Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Remove Images

Board rejoins state county association

by Rob Ireland

December 20, 2012

ELKHORN — Five years after ending its affiliation with the statewide county association, the Walworth County Board decided to give it another chance.

When the board approved its budget, it added a $14,077 line item for membership to the Wisconsin County Association, a for-profit group that lobbies on behalf of county governments. The organization also provides public relations services, training seminars and other county government services.

During an hour-long presentation, on Dec. 11, Liz Stephens, membership and external affairs manager, and J. Michael Blaska, director of programs and services, outlined the services the group offers and how Walworth County supervisors can gain the most from its membership.

Legislative end

Each year the organization — through the direction of its membership — develops an agenda to advocate before the state Legislature. See side bar for list of what the WCA will advocate for in the next budget.

Stephens encouraged county board supervisors to join some of the WCA's committees to help set the agenda for the organization.

Stephens said the firm will follow legislation that is important to county board supervisors and provides updates to members.

"We can also help analyze a bill and the impact it has," she said.

The organization uses Waterman and Associates, a federal lobbying firm, to follow legislation in Washington D.C.

Stephens said Dane County is using Waterman and Associates to monitor the Farm Bill.

She also said the WCA, which was created in 1935, can investigate other issues affecting county government.

After Act 10 was approved, the organization held seminars to help county officials better understand the law's impact. She also said, although it likely wouldn't affect Walworth County, they will have a team focusing on mining legislation.

Benefits to the organization

Membership in the organization also provides perks to county employees and board members. For example, all county board members and employees become eligible for discounts for AAA membership.

The WCA also partners with Premier Solutions, a company that provides staffing services.

"We have a couple of counties that are using it now, Racine County, Shawano County and Brown County have expressed an interest," Blaska said.

The organization finds employees for the county and also handles payroll and health insurance paperwork.

However, the benefit that piqued the interest of Supervisor Tim Schiefelbein was access to the NACO prescription discount card.

The card provides discounts to prescription medication, and is available to all county residents. The discount can be as high as 22 percent.

"You make this card available to all the residents," Blaska said. "For someone who has a very good insurance program, because you are already covered and you have a good drug program, (the program probably isn't needed). But for those who don't have it, this is really a tremendous advantage."

Blaska said Racine County took advantage of the card and reported saving their residents $9 million.

Schiefelbein asked how quickly the card can be made available to county residents. Blaska said it could be done within 10 weeks.