MON AM News: Cancer clinical trial reimbursement bill supported by health care providers; DNR to re-evaluate JCI investigation of PFAS contamination

— Legislation to reimburse cancer clinical trial participants for related expenses is being hailed as a step forward in the field of cancer research. 

Dr. James Thomas is a medical oncologist with the Medical College of Wisconsin. He says clinical trials for cancer benefit society as well as the patients involved, as the treatments being tested often represent their best chance at survival. 

“The faster we can recruit patients to clinical trials, the faster we complete clinical trials,” he said last week during a public hearing held by the Assembly Committee on Health. “Then we can answer questions and cancer research can move on, and we can come up with new and better treatments for this devastating disease.” 

According to the Wisconsin Cancer Council, cancer is the leading cause of death in the state with over 11,000 patients dying from the disease each year. 

MCW currently has over 160 active cancer clinical trials with participants coming from all over the state. Thomas says the new bill would ensure that travel and lodging costs won’t be a barrier for rural residents and others looking to get involved. 

The bill has the support of MCW, Marshfield Clinic Health System, the American Cancer Society Action Network, the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, the Wisconsin Medical Society and the Wisconsin Nurses Association. It was authored by Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, and Rep. Bob Kulp, R-Stratford. 

During last week’s hearing, a research assistant from Kulp’s office noted cancer clinical trial patients are traveling longer distances to reach treatment facilities, which can pose challenges for residents of remote areas. 

“In addition, expenses that aren’t covered by cancer clinical trial sites or sponsors can be significant,” said Laura Riske, pointing to things like airfare, parking fees, and lodging during treatment. 

See more: 

— The DNR says it will re-evaluate a PFAS pollution analysis plan from Johnson Controls Inc. and subsidiary Tyco Fire Products after a Marinette homeowner discovered their private well was contaminated. 

The agency has provided the homeowner with emergency drinking water. Their property is located near an ongoing groundwater study for PFAS contamination linked to JCI and Tyco. 

PFAS contamination has been found in the Marinette and Peshtigo areas in soil, groundwater, surface water, private drinking water wells, and other areas. DNR identified JCI and Tyco as responsible parties and has directed them to investigate these impacted areas. 

According to a release from DNR, the agency gave JCI and Tyco a chance to resample the homeowner’s well and provide water, but the companies declined the offer. DNR has moved forward with the re-testing and plans to reassess the boundaries of the groundwater contamination study area as well as the companies’ investigation plan. 

Fraser Engerman, director of global media relations for Johnson Controls, says the company has previously conducted “numerous tests” of the groundwater running between Tyco’s Fire Technology Center and properties near the FTC. 

“These tests have demonstrated that any PFAS at this location is not associated with the FTC,” he said in an email. “In addition, the chemical characteristics reported in the laboratory results that this homeowner obtained is different from what is in the groundwater associated with the FTC.”  

Engerman said the companies declined DNR’s request based on these findings, which have been shared with the agency. He says the companies have spent millions of dollars on the FTC remediation project and will “continue to do everything we can” to ensure impacted residents have safe drinking water. 

“It is critical that the DNR now takes the necessary steps to identify all other sources of PFAS in the community to ensure that they are stopped,” he said. “Tyco will continue to do its part and stands behind our responsibility to the communities in Marinette and the Town of Peshtigo.”  

See the DNR release: 

— Nonfarm jobs in the Milwaukee metro area reached an all-time high in November, according to a recent economic trends report from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. 

Still, MMAC Economic Research Director Bret Maybourne says the metro area’s overall economic performance has been “less than robust” for most of last year. 

“Nonetheless there has been a noticeable improvement in the local employment picture as we close out 2019, with strong overall job growth and record highs,” he said in a release. 

The economic trends report shows 10 of 22 economic indicators were trending upward in November compared to the same point in 2018. That’s the same number of positive factors identified in MMAC’s September and October reports. 

According to the report, nonfarm employment reached 893,200 in November, exceeding the previous high of 890,300 from the month prior. Job numbers increased 1.6 percent over the year in November, which is the strongest year-over-year gain since January 2016. 

