Assembly Passes Bills to Help Homeless
Also approves grant program changes that could attract more minority teachers.
State lawmakers on Tuesday voted to approve proposals to combat homelessness in Wisconsin and create exceptions to so-called “step therapy” prescription drug prescribing protocols in the state.
The homelessness bills passed by the Assembly on unanimous, voice votes, would increase funding for homeless shelters and a number of support programs, including employment and training services.
Republican lawmakers have made homelessness a focus of legislation for several years.
“We need to continue to do whatever we can to highlight the big issue that this is,” said Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, before the votes.
The proposals include plans to:
- Increase state grant funding for homeless shelters by $1 million over the next two years, a 50 percent increase, and add performance metrics to help incentivize shelters to move people into stable housing.
- Provide $600,000 over the next two years for a “housing navigator” grant program that connects homeless individuals and families to landlords with available housing.
- Require state and local workforce development boards to consider homeless populations in their work.
- Increase funding from $250,000 to $500,000 in each of the next two years for skills enhancement grants for homeless individuals.
The bills have yet to be taken up in the state Senate.
Step Therapy Proposal Moves To Governor’s Desk
Assembly lawmakers also voted unanimously to approve a bill that would create exceptions to so-called “step therapy” prescription drug prescribing protocols in Wisconsin.
Step therapy occurs when health insurers push for patients to try the least expensive drug before more costly or riskier therapies. Some argue that can prevent patients from getting the treatment their doctors say they need.
“I think this is a good day for patients in Wisconsin to get the treatment they really need without bureaucracy standing in the way,” said Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, who sponsored the legislation.
The bill had bipartisan support.
“Our No. 1 priority is to benefit the people of our state who want to have patient control and patient access to what might be the best therapy for them,” said Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh.
Possible Statewide Expansion Of Minority Teacher Program
A bill that would expand a program aimed at bringing more minority teachers into classrooms was also approved on Tuesday afternoon.
The measure passed on a unanimous, voice vote of the Assembly.
Under the proposal, a grant program that offers loan forgiveness for minority teachers who teach in schools that have at least 40 percent minority students would be expanded statewide.
Right now, only teachers in Milwaukee schools are eligible for the program.
Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, who sponsored the legislation, said research has shown minority teachers improve classroom performance among minority students.
“When we talk about closing the achievement gap, this is something we can do,” Loudenbeck said before the vote.
The proposal has yet to be voted on in the state Senate.
Listen to the WPR report here.
State Assembly Approves Bills On Homelessness, Step Therapy was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.