State News: Ice Age Trail, ACA Lawsuit

Ice Age Trail Could Get Elevated Status

A bill introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers would elevate the status of the Ice Age Trail, which includes 22 miles running through southern Door County.

It would also elevate the status of the North Country National Scenic Trail, possibly bringing in more funding to maintain and expand them. The legislation seeks to designate the Ice Age and North Country National Scenic Trails as units of the National Park Service, as well as the New England National Scenic Trail.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner are sponsoring the legislation. The two introduced the bill last session, but it never made it to the floor for a vote.

The two trails are administered by the National Park Service in cooperation with other local, state and federal partners. However, Baldwin told Wisconsin Public Radio they don’t have full trail status. She said the bill would put the Ice Age and North Country National Scenic Trails on a level playing field with others in the National Park Service that receive funding.

Kevin Thusius, director of land conservation with the Ice Age Trail Alliance, said the bill would allow them to access funding that’s available only to trails designated as a unit of the National Park Service.

There are 670 miles of Ice Age Trail open for use. Once complete, the trail is expected to stretch more than 1,200 miles.

Baldwin: Flood-Prone Communities Need More Help

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other programs need to invest more in helping Wisconsin communities endure repeated flooding.

During a visit to La Crosse on April 5, Baldwin met with regional mayors, emergency responders and weather researchers to talk about repeated flooding in western Wisconsin. Flash floods continue to hit the same communities as the region sees more frequent severe storms.

Baldwin said federal recovery programs have to stop limiting people to rebuilding the same buildings or infrastructure that was lost.

“We’re averaging about five inches more per year of rainfall,” said Dan Baumgardt, science and operations officer at the National Weather Service in La Crosse. “The disturbing thing is since about 2015, we’re on even a higher trend of extreme events: ’15, ’16, ’17 and ’18 are some of the wettest years on record.”

Wisconsin Fully Removed from ACA Lawsuit

A federal appeals court has granted Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul’s request to leave a multi-state lawsuit that seeks to overturn the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The move means Wisconsin is now out of the case at every level, fulfilling a promise Kaul and Gov. Tony Evers made repeatedly during their 2018 campaigns. A federal district court granted a similar request last week.

Evers and Kaul were initially blocked from leaving the case by a law Republicans passed during December’s lame-duck session of the state Legislature.

That law required Wisconsin governors and attorneys general to get the permission of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee before leaving federal litigation. Republicans who run that committee have shown no willingness to take that step, saying they support the ACA lawsuit.

“If the challenge to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is successful, people with a pre-existing condition will lose critical protections,” Kaul said. “The state of Wisconsin will no longer be using tax dollars to support this lawsuit, which is contrary to interests of Wisconsinites.”

Eight Wisconsin Nursing Homes in Receivership

Dycora Transitional Health and Living Center, which operates eight skilled nursing facilities – or nursing homes – in Wisconsin is under new management as it goes through receivership.

Nursing-home operators are struggling with Wisconsin’s current Medicaid reimbursement system. Menominee River, an affiliate of nursing-home operator Golden Living, will operate the facilities during the transition.

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