State News: Gun Control, NAFTA, Health Insurance

Shorewood Supports ‘Smart Gun’ Resolution

Gun manufacturers are encouraged to adopt so-called smart gun technology under a resolution passed by the village board in the Milwaukee suburb of Shorewood Monday night.

A few Wisconsin mayors, including Madison’s Paul Soglin and Milwaukee’s Tom Barrett, have already signed on to a national campaign called Do Not Stand Idly By, which aims to make guns safer. The Shorewood Village Board may be the first legislative body in Wisconsin to express its support of the national campaign.

Smart guns use fingerprint or handgrip recognition technology to limit who can fire a weapon.

Shorewood resident Rod DePue said it’s possible federal politicians will tighten gun laws after last week’s mass shooting in Florida that killed 17 people, but he said grassroots efforts are needed too.

Do Not Stand Idly By hopes to get more police departments and the United States military to demand smart gun options when buying new weapons, and not do business with dealers whose guns are often found at crime scenes.


Dems Line Up to Challenge Duffy

There are now five announced candidates who say they will compete in the Aug. 14 Democratic Party primary in order to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy in northern Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District.

Margaret Engebretson, a Polk County lawyer and U.S. Navy veteran, announced her candidacy at a news conference last week in Superior.

Another 7th District candidate, physician and former Marshfield Clinic CEO Brian Ewert, said the 2018 elections could produce a Democratic Party wave.

Bob Look, a former central Wisconsin radio host and program director, said he is running in part because of the issue of gun control. Look lost his wife Dianne in a multiple shooting incident last March in Wausau.

Also running is Kyle Frenette, the manager of Grammy-winning indie rock band Bon Iver, which was formed in Eau Claire. Frenette is also the founder of the artist management firm Middle West Management.

The field of candidates also includes David Beeksma, a psychologist from Ashland.

Duffy’s campaign manager Mark Bednar said he was not immediately concerned.

“We know for sure that Democrats are going to have kind of a messy, crowded primary, and they’re going to be slugging it out until the middle of August,” Bednar said. “At the same time, Congressman Duffy is going to continue to fight for northern Wisconsin families, and they’re going to continue to support him because they know that he’s fighting for their interests in Washington.”

Duffy was swept into office in the 2010 Republican Party wave and is running for his fifth term.


Ag Support for NAFTA Grows Louder

More Wisconsin agriculture and food groups are joining Americans for Farmers and Families, a national coalition that supports continuing free trade with Canada and Mexico. Some in the agriculture industry worry the United States will leave the North American Free Trade Agreement, as it remains under negotiation.

The Trump administration is unhappy with the current deal but Kari Kuehl with the Wisconsin-based American Dairy Association – one of the coalition’s eight new members – said pulling out of NAFTA would put dairy farms at risk.

“We intend to do all we can to make clear to President Trump and other policymakers the need to remain in NAFTA even as discussion takes place on updating it,” Kuehl said.

According to the U.S. Dairy Export Council, the value of cheese exports to Mexico in 2016 was more than $362 million. Cheese exports to Canada were roughly $66.9 million.

For that reason, David Ward of the Cooperative Network, which represents dairy businesses that work with independent dairy farmers, said the 400 members across Wisconsin and Minnesota are in favor of tweaking the agreement but not scrapping it.

“We need to remind people of the importance of those agriculture markets to Wisconsin and United States agriculture,” said Ward. “And remind people of the importance of agriculture to Wisconsin’s economy.”

Agriculture supports close to 400,000 Wisconsin jobs and injects $90 billion into the state’s economy, Ward said. If the U.S. walks away from NAFTA, he said, Canada and Mexico could create trading partnerships with other countries.

Bloomberg reports the next round of NAFTA talks will begin at the end of the month in Mexico City.  


‘Self-Fund’ Employee Health Insurance Bill Debated

A bill scheduled to be taken up by the state Assembly this week would allow small businesses to band together to offer a new type of insurance plan to employees, a move Democrats say could have major negative consequences.

Under the bill, businesses could pool their money to “self-fund” employee health benefits. But, as the proposal is currently written, these “employer groups” would not have to comply with state laws for health insurance, which include requirements for coverage of certain procedures and treatments.

“The essential benefits of health care would be gone,” said Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville. “Colorectal cancer screening gone, copayment equality for chemotherapy that we worked on hard a couple sessions ago, gone.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Shannon Zimmerman, R-River Falls, said he is open to changing the proposal to include those coverage requirements. Zimmerman said his primary goal with the legislation is to make it more affordable for small businesses to provide insurance coverage to their employees.

The proposal is scheduled to be voted on by the full state Assembly within the week.


Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2018, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.

Article Comments