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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Surely You Jest, Women Tell Wisconsin

MADISON (CN) - Wisconsin is yanking licenses for child-care providers for flimsy and ridiculous reasons, three women say. One lost her license because the state found she took more than 10 days to tell the food stamp office she had got a minimum-wage job - 31 years ago. Another one's license was pulled because the spent an extra envelope of food stamps the state sent her by mistake in 1990.

In separate complaints in Dane County Court, the three women say the new licensing restrictions for child-care providers with criminal histories are unfair. The women sued the Department of Children and Families and its Secretary Reggie Bicha over the newly enacted 2009 Wisconsin Act 76.

The women say the law is unconstitutional because it allows revocation of the licenses of people with old, nonviolent offenses without a hearing before or after the revocation.

The women say the law "irrationally discriminates" against nonviolent offenders.

The third plaintiff says her license was revoked because of a 12-year-old conviction for failing to inform the food stamp program that her boyfriend occasionally lived with her. He did not pay any of her bills, she says, but they state told her that the food stamp program's definition of "resided" was "far more inclusive than what people would traditionally call 'moving in together.'"

Wisconsin Act 76 was adopted to make it more difficult to defraud the Wisconsin Shares program, which had been under scrutiny for allowing scam artists to bilk the state, allegedly for millions of dollars. But the women say the law has succeeded only in unfairly targeting them and others like them.

Secretary Bicha wrote in an article for the Wisconsin State Journal that the number of revoked child care licenses has doubled since the Department of Children and Families was created less than two years ago.

But the three women say they have not been convicted of scamming the program, but they cannot prove it, or demonstration their rehabilitation for the nearly ancient food stamp violations because they have no way to appeal.

They seek injunctions to stop the revocations and a revision in the law.

They are represented by Jill Kastner and Sheila Sullivan of Legal Action of Wisconsin.

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