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Capitol Roundup: Budget debate continues, Society testifies on 2 bills

With the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance (JCF) continuing its work on the 2015-2017 biennial state budget and numerous other committees churning through proposed legislation, the State Capitol is a busy place in June. The Wisconsin Medical Society has weighed in on many of these issues, including the following:

Joint Finance/Budget: Last Friday, May 29, JCF held its most recent voting session to make changes to Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal, including the University of Wisconsin System. As part of an omnibus motion, the budget-writing committee restored funding for the rural residency assistance program and the physician and dentist loan assistance program—results the Society supported. Progress on the budget overall stalled this week as majority Republicans (who control the committee 12-4) struggle to reach consensus on potential changes to the governor’s transportation funding proposal, as well as controversy over public funding for a Milwaukee Bucks arena.

20-week Abortion Ban: The Society testified and submitted written comments against a bill that would define a fetus as being capable of experiencing pain if the probable post-fertilization age of the unborn fetus is 20 or more weeks. The bill also would prohibit the performance of an abortion—except in a medical emergency—after 20 weeks. In addition to the bill’s definition of fetal pain, which is not based on the best and most rigorous scientific evidence accepted by medicine, the Society also voiced concern about its interference with the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship, its criminalization of physicians who perform medically necessary procedures, and that it would mandate into state statute specific medical standards of care that are unsafe for the health of pregnant mothers. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved Senate Bill 179 early this afternoon on a party-line 3-2 vote (Republican members voting for, Democratic members against). The bill is expected to be on next Tuesday’s full Senate calendar.

CBD Oil: The Society testified against a bill that would change the state’s definition of tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) to exclude cannabidiol (CBD oil). The State Assembly’s Committee on Children and Families held a public hearing on Assembly Bill 228, which removes a requirement that in order to possess CBD oil, the product would need to be obtained as part of an investigational drug study.

Contact Mark Grapentine, JD, or Chris Rasch in the Society’s Government and Legal Affairs Department with any questions.

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