Assembly passes big-box retailer drug billBig-box retailers would be able to offer more prescription drugs for $4 a month, under a bill the Assembly passed Thursday.
By: By Patrick Marley/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Superior Telegram
MADISON -- Big-box retailers would be able to offer more prescription drugs for $4 a month, under a bill the Assembly passed Thursday.
The bill, approved on a voice vote, would lift the state's Depression-era Unfair Sales Act for prescription drugs and allow pharmacies to sell them below their cost.
Wal-Mart and other large retailers have sold an array of generic drugs for $4 a month to get more customers in their doors, but they have had to offer fewer drugs at that price in Wisconsin because of the law.
The bill does not address other products affected by the Unfair Sales Act. A federal judge last year ruled unconstitutional a part of the law that says retailers must mark up gas prices as much as 9.18 percent over the wholesale price. That decision has been put on hold while an association of convenience stores appeals the matter.
Retailers in national ads tout low-cost drugs, but note in fine print the deals don't always apply in Wisconsin and a handful of other states.
"We're going to remove the fine print," said Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee), the bill's author.
Opponents have raised concerns the change could hurt independent community pharmacies that can't afford to sell drugs below cost. Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer (D-Manitowoc) said the bill opened the door to predatory pricing.
Wal-Mart officials said last year they offer more than 350 drugs for $4 a month in other states but have to sell about 70 of them for $9 in Wisconsin because of the markup law. Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart have offered deeply discounted drugs in Wisconsin since 2006.
The bill now heads to the Senate, which like the Assembly is controlled by Democrats. Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle supports the bill.
In other legislative business:
Tax credits. The Assembly passed a bill, 93-1, that would give tax credits to businesses that invest in low-income areas.
The bill builds on a successful federal program that has helped Milwaukee businesses such as Alterra Coffee and Lena's Food Market. The measure, which now heads to the Senate, would reduce state revenue by $10 million a year starting in 2012.
Rep. Peggy Krusick (D-Milwaukee) cast the lone "no" vote, saying businesses are not taking advantage of all the federal credits that are available.
IRAs. State residents of all income levels could convert traditional individual retirement accounts to Roth IRAs without penalty, under a bill the Assembly unanimously sent to Doyle.
Now, only those who earn less than $100,000 annually can make the conversion without facing state penalties.
Federal law was changed to allow conversions for people of all incomes without penalties starting Jan. 1. Most states have adopted the federal standard, but Wisconsin has not, frustrating financial professionals.
Psych tests for cops. All prospective law enforcement officers would have to pass psychological evaluations before they are hired under a bill approved by the Assembly.
The bill, passed on a voice vote, is a response to the October 2007 murders of six people by Tyler Peterson, an off-duty Crandon police officer and Forest County sheriff's deputy. He did not receive psychological screening before he was hired by the two departments, though many other police agencies in the state routinely conduct such screening.
The bill now heads to the Senate.
BadgerCare Plus Basic. The Senate adopted Doyle's BadgerCare Plus Basic plan, which would provide temporary insurance for adults who don't have dependent children and who are on a waiting list for a more permanent state health-care plan.
The Basic plan will not be run with state money. Instead, it will be funded with a $1 million federal grant and the monthly premiums of those who sign up for the plan. Participants will spend $130 a month for limited medical care and generic drug coverage.
Republicans fear the plan will encounter cost overruns that will force the state to chip in for it later.
The bill passed 17-16, with Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) joining all Republicans in voting against it.
Indian mascots. Fewer Wisconsin schools could use Indian mascots and team names under a bill the Assembly passed.
The bill would allow residents to complain to the state schools superintendent if their school district used a race-based team name, nickname, mascot or logo. The school would have to stop using those names and depictions in many cases if the hearing showed they promoted discrimination, student harassment or stereotyping.
The bill, approved 51-42, faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
Health care costs. Health care providers and hospitals would have to make available to consumers the median billed charges for the most commonly treated conditions, under a bill the Assembly passed on a voice vote.
Copyright (c) 2010, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.