2019 | Week of April 1 | #1301
It’s budget time in Madison—the time when our elected officials are looking at how to spend our money over the next two years. Governor Evers introduced his executive budget, his dreams and plans for spending your hard-earned tax dollars—and now the Republican-controlled state legislature is now determining what it wants to do with the governor’s ideas: scrap them entirely and start over or use his with major revisions.
The powerful Joint Finance Committee is where the budget currently sits. This committee which has mostly Republicans and a few Democrats on it, reflecting the sizeable majority the GOP has in both the Assembly and Senate, last week announced four public hearings held around the state starting this week.
After the public hearings wrap up late this month, the Committee will start hearing from all the various state departments who want their share of our finances. Ultimately, the Committee will come up with its version of the budget and present it to both the Assembly and the Senate. Once both houses agree on exactly the same bill, it will be sent to the Governor who will use his very powerful line-item veto pen to make adjustments, I’m sure—and while the Republicans enjoy strong majorities in both houses, neither house has veto-proof numbers. When you’re dealing with spending over $83 billion dollars of taxpayer money, deliberation and caution should be the order of the day.
However, while the budget is the 800-pound legislative gorilla in Madison right now, much other activity is going on behind the scenes. Bills on all kinds of issues are being introduced, and committee hearings are beginning to happen on some.
One bill introduced on March 15 caught my attention. It was authored by two Democrats, who are joined by 40 other Democrats from the Assembly and the Senate, along with three Republicans, Representatives Todd Novak, Joel Kitchens and Tyler Vorpagel.
With the legislature under Republican control and the governor’s office under Democratic control it’s true more bills are going to be bipartisan this session than in sessions where one party has control of everything. Republicans know if they want the governor to sign what they give him, they have to have some Democrats on their bills. Democrats know if they want to move any of their bills, they need to have Republicans join them. While that may be reality, that doesn’t mean it’s always good. In this case, I think it’s profoundly bad.
Senate Bill 138 and Assembly Bill 111 both call for a ban on so-called “conversion therapy” for minors. This is the same unconstitutional, wrong-headed idea that Milwaukee, Shorewood and Eau Claire enacted as local policy last year. The state-level bill refers to “certain mental health providers” and actually lists which providers are included, unlike the local ordinances that are a bit broader in their general ban. Nonetheless, the intent of the bill is the same: to keep people from counseling young people struggling with same-sex attraction or gender confusion from being told there is real hope and help available to them.
Frankly, this type of ban is a direct swipe at biblical counseling. I checked with a friend who is a Christian and a licensed social worker, one of the groups included in this prohibition. He told me this bill would prevent him from advising young people about any of the negatives, immediate or future, that will likely result from their continuing on a path of same-sex attraction or seeking to change their gender and keeps him from counseling them from the Word of God. In other words, people such as this man would not be allowed to give minors information and help that is in their best interest.
Another group specifically prohibited from actually helping young people dealing with these issues is physicians, which I find totally wrong and even appalling.
Of course the bill makes it clear that encouraging, affirming and furthering same-sex attraction and gender change is protected. What’s not protected are the young people themselves, the rights of their parents or the religious beliefs of Christian counselors who are licensed mental-health providers.
Frankly, this bill will be more of a test of the moral mettle of the legislators than figuring out how to best spend billions of our money. This bill needs to die in committee and not see one ray of daylight at any point in this session. Republicans can make that happen. We’ll see if they have the courage to actually do it.
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This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”