Reps in the News: Dec. 6-13

Representative Joel Kitchens

Rep. Joel Kitchens released the following statement regarding a bill that has been criticized for making it easier to place violent sexual offenders in areas where children may be present:

“I can assure you that the purpose of SB-60 was not to put our children in danger by allowing sex offenders to be housed in close proximity to places where our younger people tend to congregate …

“It was common practice for our urban communities to dump their offenders in rural counties, leaving them to assume the risk and the expense of monitoring them. But that changed during the previous legislative session, when the former governor signed a bill that prohibited counties from placing offenders in a county that is not their county of residence …

“Shortly thereafter, we started receiving complaints from the urban centers that the 1,500-foot requirement was not practical in densely populated areas, where nearly every city block contains at least one of these facilities …

“SB-60 would have allowed counties to make their own decisions on how much setback would be needed, either by policy or by evaluating each case individually. The bill would have also permitted counties to go beyond 1,500 feet if that’s what they thought was best for them.

“It goes without saying that nobody wants our children exposed to sexual predators. But counties know their communities the best and have the knowledge to assess all the risks when making a determination. It would certainly be understandable if a county in the sparsely populated Northwoods chose a different setback than that of downtown Milwaukee.”

Source: Kitchens e-newsletter

Senator Tammy Baldwin

Sen. Tammy Baldwin is co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation to prevent the Veterans Administration (VA) from charging veterans for its own accounting mistakes.

The VA annually sends as many as 200,000 overpayment notices totaling thousands of dollars to veterans and their families, sending them into debt and withholding future benefits payments until the debt is paid. These overpayments are often a result of the VA’s own accounting errors, but the VA puts veterans and their families on the hook for repaying the debt.

The bipartisan Veterans Debt Fairness Act, led by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), would reduce these overpayment errors and require the VA to hold itself, and not veterans, accountable for its mistakes. 

“Forcing our veterans and their families to use their VA benefits for the department’s own accounting mistakes dishonors their service and sacrifice,” Baldwin said. 

Source: Baldwin press release

Governor Tony Evers

Gov. Tony Evers signed more than 30 bills into law this week, including a measure to make voting more accessible to people with disabilities.

State voting rules require people to state their name and address at a polling place before they can vote. Now there’s an exception for people with speech-affecting disabilities: They may use written identification instead. An election official or a trusted person may also say the voter’s name and address for them.

Beth Swedeen, executive director of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, said the new law is a “piece of the puzzle” to improving voting access, but not the only one.

“Transportation is a big barrier because a lot of people with disabilities don’t drive,” she said, “and as you know, polling places aren’t often close enough, especially in rural areas, for people to get there on their own without some support.”

A Rutgers University study found that in Wisconsin’s 2018 elections, there was a 10.4 percent voter turnout gap between people with disabilities and people without disabilities.

Source: Wisconsin Public Radio