— A bill to expand the state’s hemp industry faces dwindling opposition from law enforcement groups after a Senate amendment addressed their concerns.
The amendment alters a section of the bill that would have eliminated THC — the main psychoactive substance in marijuana — from the state’s list of controlled substances for OWIs.
The bipartisan legislation, SB 188, unanimously passed the Senate Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions Committee Tuesday after getting a public hearing in May. The bill aims to align state statute with newly passed federal regulations on hemp.
Supporters of the bill say it would give the state more control over how hemp is regulated as the burgeoning industry continues to grow.
Initially, a handful of law enforcement groups were opposed to the proposal, fearing it would make it easier for residents to drive under the influence of THC. But now they’ve largely switched their positions to neutral.
According to the state Legislative Council, two tracks exist in state law for prosecuting people for operating vehicles while intoxicated — the impairment track, and the restricted controlled substance track, or RCS track.
Under the impairment route, the prosecution aims to show the driver was too impaired to safely operate their vehicle. But under the RCS track, the prosecution rests on whether the driver had a certain amount of a controlled substance in their system.
Before the amendment, the original bill would have eliminated the RCS track for THC, meaning prosecutions for THC-related OWIs would all be under the impairment track, according to Leg Council.
Instead of removing THC completely from the RCS track, the amendment would set a certain limit for prohibition: one nanogram per milliliter, in this case. Under the amendment, drivers couldn’t legally drive with a higher concentration of THC in their blood. Leg Council says the limit corresponds exactly to the level of accuracy for THC blood tests performed by the state.
— The GOP authors of legislation to create a new dental therapist license in Wisconsin are hailing the proposal as a way to improve access.
But a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Dental Association counters while the lawmakers’ intentions were good, their efforts were misplaced. He said at a hearing yesterday the state would be better off to invest in the care already provided by his members, particularly by improving reimbursement rates under the Medicaid program.
WDA’s Matt Rossetto argued to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee yesterday his members weren’t worried about the possibility of competition from dental therapists, who would be a step down from a dentist in the procedures they could perform.
Still, he said the proposal wouldn’t be as effective as backers argued for expanding access, particularly in rural areas. He said the state has repeatedly opted against increasing reimbursement rates for dental care under the Medicaid program, resulting in Wisconsin slipping to No. 49 in the country. Rossetto argued that has resulted in dentists deciding against participating in the program.
With some 3,700 dentists in the state, he said there are enough to serve the population. But they are concentrated in urban and suburban areas because patients there are more likely to either have insurance or can pay for services on their own.
“We do not have a supply problem,” Rossetto said. “We have a distribution problem.”
But Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, and Sen. David Craig, R-Big Bend, touted their proposal to the Senate committee, arguing it is a needed step to expand access.
“If we don’t have caregivers to perform procedures, all the money in the world won’t help us,” Felzkowski said.
Current law only provides licenses for dentists and dental hygienists. The bill would create a dental therapist who would have to work under the general supervision of a dentist through a collaborative management agreement. They would be able to perform services that range from oral evaluations to tooth extraction.
Felzkowski said the WDA had declined to sit down with the authors to work on the bill, but expressed hope they could in the future.
“I do think there’s common ground that we could help make this maybe a little more palatable, but they have not sat down with us,” she said.
See more on SB 89:
See the WisEye feed of the hearing:
— Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm has won bipartisan backing from a Senate committee despite concerns from Sen. Andre Jacque about “conflicts of interest” within the agency.
Jacque, R-DePere, again said he was concerned about Palm’s decision to hire Nicole Safar, who formerly worked for Planned Parenthood, to fill the agency’s No. 3 slot as assistant deputy secretary. But the committee backed her appointment yesterday 4-1.
Jacque charged Safar, who supervised Planned Parenthood’s legal team that challenged state laws limiting access to abortion, could undermine the state’s defense of abortion restrictions currently being challenged in federal court.
Palm told the committee earlier this year Safar would have no role in making legal decisions at the agency, and fellow GOP Sen. Dale Kooyenga, of Brookfield, said it wasn’t reasonable to expect only those who oppose abortion will work in state government.
He argued the focus should be on Palm’s resume to perform the “blocking and tackling” of managing an agency. He said the former Obama administration official checks that box.
“When we look at public policy and management of the health of Wisconsin, a lot of this shouldn’t be partisan issues,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said earlier this summer he planned to meet with members of his caucus ahead of the fall floor period to discussing Gov. Tony Evers’ cabinet picks.
Palm is the eighth of Evers’ cabinet picks voted out of committee, while none has been brought to the Senate floor. With yesterday’s vote, five members of Gov. Tony Evers’ cabinet are still awaiting a committee vote.
See more at WisPolitics.com: http://www.wispolitics.com/2019/wed-pm-update-senate-committee-backs-palms-appointment-to-lead-dhs/
— Beloit-based Northstar Medical Radioisotopes is partnering with Purdue University to expand the school’s nuclear pharmacy training program.
NorthStar is providing the Indiana University’s College of Pharmacy with one of its RadioGenix machines, which will be used to train students on the production of technetium-99m, the most commonly used medical radioisotope in diagnostic imaging. In return, Purdue will give NorthStar feedback and will test improvements for the system.
