Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. May 14, 2023.
Editorial: A bill worth watching
There’s an interesting discussion taking place in Wisconsin’s southern neighbor. The Illinois Legislature is considering a bill aimed at protecting children on social media.
No, not protecting children from social media. That discussion is happening in virtually every state. This is about protecting kids who are themselves the stars on social media feeds.
The origin seems to be, appropriately enough, with a teenager. Shreya Nallamothu noticed more children in social media feeds during the pandemic. When she noticed them pushing products and showing up as the stars of feeds they clearly didn’t create themselves, she started wondering about what protections existed for them. Nallamothu brought her concerns to Sen. David Koehler, who started working on legislation.
The bill sounds pretty reasonable. It would guarantee a percentage of earnings from social media feeds go to children age 16 or younger. The Associated Press said it applies to content “that generates at least 10 cents per view … (is) created in Illinois, and kids would have to be featured in at least 30% of the content in a 30-day period.”
Now, let’s take a moment to recognize how much is right about that. There was an engaged teen who brought her concerns to an elected official. The official took the concerns seriously enough to examine, then created legislation to address it. State senators passed the bill in March, and the House is getting ready to consider it.
Parents making money on their children’s behavior is nothing new, of course. The Jackson 5 is probably the best known, though there are plenty of others. And the degree to which the parents involved in those examples had their children’s interests at the center vary considerably.
The pattern is deep enough that California passed the Jackie Coogan law in 1939. It was named after a silent-film child actor. Coogan was successful. Very successful. He earned between three and four million dollars from his screen work — more than $40 million in today’s dollars.
Coogan’s father protected the money until his death in a car accident. His mother and stepfather, on the other hand, spent nearly everything. Coogan sued successfully, but received little from the paltry remains of his earnings.
Coogan’s career recovered, though. You’ve probably seen him playing Uncle Fester in reruns of “The Addams Family.”
Established forms of media generally have laws in place to protect children’s interests, financially and otherwise. Social media is new enough that the process is still playing out. What Illinois lawmakers are trying to do is ensure they don’t inadvertently allow a Jackie Coogan situation to play out there. And it’s something other states should probably begin considering.
It’s important to note this bill isn’t aimed at parents who share a cute clip online and then go back to posting photos of their meals. This isn’t something that should have an effect when family and friends are the anticipated audience, though it’s well worth parents thinking hard about their children’s privacy even in those situations. The question here is for people who generate income with their feeds, and who deputize their children to bring in viewers.
There’s no doubt that this fundamental issue isn’t going anywhere. Social media will change, but it’s here to stay. And, much as we’d like to think parents have their children’s best interests in mind, there are times when that’s just not true.
It’s worth watching how this plays out in Illinois. In prior decades laws in a handful of states would cover the vast majority of cases for film or television. Since social media is everywhere, it’s likely all states will eventually need to craft their own bills to protect children.
Kenosha News. May 14, 2023.
Editorial: Health cost transparency proposal deserves debate
Republican state lawmakers in Wisconsin have put forth a proposal to make health care providers give consumers access to out-of-pocket cost estimates for common procedures.
They’re shopping the proposal around and looking for co-signers and — perhaps surprisingly given the partisan divide in Madison — they may get some Democrat legislators to add their names to the proposed legislation.
State Sen. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, is the chief author of the bill, and said, “Health care is the only thing Wisconsinites purchase that we don’t know the price of beforehand. That has to change.”
Under a draft of her proposal, each hospital in the state would be required to make publicly available a digital file containing a list of standard charges for certain items and services provided by that hospital. They would also be required to provide a “consumer-friendly list of standard charges” for services that can be scheduled by a health care provider in advance.
That would allow consumers to shop around when scheduling non-urgent that patients commonly receive and can schedule in advance – things like blood tests, CT scans and mammograms.
And it would have teeth. Felzkowski’s proposal would give the state Department of Health Services the power to check for hospitals violating the bill and request a correction plan. It would also give DHS the ability to impose escalating penalties for non-compliance – from $600 a day for smaller hospitals to as much as $10,000 a day for hospitals with more than 550 beds are out of compliance.
A leading Wisconsin hospital association contends the proposed bill in many ways duplicates federal rules passed two years ago and will only result in confusion for health care providers.
Eric Borgerding, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Hospital Association, said the bill is unnecessary and that the vast majority of Wisconsin hospitals are already mostly or fully compliant with the federal transparency rules.
