The state Senate will meet today to discuss several important bills, most notably two bills to reform foster care procedures.
The first bill would make the state compliant with federal requirements after recent amendments of the federal laws regarding child welfare. According to the bill, the state’s plan must meet certain conditions specified in the Social Security Act to qualify for adoption and foster care assistance, and this bill aims to update the state’s plan.
Carrie Kahn, spokesperson for Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, said the state could lose money if it does not update the statutes regarding child welfare. She added Ohio, for example, did not make the required changes and lost an estimated $8 million from the federal government.
Kahn said it is unclear how a federal reviewer would regard the state changes, but some reform is necessary.
“Looking at an example like Ohio, we obviously do not want to be in that position,” Kahn said.
Kimber Liedl, spokesperson for Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said the Republican senator also plans to support the bill. She said the bill does not create a new law but rather makes technical revisions to the current law.
“The technical changes help to better protect children in Wisconsin,” Liedl said.
Liedl also said she expects the bill to pass, as it passed unanimously in the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Workforce Development.
A similar bill also aimed to reform foster care would require all kinship providers, also known as relative providers, to be licensed by the state.
Kahn said the reason for the bill lies in the 2009-11 budget, which created five levels of foster care providers. The first of these levels is kinship providers, who are relatives caring for the fostered child.
Kahn adds the higher up in levels of foster care a provider is, the more training and background is required by the state.
Kahn also said this bill could earn the state a projected $6.5 million in federal funding under the Social Security Act.
“This bill does not create any new system,” Kahn said. “It fixes the problems within the current system to be federally compliant.”
Liedl said the bill is similar to the first, as it provides more protection for children in foster care and also passed unanimously in committee.
Another bill the Senate will see would create exceptions for certain restaurants for the liquor licensing quota.
This bill, introduced by Rep. Gary Sherman, D-Port Wing, would allow smaller golf course restaurants serving between 75 and 100 patrons, who currently do not have full liquor licenses due to a filled quota, to have full liquor licenses.
The bill seems to have bipartisan support, as Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, agreed exceptions to the liquor quota should be made.
“Restrictions on licenses make no sense,” Grothman said. “They should make an exception all around the city for as many people as they want.”