According to Eric Barker, dean of the College of Pharmacy, the university has a “rich tradition and legacy” in teaching nuclear pharmacy.
“We will use the RadioGenix System to provide ‘hands-on’ laboratory-based experiences so that our student pharmacists have access to the latest advancements in radiopharmacy production techniques and are well-equipped for the professional workplace,” he said in a release.
The release shows Purdue and NorthStar have worked together on several projects in recent years.
— A Madison-based company called Silatronix has landed a $10.1 million contract from the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research.
The contract is focused on developing specialized battery components, with a goal of improving functionality in batteries used by the military.
In a release, the company thanks U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan for advocating for Wisconsin’s “fast-growing” battery industry, and says the research project was made possible by their support.
The company says the battery research effort will support “many high technology jobs” in the Madison region.
— The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Menasha is getting an $11 million loan from the USDA to build a new public works building.
The city’s current facility, built in 1963, houses the public works and parks department, and also takes drop-offs for recyclable materials and other waste. According to the USDA, it’s become obsolete as vehicles have scaled up in size and both departments are taking on more work.
The existing public works building doesn’t have enough office space or break areas, and storage space is being stretched to the limit. Its vehicle maintenance shop services 66 public works vehicles and eight larger machines, but that’s limited due to the shop’s size.
Menasha’s new facility will have an upgraded maintenance shop and vehicle storage bay, a new office space and break room, a new electrical shop, a woodshop and a new welding space.
The funds for the project come from the USDA’s Community Facilities Direct Loan Program, which is doling out $52 million for 45 projects in 16 states.
See the full list of projects: http://www.rd.usda.gov/files/USDARD_CF_NR_CHART082119.pdf
— Businesses damaged during a storm that recently hit central Wisconsin can apply for interest-free loans from the state.
According to a release, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. has allotted $1 million to the Disaster Recovery Microloan Program for companies damaged in the storms that occurred around July 18. Gov. Tony Evers had declared a state of emergency at the time.
The loans will be administered by the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and the North Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. The WEDC release shows at least 60 businesses are likely to need assistance; they are clustered in Wood, Langlade, Barron and Polk counties.
Eligible businesses can apply for “microloans” of up to $20,000 with no interest, to fund repair costs and temporary operating expenses. The loans have a two-year repayment period, and recipients don’t have to start paying them back for six months.
— The Wisconsin Technology Council is calling on businesses to apply to tell their stories at this year’s Early Stage Symposium, taking place Nov. 6-7 in Madison.
Applying companies have multiple pitch opportunities: the Tech Council Investor Networks track; and the Elevator Pitch Olympics, which challenge company leaders to fit a standard pitch into a shorter format.
The Tech Council is also holding its Investor Intros series at the event, giving selected companies a chance to briefly meet with angel and venture capital investors.
The deadline for companies to apply is 5 p.m. Sept. 20.
See the release and application details: http://www.wisbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Companies-may-apply-now-to-present-at-Early-Stage-Symposium-8-13-19.pdf
# Overflow delegates to 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee may be staying in Chicago suburbs — about 80 miles away
# Out-of-state companies moving headquarters to Wisconsin by the dozens
# Milwaukee startup Frontdesk raises $2.75 million bridge round
# MGE offers cash for electric vehicle drivers who join Lyft; utility, ride service hope to increase awareness
– Wisconsin’s apple crop promising after polar vortex devastates peaches
– Workshop helps support farmers during challenging times
– Pattee Group buys more Historic Mitchell Street buildings for rehab
– WEDC offers no-interest loans to businesses affected by July storms
# FOOD AND BEVERAGE
– Good City to host neighborhood festival, ribbon cutting at Century City
– Heartland whiskey named best distillery in Wisconsin
# HEALTH CARE
– Evers’ health secretary advances past GOP committee
– For Planned Parenthood Wisconsin, Title X funding ended months ago
– Ritus Corp. and sister companies acquired by Blue Point Capital
– Legislation looks to improve dental care where it’s scarce
– Wisconsin hemp bill changed to appease law enforcement
– Evers’ pick to lead health agency wins committee approval
# REAL ESTATE
– Curative Care sells Menomonee Falls property for $1.1 million
– Malcolm Drilling buys Mukwonago land for new facility
– King Drive building sold to redevelopment group that includes BID director Agee
– Bear management zones to remain unchanged in 2019, 2020
– DNR board to consider rule closing grouse season early
– Ted Balistreri on why Sendik’s is already renovating at The Corners
– Kohl’s says strategies are bringing customers into stores
– Michael’s Frozen Custard on Monroe Street to close after owner’s husband denied U.S. visa
– The high road: Cannabis will be legal in Illinois as of Jan. 1 and Beloit police are worried
– For Hundreds Of Paddlers, PaddleQuest Is Fantasy ‘Magic’ On Wisconsin River Backwaters
– Cambria Hotel opens in downtown Milwaukee
– Plain Talk: What ever happened to Madison’s commuter rail concept?
# PRESS RELEASES
<i>See these and other press releases: