Guards at the state’s youth prison would be required to report signs of child abuse under a bill Assembly lawmakers approved Wednesday — the first to pass the Legislature in response to a two-year investigation into potential child abuse at the Irma prison.
The bill now heads to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk for his signature.
Doctors, child care workers and teachers are currently on the state’s list of occupations that are required by law to report suspected child abuse. The bill authored by Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, and Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, would expand that list to include guards at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls.
The review, now headed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is targeting a number of potential crimes ranging from inmate abuse to official misconduct. Nearly every Department of Corrections official involved in juvenile corrections, at both the facility and the state level, has been replaced or has resigned.
Republican lawmakers in the state Assembly on Wednesday also approved new requirements for people receiving government assistance — over the objection of Democrats who said the bills would make more people homeless and unfairly affect recipients’ children.
One bill would create a work requirement for people living outside of Dane and Milwaukee counties receiving a federal subsidy to pay for housing. The state would need approval from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to implement the program that would begin on a pilot basis under the bill.
Democrats decried the proposal, saying Republicans were being hypocritical after last week passing bills addressing homelessness.
Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, said the bill helps people living in government housing to get a job and ultimately be self-sufficient, or “move on” from government housing.
“Either way, you open up a new spot for someone,” she said.
Lawmakers also passed a bill that would provide sanctions for people receiving benefits through the state’s Wisconsin Works, or W-2, program, which provides parents of low-income households and pregnant women with money, training and help finding jobs, if their children were habitually truant from school.
Currently, recipients’ children are required to be enrolled in school. Violators who don’t cooperate with case managers currently face a monthly $50 penalty per child, but only one parent has ever received the penalty, said bill author Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin.
The Assembly also voted 62-35 to approve a bill expanding drug screening of people receiving assistance under W-2 and allowing the Department of Children and Families to decide how to screen people instead of using a questionnaire.
Lawmakers also voted 97-0 to allow people receiving state subsidies for child care costs to continue to receive partial benefits if their household income increases.