Stuck in a dead heat and with polls showing the public overwhelmingly supports health insurance protections for pre-existing conditions, Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday he wants to adopt a portion of Obamacare verbatim.
The pronouncement from the longtime foe of the Affordable Care Act came at the beginning of a bus tour as he and Democratic rival Tony Evers separately crisscrossed the state ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections.
“People want to know, they want to hear it directly from me that we will always cover people with pre-existing conditions,” Walker told reporters during a campaign event at Mathison Manufacturing in Waukesha. “No matter what happens in the courts or in the Congress, in Wisconsin we’ll codify that, the exact same language that’s in the Affordable Care Act, we’ll make sure that everyone living with pre-existing conditions is covered here in the state.”
It marked a dramatic new course for Walker, who authorized Attorney General Brad Schimel to file a lawsuit this year seeking to end Obamacare. The case is pending in federal court in Texas.
Passing such sweeping protections for those with pre-existing conditions would be nearly impossible in the Republican-controlled state Legislature. The Assembly this year approved a bill to require coverage of pre-existing conditions, but it did not go as far as the Affordable Care Act. GOP Senate leaders could not muster the votes for that measure and it would be even harder to get them to back a bill that went as far as what Walker proposed Thursday.
Evers, the state schools superintendent, said Walker couldn’t be believed.
“Actions speak louder than words, folks,” Evers said in a statement. “Politicians like Scott Walker are always talking out of both sides of their mouth and telling last-minute lies like this. The fact is that Scott Walker spent the past eight years trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and its protections for pre-existing conditions. I’m going to protect coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and Wisconsinites trust me on this issue because that’s what I’ve said since day one.”
And Walker could not deliver everything included in his latest promise even if lawmakers got on board.
The federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act prohibits state laws from regulating private self-insured plans, according to a nonpartisan legislative analysis provided to state Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse.
That means any protections passed by the Legislature would not apply to hundreds of private companies in Wisconsin that self-insure.
In May 2017, Walker said he would consider having the state opt out of Obamacare’s pre-existing conditions protections if given the opportunity but hours later said he wasn’t looking to do that. This year, he has touted protecting pre-existing conditions but until Thursday had never gone so far as to say he wanted to adopt part of Obamacare verbatim.
Through a spokesman, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, declined to say if he agreed with Walker on adopting a portion of Obamacare or whether he could get such a measure through his house. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, did not respond to questions about the issue.
Democrat Josh Kaul, who is running for attorney general, called on Walker to direct Schimel to withdraw from the Affordable Care Act lawsuit.
At a get-out-the-vote event in Milwaukee, Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore said of Walker’s proposal, “It’s a lie. L-I-E. It’s a lie that he is trying to protect the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Scott Walker is a big liar.”
A Marquette University Law School Poll released Wednesday showed Evers and Walker tied at 47 percent among likely voters. That same poll showed that 82 percent said it was very important to have pre-existing conditions coverage for health insurance.
Walker launched a bus tour Thursday, with stops from Waukesha to Green Bay. He was joined by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir.
Evers stopped early Thursday in Tomah before heading off for Eau Claire, Hudson, Superior and Ashland. His running mate, Mandela Barnes, is traveling with him.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin had appearances in Marshfield, Mauston and Madison.
In Tomah—where Evers once worked as a teacher and principal—the candidate emphasized fixing roads, putting more money toward schools and protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions.
He said Walker couldn’t be believed when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, especially after his brief run for president.
“He ran for president saying, ‘I have to be against the Affordable Care Act,’” Evers said at a coffee shop. “And if you’re against the Affordable Care Act, you’re against pre-existing conditions and protections for them.”
He also blasted Walker for refusing to take $1.1 billion in federal help under Obamacare that could have been used to expand health care and lower costs for state taxpayers.
“That’s our money to begin with,” Evers said. “We’re going to take that money and make sure we have good health care in the state of Wisconsin.”
Republicans in the final weeks of the campaign have focused on aspects of illegal immigration, with President Donald Trump saying he would end automatic citizenship for some babies born in the United States.
Legal scholars have said such a change would require a constitutional amendment and cannot be done by the president alone. Walker has declined to say what he thinks of the idea, but Evers said Walker has made it plain he backs Trump on the issue.
