October Legislative Update

October 26, 2023 3:51 PM | Anonymous

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Bill Passes Senate; Awaiting Further Consideration in the Assembly

After a long summer of inactivity on the Advanced Practice Register Nurse (APRN) bill, earlier this month – and somewhat out-of-the-blue – the Senate Health Committee voted to approve the legislation (SB 145). On Oct. 17, the full Senate passed the bill on a 23-9 vote.

The proposal would create a new pathway to allow registered nurses to be licensed as an APRN and provide them with broad nursing powers, including the ability practice independently without physician collaboration. Unfortunately, the bill as passed by the Senate lacks the common-sense changes the WAO and Wisconsin’s “House of Medicine” deem essential to preserve patient safety and protect the delivery of high-quality care across the state. These include adequate requirements for clinical experience before an APRN can practice independently and physician “Truth-in-Advertising” language to help ensure patients know when they are receiving care from a physician or non-physician provider.

The bill is now awaiting further consideration in the Assembly. It is expected that it will receive a public hearing by the Assembly Health Committee before the end of the year. The WAO will continue to work with other physician groups to find a reasonable compromise with lawmakers and nursing stakeholders that include the following provisions:

  • Four years of real-world experience working in a physician-led, team-based care environment before an APRN can practice independently.
  • Truth-in-Advertising title protections to help health care consumers better understand when they are receiving care from a physician or a non- physician provider.
  • Language to ensure that a physician specializing in pain medicine collaborates with independent APRN clinics that provide complex pain management patient care.

If a compromise cannot be reached, the WAO and the greater physician community will urge Gov. Tony Evers to veto the bill if it makes it to his desk. Evers vetoed similar legislation last session.

Senate Rejects Reappointment of Dr. Sheldon Wasserman to Medical Examining Board

Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, rejected several of Gov. Tony Evers’ appointments to a handful of state commissions and boards. Among the appointments voted down by the Senate included Dr. Sheldon Wasserman, who Evers reappointed to the Medical Examining Board (MEB). Wasserman, who chaired the MEB and had served on the Board since 2019, was rejected by the Senate on a partisan 22-10 vote. Evers quickly replaced Wasserman on the MEB with Dr. Steven Leuthner, a neonatal pediatrician who teaches at the Medical College of Wisconsin. 

Legislative Committee Rejects Request for More DSPS Occupational Credential Staff

On September 26, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee rejected a request from the WI Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) for additional funding for new staff members to assist in processing occupational credential applications. The 10-4 vote to reject the funding fell along party lines.  In its request, DSPS noted they needed additional staff members to maintain or reduce processing time for occupational credentials.  As part of the 2023-2025 budget bill passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature, lawmakers approved 17 new positions at DSPS, as well as $3.5 million for software upgrades, to improve the credentialing process.

Senate Health Committee Recommends Approval of DHS Secretary Nominee

Earlier this month, the Senate Health Committee, which is controlled by Republicans, voted 5-1 to recommend to the full Senate the confirmation of Kirsten Johnson as Secretary of the WI Department of Health Services (DHS). Johnson has been serving as interim secretary since her appointment by Gov. Tony Evers in Feb. 2023. Prior to her appointment, Johnson served as the head of the City of Milwaukee Health Department, as well as the Washington-Ozaukee Health Department. Senator Andre Jacque (R-De Pere) was the lone senator on the committee to oppose Johnson’s confirmation, which still needs approval by the full Senate. 

Wisconsin Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to State’s Legislative Districts

Earlier this month, on Oct. 6, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a 4-3 decision – split down ideological lines – agreeing to hear a legal challenge to the state’s current legislative maps, which were drawn following the 2020 U.S. Census and after a series of rulings by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Wisconsin voters, claims Wisconsin Assembly and Senate legislative districts were gerrymandered in violation of the state constitution.

Depending on a final ruling by the liberal-leaning court, new legislative maps could be in place by next year and could shift the balance of power in the Legislature. Republicans have held large majorities in both houses since 2011. The state’s high court will hear oral arguments in the case on November 21, but has not provided a timeline for when it will issue a decision.

State of Wisconsin ends fiscal year with $7 billion surplus

Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) announced the state closed the 2023 fiscal year, which ended June 30, with a surplus of slightly more than $7 billion. That is roughly 65% more than last year’s $4.3 billion balance. In addition, the state Budget Stabilization Fund, or “rainy day” fund continues to have a balance of $1.8 billion. CLICK HERE to review the full DOA Annual Fiscal Report.

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Wisconsin Academy of Ophthalmology

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