State News: Evers Renews Call for ‘Red Flag’ Gun Law; More

Gov. Tony Evers is calling for the Republican-controlled state Legislature to approve Democrats’ proposed changes to Wisconsin gun laws, including “extreme-risk protection orders.”

The governor’s call comes about a month after he and Democratic lawmakers rolled out a proposal to expand background checks on gun sales in Wisconsin. Evers said state lawmakers have taken too long to act in the wake of mass shootings across the country. 

“Each and every day officials choose cowardice over common sense,” he said. “The consequences of inaction are too high.”

Under the proposal, which is also sometimes called a “red flag” law, family or friends can petition a judge to temporarily revoke other people’s right to buy, own or carry weapons if they believe those people may be a threat to themselves or others. The revocation would be effective for up to one year and could be extended.

Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) is sponsoring the bill in the state Assembly and has been a longtime champion of the measure. The bill is circulating for co-sponsorship among lawmakers.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) released a joint statement saying they continue to oppose the proposals. 

“It’s widely known that we believe this legislation poses threats to due process and the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” they said.

Special Election to Be Held Jan. 27

Gov. Tony Evers announced on Monday that the special election to replace Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) will be held Jan. 27. If a primary is required, it will be held Dec. 30.

Duffy announced in August that he would resign from Congress, citing complications in the pregnancy of his wife, Fox News commentator Rachel Campos Duffy, who is having the couple’s ninth child. His resignation took effect at 5 pm Monday.

Democratic district chair Kim Butler pointed to the surprise win of Democratic state Sen. Patty Schachtner of Somerset in a January 2018 special election in the district as proof that Democrats can compete. 

Evers said in a statement that “the people of Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District deserve to have a voice in Congress, which is why I am calling for a special election to occur quickly.”

Legislators Push In-State Tuition for Tribes

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has put forth a bill that would give in-state tuition to a member of any tribe nationwide who enrolls at a University of Wisconsin System campus.

To qualify, students must be enrolled with a tribe that’s recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. The bill’s advocates say they hope to see more flexibility for tribes that haven’t been recognized by the federal government to take part.

State Rep. Nick Milroy (D-South Range) said the bill provides opportunities for American Indian students to attend school in Wisconsin and increase diversity on UW campuses.

“A lot of these people have ancestors that lived in Wisconsin who were pushed off the land,” he said. “I think it is a way to reconcile the past mistakes that the U.S. government has made.”

Milroy said he’s hopeful the bill will pass through the Legislature but is uncertain of the UW System’s stance on the legislation.

The ACA Health Rebate Check’s in the Mail

Refunds are going to more than 50,000 consumers who bought health insurance last year through Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative, which serves 20 counties in eastern Wisconsin.

The health care co-op will pay out $18.5 million in premium rebates because anticipated medical and pharmacy claims were lower than projected. The average rebate for each member will be $370. 

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurers that sell to individuals and small businesses are required to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care under what’s known as the medical loss ratio. The remaining 20 percent is for marketing, administrative costs and profit. Companies with large group plans must spend more of premium dollars on health care.  

“We fully support this provision of the ACA because it ensures our members’ premiums are being spent on what they should be – their medical expenses,” said Cathy Mahaffey, CEO of the health co-op.

Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative, which began under the ACA to compete with private insurers, is one of only four health co-ops – operating in five states – that continues, out of an original 23 co-ops.

The bur oak tree on Glenn and Tizza Meyer’s farm in Waukesha County. Image courtesy of the Waukesha County Land Conservancy.

See Biggest Bur Oak Tree Next Month

It started as an acorn in southeastern Wisconsin in 1711. Today it’s the biggest, and one of the oldest, bur oaks in the state. The Wisconsin champion tree is growing on Tizza and Glenn Meyer’s Waukesha County farm. 

On Oct. 5, the Meyers will open their farm to the public for Oaktober Fest, an event hosted with the Waukesha County Land Conservancy to raise money for the conservancy, which protects 3,000 acres of land across that county.

Tizza Meyer, who affectionately calls the tree “the Queen,” said the event is a celebration of the great oaks. 

“They give us virtually the air we breathe,” she said. “Many of the different species of oaks have fallen to disease – the white oaks and the red oaks – and so far the bur oak has been healthy, and we want to keep it that way.”

Meyer likens the tree to a “giant elephant foot.” Its base is 23 feet around, and the tree reaches more than 62 feet into the sky. Bur oaks are muscular trees whose branches will grow all the way to the ground if not pruned.

The tree is in good company at the Meyers’ farm, which has been around since 1843. Eleven other trees on the property are also more than 200 years old, she said. 

In 1988, climatologists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered how old the trees were when they took bore samples to study climate change in old trees.

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2019, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.