Five of the 10 major sectors in Milwaukee posted job increases over the year, with the strongest gains seen in leisure and hospitality. Over the same period, the area’s manufacturing sector had a 2 percent decrease in employment. 

Other indicators for manufacturing got worse in November, including the average workweek for production workers as well as average weekly earnings. 

See the release: 

— The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce is highlighting the city’s first-place ranking in SmartAsset’s list of cities with the best work-life balance. 

This marks the third year in a row Madison has nabbed the top spot on the list. The city ranks in the top 10 percent of the study for six of 10 metrics incorporated in the ranking. 

SmartAsset is a company that provides financial technology services and routinely publishes studies on various economic indicators of metro areas around the country. This latest study showed Madison had the lowest unemployment rate across all 100 listed cities, at 1.9 percent. 

The city has a relatively low percentage of workers who commute longer than an hour, at 2.3 percent. On average, Madison workers commute less than 20 minutes and work less than 37 hours per week, the study shows. 

Madison was also ranked in the top 10 percent for its share of arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments, as well as the prevalence of bars. About 2.2 percent of all businesses in the city fall into the first category, while 1 percent of Madison establishments are bars. 

See the full ranking: 

— Foxconn has backed off a deal for a $5 billion manufacturing plant in India, according to a recent report from the Times of India. 

The report shows Foxconn cited various economic factors in scrapping the deal, which had originally called for the creation of 50,000 jobs. 

See more in Foxconn Reports below. 

— Wisconsin Democrats’ efforts to expand the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act have stalled while other holdout states are moving to expand their programs in various ways. 

Kansas’ Dem governor and Republican Senate leader recently announced a deal to expand their program, though it still has to be approved by state lawmakers. If it goes through, Kansas would be the 37th state to move forward with expansion. 

Axios reports that Missouri and Oklahoma residents will vote on expansion initiatives this year while the Medicaid expansion fight continues in North Carolina. 

In August, Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-West Point, and Rep. Daniel Riemer, D-Milwaukee, introduced the latest bill to expand Wisconsin’s Medicaid program. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations on Aug. 22, but has not yet had a public hearing. 

Their bill would expand Medicaid eligibility to 133 percent of the federal poverty level and accept more federal dollars through the ACA. 

Gov. Tony Evers had previously included an expansion plan in his budget proposal that was later removed by GOP lawmakers. 

See more in Health Care headlines below.  


# Despite Q3 uptick, Wisconsin’s economic growth still among the slowest

# Milwaukee-area event planner bulks up professional staff to capture DNC business

# Xcel plan to idle coal plants could save millions, slash carbon emissions; could Wisconsin utilities do the same?

# Judge: County violated federal Indian law in zoning dispute with Lake Superior tribe



– Anheuser-Busch InBev unveils commercial plans for Super Bowl, a year after launching ‘corngate’


– PDPF raises $376,000 during 2018-19

– Wisconsin to host national Outstanding Farmer competition in ’21


– Central Standard plans tasting room, events venue at historic downtown building

– Dishing up change: How Milwaukee’s dining scene developed in 2019


– Foxconn won’t set up proposed unit in Maharashtra, says Shiv Sena minister

– Foxconn scraps $5B manufacturing plant in India


– With Kansas deal, Medicaid expansion marches on

– Milwaukee-based PROMISS Diagnostics raises $400,000


– French investment firm acquires Milwaukee-based Crisis Prevention Institute


– Joseph Project to provide job training to Sheboygan County residents


– Bulgrin to serve as president of national onion group


– Johnson Controls makes $7.5 million commitment to Milwaukee nonprofits in 2020

– Harley-Davidson branded GMC truck to be rolled out Saturday; just 250 exist


– Bray Architects mulling expansion of Milwaukee office in Walker’s Point

– Irgens aims for ‘Third Ward’ feel at downtown office towers with pocket park


– Kohl’s reports decrease in same-store sales during holiday period


– As heavy snow heads for parts of Wisconsin, Packers put out call for snow shovelers


– United Airlines to add nonstop service between Milwaukee and San Francisco


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce: November economic trends

Savant Capital Management and Huber Financial Advisors: Announce Merger