Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 17, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Three Democrats apparently put their party — and their governor — ahead of their principles Wednesday in casting the deciding votes to uphold Gov. Tony Evers’ veto of a bi-partisan nursing assistant bill.
Reps. Steve Doyle of Onalaska, Beth Meyers of Bayfield, and Don Vruwink of Milton, voted against the Republican-led veto override, killing — at least for now — legislation that would have made it easier to become a Certified Nursing Assistant in Wisconsin.
Funny thing is, all three voted for the measure in May.
Why the change of heart? The Dems aren’t talking. They didn’t return Empower Wisconsin’s requests for comment Thursday.
The bill would have lowered nursing aide training requirements from the state’s stricter 120 hours to the 75 hours permitted under federal regulations. It was supported by health care groups and advocates such as the Wisconsin Assisted Living Association and Mayo Clinic Health System.
And by one very concerned nun.
“I appreciate Governor Evers’ desire to maintain high standards of training for health care personnel for the State of Wisconsin. However, I think he does not realize the implications of his recent veto of legislation to allow Certified Nursing Assistants trained in Iowa to work in Wisconsin facilities,” Smith said in a letter to state Rep. Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City).
Sinsinawa Mound, the religious order’s Motherhouse, is home to nearly 450 Dominican Sisters. About 200 live at the Mound. Many of the nuns are retired and in need of care.
The community’s St. Dominic Villa, a licensed skilled care facility, and Siena, a non-licensed assisted living center, are just 10 miles north of Dubuque, Ia., a tri-state health care hub with a CNA-rich marketplace.
But Iowa is one of at least 19 states that follow the federal training standards.
“We cannot get CNAs to work here even with attractive salaries, benefits packages and SIGN-ON BONUSES,” Smith wrote, noting that the median age of the congregation is 80 years old.
“Our elderly Sisters who require nursing care are the ones who are suffering from the effects of Governor Evers’ veto,” she added.
Evers has insisted his veto was about ensuring the highest standards of training for nursing assistants.
But Capitol insiders say the Democrat was, again, looking out for the interests of labor unions that opposed the bill. Big Labor spent a lot of money getting the governor elected. Besides, Minnesota boasts some of the highest health care rankings in the nation and the Gopher State, too, follows the less-restrictive federal training standards.
“What’s more important? Playing politics with your governor who made a bad choice, or standing with your constituents, the skilled nursing shortage that we know, that we’ve all talked about being there,” asked Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) asked.