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Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Lawmakers approved a sweeping slate of bills Wednesday, including a wide-reaching reform of the state's civil service system. 

State Senate approves civil service, Planned Parenthood bills in busy session

The state Senate approved Wednesday an overhaul to the state’s century-old civil service system, as well as bills designed to defund Planned Parenthood.

Civil service overhaul moves on amid controversy

The body approved the civil service alterations on a 19-14 vote after almost three hours of debate.

The measure, authored by state Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, and state Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, would eliminate civil service exams in favor of a résumé-based system they say is less susceptible to fraud.

In addition, the bill would speed up the hiring process for positions in state agencies and make it clearer which offenses are fireable.

Proponents argued the reform would bring much-needed efficiency to a system that hasn’t been updated in years.

Democrats countered that state agencies could become rife with corruption.

“State employees should be hired based on what they know, not who they know,” said state Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, adding the bill would lead to “cronyism and corruption.”

There was uncertainty which version of the bill would be taken up by the body. State Sen. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, introduced an amendment to remove a bipartisan provision in the bill that would prevent employers from asking applicants if they had been convicted of a crime.

Earlier in the day, Nass said he would drop his attempt to strike the so-called “ban the box” provision, but blasted his party’s leadership for not doing enough to reach a compromise on the matter.

“Speaker Robin Vos and Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke made it very clear that civil service reform would die if any amendments were added in the Senate,” Nass said in a statement. “It is a sad statement when the leadership of a house with 63 Republican votes is afraid to consider worthy amendments to improve an important reform.”

The bill now heads to Gov. Scott Walker to be signed into law. Walker has indicated he supports the proposal.

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Bills diverting funding from Planned Parenthood also pass

The Senate also approved two bills designed to defund Planned Parenthood and divert money to other health providers statewide. The first measure would prevent the organization from being reimbursed for any prescription drugs it distributes through Medicaid.

Bill co-author Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, said the government should not be supporting private organizations that provide abortion.

“I'm for birth control,” Stroebel said. “I support women's health care. What we don't support is taxpayer subsidy for private abortion providers.”

A second bill would block Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X grant money from the federal government, instead diverting that money to state and local clinics.

Democrats blasted both measures, saying they limit access to birth control.

“This vote is about birth control and access to birth control,” said state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton. “It has nothing to do with abortion.”

Legislative Republicans have grown increasingly interested in defunding Planned Parenthood following the release of videos allegedly showing top Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of fetal parts.

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