Veterans groups back bill overturning law curbing asbestos lawsuits

By SARAH MASLIN | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Published: July 31, 2014

Two Wisconsin veterans groups announced their support Wednesday for a bill overturning a law signed earlier this year by Gov. Walker that curtailed asbestos lawsuits in the state.

According to Jason Johns, a spokesman for the Military Order of the Purple Heart of Wisconsin, more than 100,000 veterans have joined efforts to oppose the law and support a Democrat-backed Assembly bill to repeal it.

"Act 154 was the greatest disservice to veterans that I've seen in my six years in the Legislature," state Representativ Nick Milroy (D-South Range) said at a news conference that was reported by Channel 58.

Critics of the law say that it makes it harder for veterans to collect money in asbestos cases. The majority of asbestos poisoning lawsuits in Wisconsin over the last 10 years have been filed by veterans, according to asbestos victims groups.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said earlier this month that she wanted legislation to overturn the Republican-authored law, and her spokesman said Monday that she supported the Assembly Democrats' proposal.

Other veterans, however, have expressed support for Act 154. Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said that the law prevents "trial lawyers from double dipping."

The Assembly passed the bill in March 55-38 with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed. The Senate approved the bill 17-16 with Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) joining all Democrats in opposition.

Johns and other lobbyists for veterans initially denounced the bill when it was passed, but they backed down when it became clear that Walker planned to sign the bill.

An estimated 409,419 veterans live in Wisconsin as of Sept. 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.


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