ESPC: Senate restores HIV funding, House passes discriminatory drug-testing bill

Dan Neal of the Equality State Policy Center posted this update on Monday Feb. 27, highlighting a successful effort to restore funding for an HIV-treatment program. He also wrote about the advancement of a bill that would require drug-testing for the poor who apply to a public assistance program:

Sen. Chris Rothfuss, SD 9, D-Laramie, announced via Facebook Monday that the Senate has approved an amendment to the budget bill that restores state funding for drug treatment for people with AIDS and HIV.

Sen. Rothfuss’s Facebook post read, “SF1S3010 Budget Amendment to reinstate $400k for the AIDS drug rebate program has passed the Senate. A mirror Amendment has already passed the House. That will qualify as a maintenance of effort and maintain our eligibility for the Ryan White grant program.”

Sen. Cale Case, SD25, R-Lander, offered the same amendment to the Senate last Thursday only to see it killed. The amendment was sponsored again Monday by Sens. Rothfuss, Leslie Nutting, SD7, R-Cheyenne, and Case. Rothfuss and Nutting spoke for it.

Together, the federal and state funds pay for drugs essential to treatment needed by infected people who otherwise could not afford the care. (The Senate vote on the amendment had not been posted by the Legislative Service Office when this blog was posted about 5:40 p.m. Feb. 27.)

Public assistance drug-testing bill passed by House

A bill that will require families seeking public assistance through the POWER program to pass a drug test to qualify for benefits passed the House Monday.

The measure, House Bill 89 – Public assistance-drug testing, passed on third reading 37-23 with no debate. The bill requires drug testing of applicants in the Personal Opportunities With Employment Responsibilities (POWER) program. Proponents say the testing will encourage users to seek treatment.

Opponents have argued that the bill will discourage applicants who must pay for the drug test, offers no treatment for people who fail the test will punish the children of adult users by making it even more difficult for them to obtain benefits, and discriminates against the poor because other users of state services are not required to submit to drug tests. Read the engrossed copy of the bill, which includes all amendments, here.

Here’s the Third Reading House vote:

Ayes:  Representative(s) Berger, Blikre, Bonner, Brechtel, Buchanan, Campbell, Cannady, Childers, Davison, Edmonds, Eklund, Gay, Greear, Greene, Harvey, Hunt, Illoway, Jaggi, Kasperik, Kroeker, Krone, Lockhart, Loucks, Lubnau, Madden, McKim, McOmie, Miller, Peasley, Pederson, Petersen, Quarberg, Reeder, Semlek, Stubson, Teeters and Wallis.

Nays:  Representative(s) Barbuto, Blake, Botten, Brown, Burkhart, Byrd, Connolly, Craft, Esquibel, K., Freeman, Gingery, Goggles, Harshman, Moniz, Nicholas B, Patton, Petroff, Roscoe, Steward, Throne, Vranish, Zwonitzer, Dn. and Zwonitzer, Dv..

Ayes 37    Nays 23    Excused 0    Absent 0    Conflicts 0

The Equality State Policy Center opposes passage of the bill. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Job safety bill gaveled through Second Reading

In other action in the House, HB 89 – Workplace safety-employer assistance was gaveled through Second Reading without debate. The ESPC supports the bill, which will add five new courtesy inspectors to the state Occupational Safety and Health division, allow the department to move two other positions to the division for the same purpose, and appropriate $250,000 to provide matching grants to qualified businesses seeking to improve their company safety programs. The measure will be considered on Third Reading Tuesday, Feb. 28.

“No COLAs” pension bill moves ahead

On Second Reading in the Senate Monday, senators quickly approved SF59 – Public employee retirement plans benefit increases. The measure includes requirements that any public employee retirement plan must be funded at 120% before the Legislature can consider giving a Cost of Living Adjustment to retirees.

An amendment to reduce plan funding levels to 100% of actuarial need failed last week. Retirement system advocates will attempt to improve the bill, which includes an interim study of the system’s several plans, when it goes to the House.

Public records/public meetings

The House Judiciary Committee will consider SD25ENG – Public records and SD 27 – Public meetings Tuesday morning starting at 6:58 a.m. in Room 302. The Equality State Policy Center supports both bills.

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