“Donald Trump and him apparently are in the same position,” Evers told reporters. “They want to change the Constitution. Well, that’s ridiculous.
“It’s been working for the country for how many years?” Evers said of birthright citizenship. “Other than the natives in this state, we’ve had continual generations of immigrants coming to Wisconsin. They’ve made what Tomah is, they’ve made what Crandon is. We feel good about immigration.”
Evers is traveling in a school bus to emphasize his support for public education. In his speech, he joked that the bus’ bouncy suspension reveals the condition of the state’s roads and the need to put more funds toward fixing them.
“There are Scott holes in the state of Wisconsin,” Evers said.
In Waukesha, Ryan lauded Vukmir as someone who “is going to stand up for our values, who is going to help move this country forward, who is going to help solve problems like we have been focusing on at the federal level.”
Ryan called Walker “the greatest governor in the country” who “tackled Wisconsin’s problems and as a result Wisconsin is doing so well.”
Walker said the election for governor comes down to a clear choice “between more jobs and higher wages or more spending and higher taxes.”
”Tony Evers plan is more spending and higher taxes,” Walker said, claiming his opponent wants to raise a series of taxes.
”Tony’s taxes will cost us jobs,” he said. “Tony’s taxes are a recipe for a return to a recession in the state of Wisconsin.”
Walker told his supporters he needed help and said the airwaves have been filled with lies about his record on pre-existing conditions.
He criticized former President Barack Obama, who during a speech last week in Milwaukee charged Walker and other Republicans were lying about their record on health care.
He recalled that in 2013 Politifact gave it’s “Lie of the Year” to Obama for saying, “If you like your health care, you can keep it.”
”That was the lie of the year,” Walker said. “So, I guess if you’re going to lie about health care and pre-existing conditions you might as well bring in the biggest liar in the world.”
Walker said as long as he’s governor everyone with a pre-existing condition will be covered. He said the issue was personal, since his wife, mother and brother all have pre-existing health conditions.
”We can protect people with pre-existing conditions without protecting the failure, the failure that is Obamacare,” he said. He lauded a $200 million program to lower premiums for individuals who get coverage through the Obamacare marketplaces. The lower costs will start in January.
”That’s the difference between proven leadership and Tony’s talk,” he said.
A Janesville business operator has found a way to comply with—or just get around—the city’s stepped-up enforcement of two-hour parking downtown.
For Shawn Kennedy, the move involves a remote-controlled feature in his Tesla crossover SUV, and it’s rooted in what he calls a “strategy of sheer laziness.”
Call it the “Downtown Janesville Slide.”
Kennedy operates SASid, an insurance services company, out of the Carriage Works building at the corner of East Milwaukee Street and North Parker Drive. From the window of his upstairs offices, he can use his vehicle’s key fob or his phone to remotely tell his 2017 Tesla Model X to roll back and forth from one open spot to an adjacent one along North Parker Drive.
That move helps Kennedy comply with the city’s stricter enforcement of two-hour public parking on some streets and city parking lots downtown. As far as Kennedy’s aware, there’s no rule against sliding from one adjacent spot to the next to avoid a parking ticket.
Because his Tesla is equipped with an automatic device called “Summon,” Kennedy can direct it to move back and forth even if he’s not inside the vehicle.
As long as there’s an adjacent parking spot open, Kennedy’s novel life hack works.
“I’m generally pretty lazy. I thought if I didn’t have to come outside to move the car once every two hours, it would be great. So this is a case of my sheer laziness paying off,” he said.
On Thursday afternoon—officially the first day the city was set to give $15 tickets to violators of two-hour parking rules—Kennedy showed The Gazette how he uses the button on his key fob or an app on his phone to move his Tesla from one parking spot to the open spot in front of it.
“So if the spot I just pulled out of stays open the rest of the day, I’ve got four hours to park,” he said.
On Wednesday, Kennedy posted on Twitter a video showing him moving his Tesla from one spot to another from his upper-floor office. That was after his brother, SASid co-owner Shannon Kennedy, reminded Shawn he’d have to start moving his vehicle to comply with the parking crackdown.
He complied, all right. He just did it from the comfort of his office.
“I was not sure when I would use this feature … till today,” Kennedy said in the tweet, in which he also tagged Tesla and its founder, Elon Musk.
