Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 15, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers is so beholden to big labor that he’s ticked off the nuns.
Sr. Kathleen Smith OP, of southwest Wisconsin’s Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, raised concerns about Evers’ recent veto of a bi-partisan bill that would have made it easier to become a nursing aide in Wisconsin.
“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).
Interestingly, the activist congregation has long had a reputation for taking up liberal causes, but in this case the Dominican Sisters are siding with free-market conservatives and praying the Legislature overrides Evers’ veto.
The bill would have lowered nursing aide training requirements from the state’s stricter 120 hours to the 75 hours permitted under federal regulations.
Evers vetoed the proposal in November, insisting the state’s must vulnerable citizens demand better trained 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.
At least 19 states follow the federal training standards, including Wisconsin neighbors Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota.
“The data will tell you that more hours of training doesn’t necessarily equate to better outcomes,” Tranel said, adding that Minnesota ranks second-best in health care in the nation.
Wisconsin border regions in particular have had difficulty filling CNA positions.
While 45 additional hours of training may not seem like much, Sister Smith said many CNAs are “hardworking people with families and are working more than one job and do not have the time or financial resources to get the extra training required to work in Wisconsin when they can have their own choice of jobs in Iowa.”
“The extra hours required by Wisconsin do not add much to the skills of a dedicated CNA, as much of the learning is on-the-job in the specific facility anyway,” she wrote.
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 from Dubuque, Ia. CNA candidates live close enough to work in Sinsinawa.
“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.
Smith is calling on the Legislature to override Evers’ veto.
Assembly Republicans say they plan to do just that today in floor session. Tranel said if the three Democrats who voted for the original bill cross the aisle again and vote with Republicans, that will be enough to make the difference.
The Legislature hasn’t overridden a veto in 35 years.