“Bottom line, our hospitals are ahead of the curve and new, publicly available price and quality transparency tools are emerging every day making this legislation unneeded in a leader state like Wisconsin.
Borgerding cites rankings by Turquoise Health, a price-transparency platform, that showed nearly two-thirds of 130 Wisconsin hospitals had completed all the requirements of the federal rule.
That’s disputed by supporters of the legislation, who point to a January article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine that said nationwide most hospitals, as many as six in 10 do not comply with every requirement of the federal rules. They say federal agencies have been slow to enforce compliance.
And, in the background, we’re aware of reports by the RAND Corporation that found employers and private insurers paid Wisconsin hospitals more than three times what Medicare would have paid for the same services, the fourth highest rate of any state in the country, according to a recent Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel report.
Health care costs are a concern to us all – from individual consumers to employers faced with rising costs for its employee health plans. We don’t favor punitive measures for our hospitals and health care providers, nor do we favor redundant state and federal enforcement. But we do favor transparency in health care pricing so consumers can make the best decisions on their care and weigh it against the costs.
There are differing opinions in this debate, but it’s one that the state Legislature should hear out and then make a decision.
Wisconsin State Journal. May 14, 2023.
Editorial: State selloff in Downtown Madison makes sense
Roughly half of Downtown Madison’s office workers go into the office three to five days a week, based on parking, key fob and cellphone data.
The other half has learned to do their jobs mostly from home or in the field, thanks to fast internet, videoconferencing apps and more employers allowing if not encouraging remote work in the wake of the pandemic.
Fear of the virus forced many employers’ hands. But now that the health crisis is largely over, lots of bosses are sticking with hybrid schedules for certain employees to improve efficiency and help fill jobs. With a tight labor market, allowing workers to avoid a long commute and expensive parking Downtown can help attract talent.
State government is no different. The changing world of work has created a glut of state office space in prime locations just blocks from the state Capitol.
That’s why Gov. Tony Evers is wisely proposing the sale of three large office buildings Downtown: the State Natural Resources Building (also known as GEF 2) at 101 S. Webster St., the neighboring State Education Building (GEF 3), and the Gothic-styled and historic State Office Building at 1 W. Wilson St., overlooking Lake Monona.
Selling the three sites would save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance, according to the Democratic governor’s administration. It also would increase the city’s tax base and energize Downtown Madison with space for more residents, private development and business.
The Republican-run Legislature should get behind Evers’ smart idea to reduce the state’s footprint in Madison by more than a quarter. So far, lawmakers sound open to the idea, which is good. The proposal could result in some state jobs being consolidated on the West Side and others being based elsewhere in the state.
That’s OK, because Madison’s economy isn’t dominated by state government and UW-Madison the way it used to be. Technology companies such as Epic Systems and Exact Sciences employ thousands of young professionals, many of whom live Downtown.
Lawmakers have ordered an audit of work-from-home arrangements for state employees, which is reasonable. Yet fear of lost production and poor customer service if employees aren’t chained to their desks seems outdated.
Republicans often say state government should run more like a business. Evers’ idea would do just that, mirroring a trend that much of the private sector has embraced.
The state’s historic Wilson Street property could become a hotel, condo or apartment building with hundreds of units. GEF 2 and GEF 3 could be torn down to create enormous potential for urban renewal.
Our editorial board has previously called for tearing down GEF 1, which is one of Downtown’s ugliest and most outdated buildings. But with plans for a museum on that site falling through, the Evers administration insists it is still needed for state workers who need to be close to the Capitol.
State Street, Madison’s premier shopping and entertainment district, took a big hit from the pandemic as well as protests against police that led to vandalism and looting in 2020. The State Street area still has dozens of vacant storefronts, especially near the Capitol. It would benefit from more residents and foot traffic, which the governor’s proposal would encourage.
The demand for housing Downtown is evident by the nine or 10 large cranes that continue to reshape the city’s skyline.
Jason Ilstrup, executive director of Downtown Madison Inc., a booster group for local business, calls the sale of the state buildings “a profound opportunity to continue the momentum Downtown” for growth and vitality.
Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway supports the sale, which could complement the city’s efforts to remake the Lake Monona waterfront.
Lawmakers should give this exciting plan a chance at success, given its substantial benefits to state taxpayers and the economy.