The post went viral almost immediately. As of Thursday afternoon, 5.3 million people had watched the video, and it had been re-posted on Twitter 1,000 times.
Kennedy said some people have hailed him for his creativity. In a headline, the Canadian auto news magazine Driver called Kennedy a “genius Tesla owner.”
Musk himself responded to the tweet with one of his own: “Cool haha,” he wrote.
Not everybody is thrilled. Kennedy said one man made a post on social media chat site Reddit decrying the maneuver. Kennedy said the man urged police in Janesville to ticket Kennedy.
Kennedy said he has not spoken with police or parking officials, so he doesn’t know whether the city is OK with his automatic vehicle-moving trick. He figures it won’t be long until he hears from a city parking official.
A Janesville police supervisor on Thursday afternoon did not return a call from The Gazette seeking information on the first day of the stepped-up parking enforcement downtown.
The city’s ordinance on parking lot and street parking has a clause designed to prevent people from hopping around spots within city parking lots to skirt parking time limits.
The rule states: “No person shall move a vehicle from a parking stall within a public parking lot to a different parking stall within the same lot without first leaving the lot.”
However, the ordinance doesn’t appear to address the same kind of spot-hopping on street parking.
Kennedy said he has not heard too much complaining about the parking crackdown. He said he’s just as likely to park in adjacent lots or in the parking deck across the street if street parking outside his office is sewn up—which, he said, is frequently the case.
“I know it’s a lot busier downtown now than it was a couple of years ago,” Kennedy said. “I understand the parking enforcement.”
Pat Hall’s latest book will make you smile as you read about a group of inexperienced reindeer delivering gifts on Christmas Eve.
But there is a serious side to “The Secret of Santa’s Naughty-Nice List.”
In addition to being entertaining, the children’s story brings awareness to the issue of homelessness.
Hall dedicates the book to the clients, staff and volunteers of ECHO, GIFTS Men’s Shelter, House of Mercy, Project 16:49 and the Salvation Army and includes their websites.
All offer support services for the homeless in Janesville.
Hall also is donating part of the estimated proceeds from book sales to the five groups.
She wants people to think about homelessness in the city and consider if they can make a difference.
“My husband and I have already supported several of the organizations in the past, and we think they do a great job,” Hall said. “I want people to know about these groups.”
Hall did not set out to write a story about homelessness. But once she introduced homeless people into the story, she thought it seemed natural to help readers learn more.
For adults, Hall hopes the book will remind them not to judge others by an arbitrary set of standards and to ask themselves what they can do to help.
For children, she hopes the book will teach them to look out for other people and to share what they have.
Representatives of groups receiving the donations are grateful and point out that Hall used her individual talent to get involved.
“Pat is such a creative person,” said Peter Zehren, major gifts director for the Salvation Army in Rock County. “Her way of giving is to share her talent with us.”
He called her book “a creative work that brings to light an issue that both kids and adults can understand.”
In addition to donations, Zehren explained there are other ways, including volunteering, to support organizations.
“We have an army of volunteers who do God’s work,” Zehren said.
Stephanie Burton, executive director of GIFTS Men’s Shelter, said every time an individual like Hall steps forward to fight homelessness, “it brings us closer to a solution.”
She said she is impressed that Hall is educating young people about homelessness.
“What brought tears to my eyes when reading this book is that it raises awareness about a forgotten population to kids so they can be a solution to an issue in their community,” Burton said.
Hall got the inspiration for her book while driving across Nebraska and listening to a trucking song on the radio.
She wondered what a kid-friendly trucking song would be about and thought of the most beloved long-hauler of them all—Santa Claus.
“The Secret of Santa’s Naughty-Nice List” explains what happens when Santa gets sick and throws up on the naughty-nice list.
The inexperienced elves and deer have to make the deliveries and encounter all kinds of things that go wrong.
The elves especially have a hard time when they do not have a duplicate of the naughty-nice list and try to leave presents according to some kind of rating method.
Eventually, they meet with a group of homeless people who teach them an important lesson.
“Giving comes from the heart,” Hall said, “not from some kind of score the elves were trying to put on people.”
Barbara Louise Bell
Carl O. Helling Sr.
James D. Visgar