarding gerrymandering and the drawing of fair district maps in Wisconsin, came from District 11 Supervisor Hans Breitenmoser, who asked Felzkowski if she would support Assembly Bill 303. The bill would have a non-partisan commission draw the state’s district maps. Breitenmoser noted 48 counties have passed anti-gerrymandering resolutions, which represents 77% of the state’s population, and that 65% of Lincoln County voters supported a referendum to end gerrymandering in last fall’s election.
Felzkowski stated she would not support the bill, saying that, in regards to who would appoint a non-partisan commission, she “hasn’t seen a non-partisan yet.” Felzkowski also noted that the state’s district map that was drawn in 2010 by the Republican-controlled Legislature was found to be “Constitutional and non-gerrymandered” after being challenged in state and federal court.
“(The Supreme Court’s) language was not, ‘This isn’t gerrymandered,’ or ‘This is okay,’ they said, ‘No, this is wrong, but it’s not our place to do anything about it.’ They said, ‘Let your Legislature do something about it,’” Breitenmoser responded.
District 10 Supervisor Jeremy Ratliff asked Felzkowski about what the medical marijuana bill would entail. Felzkowski explained that the bill would allow people to grow up to five medical marijuana plants of their own, allow one-on-one relationships with caregivers and limit the number of dispensaries based on the population of the counties. Citizens would be able to receive separate licenses to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana, and licenses would differ by how many plants a person has in their possession. Labs that would do testing would not be allowed to have financial investments in any of those three processes, Felzkowski noted.
Medical marijuana would have to be recommended by doctors, physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners, and that it would only be a recommendation, not a prescription. A hearing on the matter in the Assembly is likely, but less of a possibility in the Senate, Felzkowski noted.
Felzkowski explained why she does not support the acceptance of $381 million in federal money to expand the state’s Medicaid program. She stated roughly 80,000 Wisconsin residents fall between 100% and 138% of the federal poverty level, and approximately 42,000 out of that 80,000 are currently insured through the Affordable Care Act. A large percentage of that 42,000 pays $0 in premiums due to subsidies, and a “huge cost shift to the private sector” would take place after moving those roughly 80,000 Wisconsinites onto Medicaid, Felzkowski said.
She added that it would also cause, according to the Fiscal Bureau, the average cost of insurance for a family of four to increase between $700 and $900 per year.
Felzkowski provided an update on the progress of bringing broadband internet to rural areas, stating $98.5 million comes in annually from the Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II. The grants are available for counties and townships to apply for.
She also expressed that she hopes white space technology is utilized to expand access to broadband. She referred to white space as “the best technology that’s out there,” but that “the pressure isn’t there to get it done.”
Felzkowski will be hosting a series of listening sessions around her district this month. Sessions will be held at the Tomahawk Public Library from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., and at the Merrill City Hall Council Chambers from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24; and at the Antigo Public Library from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 25.
Those who are unable to make the dates or times of the listening sessions are reminded they can contact Rep. Felzkowski’s office at Rep.Felzkowski@legis.wi.gov or 608-266-7694.