Medicaid expansion, redistricting and bees were just some of the topics that came up during State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein’s visit to Waunakee.
Hesselbein spoke at the Waunakee Rotary Club’s Aug. 15 meeting. Although currently the Legislature is not in session, lawmakers continue to work on bills to present in the next session, she said.
One of those was introduced on the very day she spoke – a call for universal background checks on gun buyers. Hesselbein said while she doesn’t want to take anyone’s guns away, she does want to be sure guns aren’t getting into the hands of people who could harm themselves or others.
Gov. Evers had included Medicaid expansion in his biennial budget, but it was removed. Right now, those federal dollars are being sent to states like Ohio and California, Hesselbein said.
The issue came up later in the meeting, when one Rotarian asked whether Medicaid expansion would saturate health care providers since some have declined to accept Medicaid due to low reimbursement rates.
Hesselbein noted that the budget called for reimbursement rates to medical providers to increase.
Asked why state legislators opted not take to take the expansion, Hesselbein said the reason was “purely political.”
“At first, quite honestly... it was we don’t trust the federal government that the money is going to stay there. We think we’re going to be on the hook for it,” Hesselbein said.
But that never happened, she said.
“Legislatures took the money and it was still being provided,” Hesselbein added.
Many of the Republicans she works with in the Assembly didn’t want to take federal money.
“They’ll take it for some things,” she said, such as roads, but not others.
Hesselbein added that the Medicaid expansion dollars could have been used any way the Legislature saw fit.
“You could use this money and do what you want for the health and wellbeing of people in the state of Wisconsin,” she said, adding that the result was frustrating.
Hesselbein noted that she works for the people in her district, and recently, she received correspondence signed by many Waunakee and Middleton constituents asking her to introduce legislation to protect bees, perhaps by encouraging more pollinator plants.
“I’m still learning about it,” she said, adding she never gave it much thought before.
“But thanks to the people in Waunakee and Middleton raising the issue with me, I’m working on it,” she said.
Hesselbein also talked about redistricting. In Iowa, a nonpartisan agency similar to Wisconsin’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau draws a new district map, and then one Democrat and one Republican legislator is tasked with traveling around the state to talk to constituents about it before it is adopted. It costs the state very little, as compared to Wisconsin’s process, she said.
Hesselbein said she is working on a constitutional amendment for state residents to vote on that would change the redistricting process in Wisconsin and hopes to unveil that in about a month.
She noted that DeForest and Windsor have three state representatives and senators.