The Wisconsin Child Support Enforcement Association has announced state Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and state Rep. Nancy VanderMeer, R-Tomah, as the joint recipients of WCSEA’s Legislator of the Year Award due to their hard work and commitment to expanding Wisconsin’s Children First program.

“We are incredibly grateful to Senator Lassa and Representative VanderMeer for their support of the Children First program. Thanks to their bipartisan collaboration, Children First will now be open to even more Wisconsin parents seeking employment skills training and better job opportunities,” said WCSEA Vice President Deb Barnes.

During the 2015-16 legislative session, Lassa and VanderMeer co-authored and worked to secure unanimous passage of Assembly Bill 351, which allows non-custodial parents to participate in a Children First program offered outside their county of residence. Children First provides employment and training services for unemployed or underemployed noncustodial parents who fall behind on their child support payments.

“Our bill helps children in stabilizing their lives and helps parents to improve their employment status by providing access to the Children First program,” VanderMeer said. “I am honored to be recognized by WCSEA for doing something that I love to do — working bipartisanly to represent the people of the 70th district.”

Twenty-one of Wisconsin’s 72 counties offer the Children First program, but with the passage of AB 351, parents in additional counties will now be able to access training services provided by the program.

“Children First is successful in helping unemployed and underemployed parents obtain better jobs so they can better support themselves and their children. Unfortunately, not every county has these programs,” Lassa said. “The new law will allow judges to assign parents to Children First programs in nearby counties, which will help more parents find stable employment. I’m pleased that WCSEA chose to honor this bi-partisan effort.”

The two lawmakers received the awards during WCSEA’s 40th Annual Fall Conference Sept. 29.

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Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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