Flexible Fee Option Proposed for State Parks
Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget proposal would let Wisconsin state parks charge more for admission during peak times and could raise prices for some annual passes.
Some parks advocates contend the governor and lawmakers are relying too much on fees and donations to keep the parks system running.
The current state budget removed general tax revenue as a source of money for the parks but it gave the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) more flexibility in raising funds from park admission and camping fees, and the DNR has boosted those prices.
Walker’s proposal for the next two fiscal years would go even further by allowing flexible pricing at parks. DNR parks director Ben Bergey said that, for example, fees at some parks might go up on a busy weekend. But Bergey said those increases would be limited to $5, and a daily pass could go from $8 to $13.
An annual state parks sticker for Wisconsin residents for all park properties might increase by up to $10 to $38, while a more limited-access sticker might remain at $28, Bergey said.
Drug Testing For Medicaid Recipients Proposed
The state of Wisconsin is moving closer to mandatory drug testing for some Medicaid recipients.
The testing for childless adults on BadgerCare was included in the 2015-2017 state budget, along with other proposed changes to state-run health care for low-income individuals. In order for the state to implement the mandatory testing, it must receive a waiver from the federal government. The process to seek that waiver began this week.
But as the application process begins, some critics are pushing back.
“It may be very good politics for a governor’s race, but that’s mostly what it is — it’s horrendous public policy,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a liberal advocacy group. “It sets the state back both in terms of health care coverage and in terms of our approach to substance abuse disorders.”
Under the proposal, people who refuse or fail a drug test would be ineligible for benefits. Individuals who fail the test would be referred to a substance abuse treatment program.
Dr. Rich Brown, a substance use prevention expert at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said the move to mandatory testing would work against Republican-authored bills known as the HOPE Agenda, which are aimed at fighting opioid abuse in Wisconsin.
“Withholding Medicaid from people who test positive for drugs would go against the intent of HOPE legislation and deprive people of the most effective treatments for their addictions,” Brown said.
Cannabidiol Oil Bill Signed
Gov. Scott Walker has signed into law a bill that legalizes possession of a marijuana extract used to treat seizures.
The governor signed the bill Monday in Burlington.
Parents of children who suffer from seizures have pushed for access to cannabidiol oil for years. The bill makes possession of the oil legal with a doctor’s certification, but it’s still against the law to produce or sell the oil in the state.
Large Manure Spill Investigated
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says it’s investigating a large manure spill in St. Croix County that happened in December but wasn’t reported until March 29.
The DNR reported the spill occurred at the Emerald Sky Dairy in the Town of Emerald, which is currently permitted to have around 1,700 cows.
A statement from DNR Spokesman Andrew Savagian said the agency is still investigating.
“The majority of the release is contained in a wetland area, downslope from the farm’s waste storage facility,” Savagian said.
The manure spill in St. Croix County was first reported publicly by the advocacy group Emerald Clean Water for All.
The group’s public relations coordinator Kim Dupre said the spill amounted to “tens of thousands of gallons of manure water” that had not been reported to the DNR until after county officials urged staff to do so.
Emerald Sky Dairy has been seeking a permit to expand its operations since March of 2016. The plan is to grow the dairy to 5,860 milking cows and 3,000 calves. The DNR is reviewing the permit application. Emerald Sky Diary received a notice of noncompliance for improperly spreading manure on farm fields.
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