UPDATE: GOP senator writing amendment to oral chemotherapy bill; - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: GOP senator writing amendment to oral chemotherapy bill; Governor says bill could still pass

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MADISON (WKOW) -- On the same day Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) expressed optimism the oral chemotherapy bill may still have some life in the state legislature, a Republican senator is authoring an amendment to help get it passed.

Despite support from roughly 30 senators, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) used a procedural move last Wednesday to intentionally block SB 300 from coming to the floor.  It was a tactic that is new to Gov. Walker.

"I haven't seen that in the past and  I served years in the legislature," said Gov. Walker. 

The Governor says his optimism regarding the bill's future is not based on conversations with legislative leaders, but simply on the overwhelming support the bill has in both the Senate and Assembly.

"My guess is, I would not be surprised if it ultimately ended up making its way through the legislature, even with those moves," Gov. Walker told 27 News in Janesville on Monday, saying he would consider the bill if it came to his desk.

But new moves are being made before Tuesday's floor session in the Senate.

Republicans who are opposed to the bill say they don't like the fact that it requires insurance companies to cover oral chemotherapy drugs at the same level they cover intravenous chemotherapy treatments.  Sen. Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee) believes that amounts to a government mandate.  That's why he's working on a compromise amendment.

"We'd put together a grant program for individuals that require oral chemotherapy," said Sen. Farrow.  "We would set a threshold for out-of-pocket expenses and if it reaches a certain threshold, they could apply for this grant." 

That grant would be for anyone with out-of-pocket oral chemotherapy expenses that total more than $350 a month.  It would be paid for with $3 million from the state's general fund.

"The last thing we want to do is say no, without having an alternative and I think that's what this amendment is," said Sen. Farrow. 

Along with the grant, Sen. Farrow's amendment would also require the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to conduct a one-year study to determine why the cost of oral chemotherapy drugs are so much higher than traditional IV treatments.

Sen. Farrow said he hasn't presented his plan to Sen. Fitzgerald yet and admits an amendment to add $3 million in spending may not sit well with some in the GOP caucus.  Sen. Fitzgerald did not respond to questions from 27 News about the Governor's comments Monday.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) says he would not be surprised to see state legislators still take a vote on the oral chemotherapy bill that was intentionally blocked by the Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) last week.

Sen. Fitzgerald blocked SB 300 from coming to the floor last Wednesday by scheduling a phantom public hearing for the same afternoon.  By Senate rule, Democrats could not attempt to pull the bill to the floor for a vote on the same day.

Sen. Fitzgerald told 27 News he did that because the bill did not have a majority of support in his Republican caucus, even though he admitted it would likely pass the full Senate with Democratic support.

"My guess is, I would not be surprised if it ultimately ended up making its way through the legislature, even with those moves," Gov. Walker told 27 News in Janesville Monday morning, adding that he had never seen anyone use a procedural move like that to block legislation that had the votes to pass.

Gov. Walker says he believes a bill with that much support on both sides of the aisle still has a chance of passage, pointing out that one month ago many believed his tax cut plan was dead in the Senate, but was then passed after some simple amendments.

But the Governor says he has not spoken with Sen. Fitzgerald or Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) about the bill.

"We've been made aware of what they were doing, but we haven't directed them one way or the other on that particular legislation," said Gov. Walker.

SB 300 is not on the Senate calendar for Tuesday's floor session and Sen. Fitzgerald has not responded to 27 News about the Governor's comments.

The bill would require insurance companies to cover oral forms of chemotherapy at the same level they cover traditional intravenous chemotherapy.

Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann will have more on this story on 27 News at 5 and 6.

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