Republicans eye pre-existing conditions bill for lame duck

By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican lawmakers are considering passing a bill guaranteeing health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions as part of a lame-duck legislative session next week that could also include measures to weaken Wisconsin's Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos have been in discussions on exactly what will be taken up in the session, designed to give outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker once last chance to sign bills into law.

In an emailed newsletter late Thursday, Vos confirmed that the pre-existing conditions issue would be on the agenda. He noted that the Assembly passed such a bill last year; it stalled in the Senate.

Vos didn't specify what else would be part of the session.

Other ideas being considered include moving the 2020 presidential primary election; limiting Evers' ability to appoint members of the state economic development agency; restricting the governor's rule-making powers; enacting work requirements for Medicaid recipients; and enshrining in law rules related to Wisconsin's voter photo ID mandate.

Republicans want to move the presidential primary because of expected high Democratic turnout that would make it harder for conservative Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly to win election, Fitzgerald said Tuesday. Kelly's election is in April 2020, the same date as the presidential primary. Kelly was appointed by Walker and is part of a 4-3 conservative majority on the court.

Court spokesman Tom Sheehan said Kelly declined to comment.

Debate over protecting people with pre-existing conditions was central to Walker's losing bid for re-election, Wisconsin's U.S. Senate race and other campaigns this year. Walker said he favored enacting the same protections that are in federal law, which goes much further than what the Assembly approved earlier this year. That bill stalled in the Senate.

Evers supports the federal Affordable Care Act and its provisions guaranteeing insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. He has said he would remove Wisconsin from a federal lawsuit, authorized by Walker, seeking repeal of the law on his first day in office.

The lame-duck session could begin as soon as Tuesday, Fitzgerald told the Wisconsin State Journal on Thursday. The bills would be made public on Friday with a public hearing on Monday, he said.

Fitzgerald's chief of staff Dan Romportl said a public notice related to the lame-duck session was expected to come later Thursday. He said Fitzgerald and Vos were still negotiating details of what will be taken up.

Lawmakers are moving quickly to take action before the holidays but, more importantly, before Evers is sworn into office on Jan. 7.

They originally discussed returning only to consider a tax incentive bill designed to keep consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark Corp. from closing an Appleton-area plant, at the cost of about 390 jobs.

But Republicans still don't have the votes for that bill, making it unlikely to be taken up.

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