2007.02.28: February 28, 2007: Headlines: Figures: COS - Tunisia: Politics: State Government: Gay Issues: Wisconsin State Journal: Doyle backs gay benefits

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tunisia: Special Report: RPCV Jim Doyle, Governor of Wisconsin: Jim Doyle: Newest Stories: 2007.02.28: February 28, 2007: Headlines: Figures: COS - Tunisia: Politics: State Government: Gay Issues: Wisconsin State Journal: Doyle backs gay benefits

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-249-83-39.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - on Sunday, March 04, 2007 - 6:02 am: Edit Post

Doyle backs gay benefits

Doyle backs gay benefits

Doyle said he supported a change that would allow the city of Madison and other municipalities that use a state health plan for local governments to offer more domestic partner benefits to employees. "I would also support a change in state law so that the domestic partners of municipal employees who obtain health insurance through their municipal employer through the (state plan) could access this program," Doyle wrote. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle and his wife served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Tunisia in the 1960's.

Doyle backs gay benefits

Doyle backs gay benefits

JASON STEIN 608-252-6129

Gov. Jim Doyle said he supports letting the city of Madison and other local governments offer health benefits to their employees' gay and lesbian partners through a state plan.

Doyle has already proposed in his budget extending health benefits to the domestic partners of all state and University of Wisconsin System employees.

In a letter to Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz on Tuesday, Doyle said he supported a change that would allow the city of Madison and other municipalities that use a state health plan for local governments to offer more domestic partner benefits to employees.

"I would also support a change in state law so that the domestic partners of municipal employees who obtain health insurance through their municipal employer through the (state plan) could access this program," Doyle wrote.

Doyle spokesman Matt Canter said the change would promote fairness for gay and lesbian workers and would help local governments keep good employees. Though there is still no definitive proposal, municipalities who participate in the state plan would most likely have to provide the domestic partner benefit to their employees, he said.

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz had requested the expansion of the benefits in a letter to Doyle this month. The city of Madison currently reimburses up to $7,200 a year for private insurance costs for employees' domestic partners but can't cover employees outright because the state plan the city uses doesn't offer the coverage.

Cieslewicz said the change would strengthen the city's current benefits and could help the city settle a grievance filed by a union representing city employees without leaving the state insurance plan.

"I want to thank the governor for his willingness to go to bat for municipal employees as well as state employees," he said.

Pam Mache, the partner of city of Madison employee Mary O'Donnell, said she was happy to hear about the possible change. Mache, who recently dropped the city's domestic partner benefit, said she would definitely pick up the benefit again if the change went through.

The largest union representing city employees, AFSCME Local 60, filed a grievance with the city recently seeking to gain full domestic partner benefits for its members.

David White, a staff representative for the union, said the change would mean better coverage for some domestic partners with health problems who either can't afford private coverage or can't obtain it all.

The city of Madison rejected the grievance request but is hoping a move by the state could resolve the issue, said George Twigg, a spokesman for Cieslewicz.

Bob Conlin, a spokesman for the Department of Employee Trust Funds, said any such proposal would probably involve changing the state's definition of "dependent" used for the plans, which now is basically limited to children and spouses.

That change could be made either by the Legislature or by an administrative rule change carried out by the governing board of the state's plan for municipalities, an action that would be subject to oversight from lawmakers.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D- Madison, said his office was in talks with the city and governor's office about how the change might best be accomplished.

"There's a couple of ways to skin it and we're just trying to figure out what's the best way," Pocan said.

Pocan said he wasn't sure if the change would require cities and towns to offer the coverage to employees' domestic partners. Cieslewicz said he believed it would.

Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, has said he opposes Doyle's plan to add domestic partner benefits for state workers because it could add to the state's costs. But spokesman Mike Prentiss said Fitzgerald would want to see an actual proposal for municipal employees before he took a position on it.

Julaine Appling, chief executive of the Family Research Institute of Wisconsin, said the proposal would force some local officials to offer a benefit they don't support.

"He's taking control away from the local units of government," Appling said.

Twigg said the city has about 35 employees using the domestic partner benefit out of a work force of about 2,700 and in 2006 spent an estimated $86,000 on the benefits. Cieslewicz said that any increased cost to the city over the proposal would likely be relatively small.

At a glance Gov. Jim Doyle said he supports allowing municipalities like the city of Madison to offer health benefits for the domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees through a state insurance plan.


THE STATUS QUO: The city reimburses employees for private insurance for employees' domestic partners.

THE DEBATE: Doyle said the change would promote fairness for all public workers and respond to towns and cities like Madison that want to offer the benefit. A critic said the plan would require some other municipalities to offer a benefit they oppose on principle.

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Headlines: February, 2007; RPCV Jim Doyle (Tunisia); Figures; Peace Corps Tunisia; Directory of Tunisia RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Tunisia RPCVs; Politics; State Government; Gay Issues; Wisconsin

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Story Source: Wisconsin State Journal

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