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Briefs: MADD urges Walker to veto sobriety proposal

Wisconsin: MADD urges Walker to veto sobriety proposal

MADISON, Wis. — Mothers Against Drunk Drivers is urging Gov. Scott Walker to veto a bill that would allow judges to place offenders in a sobriety testing program in lieu of using ignition interlocks.

Wisconsin law requires a judge to order people who improperly refuse breath tests and certain repeat drunken drivers to use interlock devices. The bill allows a judge to place offenders who otherwise would have to use an interlock device to participate in a sobriety program that requires at least twice-daily sobriety tests.

Both the Assembly and Senate passed the bill on voice votes. But MADD National President Colleen Sheehy-Church sent Walker a letter Thursday seeking a veto. She wrote that MADD opposes making ignition locks optional.

A Walker spokeswoman said the governor is reviewing the bill.


Wisconsin: Few provisional ballots cast

MADISON, Wis. — The relatively low number of provisional ballots cast in Wisconsin’s February election could indicate the new voter ID law isn’t having the negative impact some feared.

According to the Government Accountability Board, 91 voters in the February primary election cast provisional ballots, which allow voters without a proper ID to show one by the Friday after the election to have their vote count. Of those, 30 ballots were later validated and 37 were rejected. The board didn’t yet have data for the other ballots.

Board Director Kevin Kennedy says the relatively small number probably speaks well to people’s preparation.

But heading into the April 5 election, voting advocacy groups are concerned the higher proportion of first-time and infrequent voters will ratchet up the number of provisional ballots.


Illinois: State owes $2.8B for worker health care

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois owes roughly $2.8 billion for health care coverage in its state employee group insurance program, a consequence of the stalemate that’s left the state without a budget since July.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports that payment delays to health insurers and medical providers now average 15 months.

The delays can be attributed both to the state’s budget stalemate and to years of underfunding in the group insurance program, said Meredith Krantz of Illinois Central Management Services.

The budget standoff between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrats who control the Legislature is in its ninth month.

Illinois owes Urbana-based Health Alliance Medical Plans $720 million for 16 months’ worth or premiums. Health Alliance is owned by the Carle health system.

The state and its health plans are working with providers to avoid problems for patients covered by the group insurance program, Krantz said.

Carle and Presence Health hospitals have continued to serve state employees without any changes, officials said.

“We treat this no differently than we ever have,” said Deb Schimerowski, chief financial officer for Presence Covenant and Presence United Samaritans medical centers. “We accept the insurance and just wait for the state to pay us.”

The Presence hospitals, located in Urbana and Danville, are waiting for $1.73 million to cover medical claims for patients covered by state employee group insurance, she said.


N. Carolina: Bias law elicits rebukes from businesses

RALEIGH, N.C. — Corporations expressed disappointment and the NCAA vowed to monitor what North Carolina does next now that the state has banned any local government measures protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

American Airlines, which operates its second-largest hub in Charlotte; IBM and Biogen, which have facilities in the state’s Research Triangle; and payments processor PayPal, which had announced plans to hire 400 people in Charlotte only last week, were among major employers condemning the new law Thursday.

The legislature called a special session Wednesday to void a Charlotte ordinance that would have enabled transgender people to legally use restrooms aligned with their gender identity, and would have provided broad protections against discrimination in public accommodations in the state’s largest city.

The new law now prevents the state’s cities and counties from passing their own anti-discrimination rules, and instead imposes a statewide standard that leaves out sexual orientation and gender identity.

North Carolina is the first state to require public school and university students to use only those bathrooms that match their birth certificates, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.


Illinois: Lawmakers give pot bill another try

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Another attempt to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana statewide is again in front of Illinois lawmakers, but as before, they face strong opposition from law enforcement and anti-pot advocates.

The omnibus bill in the Senate also sets a standard for what’s considered too high to drive and automatically purges municipal citation records for possession annually, unless local governments decide against it. Opponents of the legislation dislike both of those provisions, too, saying there should be zero tolerance and that expunging records will make it difficult to determine when someone needs drug treatment.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed last year’s attempt to decriminalize pot, but gave lawmakers guidance on how to proceed if they tried again. Instead of the making the possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana a civil offense, punishable with a fine between $55 and $125, Rauner wanted — and legislators have proposed — the threshold to be lower (10 grams or less) and the fines higher — between $100 and $200.

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