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Northwoods Political Digest

November 08, 2019

Tiffany supports allowing voters to decide partial veto authority

State Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) voted Tuesday to support a resolution that allows voters to decide whether they believe a governor should have the veto power to add more spending than the amount the Legislature approves in the state budget.

“Wisconsin taxpayers deserve the opportunity to vote on whether any governor should be able to add millions of dollars of unauthorized spending above and beyond the budget the Legislature passes,” Tiffany said. “I am proud to support this important taxpayer protection initiative to ensure the state continues its record of responsible balanced budgeting under Republican leadership that has produced more than $13 billion in tax cuts.”

The proposed constitutional amendment requires adoption by two successive Legislatures. Then the issue goes to voters for final approval.

The resolution passed the Senate on a 19–14 party-line vote.

Wisconsin collects more than 30 tons of unused medications during Drug Take Back Day

Wisconsin attorney general Josh Kaul announced this week that at Drug Take Back Day, held on Oct. 26, Wisconsin had a total collection of 60,472 pounds, the second largest collection in the nation this October, beating California in the biannual drug collection.

“This successful Drug Take Back collection reflects the commitment of people across the state to fighting substance abuse,” Kaul said. “Thanks to the many Wisconsinites who are helping to prevent unused and unwanted medications from being diverted.”

Statewide, 280 law enforcement agencies hosted Drug Take Back events and collected disposed drugs from 476 permanent drug disposal boxes at law enforcement agencies across the state. The permanent drug disposal boxes are accessible year-round.

Drug Take Back Day provides a safe, convenient and responsible means of disposal, while also educating the community about the potential abuse and consequences of improper storage and disposal of these medications.

Unused or expired medicine should never be flushed or poured down the drain. Water reclamation facilities are not designed to remove all of them, and trace amounts of pharmaceuticals are showing up in rivers and lakes.

The collected medications were boxed, palletized, shrink wrapped, and secured for transportation to Covanta Energy Corporation in Indianapolis, where the drugs were incinerated.

Public safety bills head to the governor

Two bills authored by state Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton) passed the State Senate this week with bipartisan support and now head to Gov. Tony Evers.

One bill makes changes to current law, as requested by the Department of Health Services, so that communities in Wisconsin can apply for a new and innovative federal pilot program called ET3, which stands for Emergency Triage, Treat, and Transport. 

ET3 is a voluntary, five-year payment model that will provide greater flexibility to ambulance care teams to address the immediate medical needs of Medicare beneficiaries following a 911 call.

“I am excited about this bill as it will allow Wisconsin communities to apply for the ET3 pilot,” Loudenbeck said. “If approved for the ET3 pilot, emergency responders, in consultation with a physician, may determine a patient can be best served at an urgent care or other non-acute care setting. Emergency room visits are expensive, and may not always be the right place for someone calling 911 to receive the care they need. The pilot will provide data on patient outcomes and potential cost savings to help inform future EMS and health care related policy decisions.”

The second bill requires the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) to start the rule-making process for a grant program for Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) to purchase, update, and maintain Next Generation-911 (NG-911) equipment. 

NG-911 is an initiative aimed at updating the 911 service infrastructure to improve public emergency communications services in a wireless mobile society. In addition to 911 voice capabilities, NG-911 intends to enable the public to transmit text, images, video, and data to a 911 center.

“The public expects PSAPs to do a lot of things they simply can’t with the equipment they have,” Loudenbeck said. “The technology involved in updating PSAPs is going to be expensive, however the enhanced capabilities of NG-911 may result in a need for fewer total PSAPs overall. While the strategy for statewide NG-911 implementation is still in development, the bill requires DMA and the 911 Subcommittee to start the rule-making process with the expectation that grant programs will be funded in the next budget.”

Nurses association praises bill to curb workplace violence against nurses

Legislation supported by the Wisconsin Nurses Association to provide criminal penalties for perpetrators who cause battery to registered nurses and other nursing personnel passed the state Senate this week.

The bill provides for a Class H felony for individuals who cause bodily harm to a nurse, nursing personnel and health care providers who work in a hospital. The action provides another avenue of support for the 105,000 nurses and the more than 60,000 certified nurse assistants in Wisconsin who experience this type of workplace violence.

“If nurses do not feel safe they cannot practice safely,” Linda Gobis, president of the Wisconsin Nurses Association, said. “Passage of SB 163 is an important part of a larger campaign of educating and empowering nurses to report workplace violence and hopefully avoid life-threatening situations.”

According to the American Nurses Association, one in four nurses are assaulted at work. Data from the WNA show that there is an increase in workplace violence against nurses in Wisconsin.

Senate approves tougher drunk driving bills

A tough reform of Wisconsin’s drunk driving laws is headed to Gov. Tony Evers’ desk.

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Senate unanimously approved creating a mandatory minimum five-year sentence for homicides committed while driving under the influence. The bill was authored by Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon). 

“It’s past time we cracked down on drunk drivers,” Darling said. “I urge Gov. Evers to sign this bill soon.” 

Assembly Bill 17 creates a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for committing homicide while driving drunk. If a judge believes that sentence is too harsh, they must put their reasons in writing. The bill now heads to Evers’s desk. 

The Senate also approved a bill to triple the punishment for fifth and sixth OWI offenses from six months to 18 months. The state isn’t experiencing much of a decrease in those offenses, lawmakers say.

Currently, OWI offenders in this category are required to be incarcerated for at least six months. The new bill should deter individuals from getting behind the wheel intoxicated by increasing the mandatory minimum. to 18 months in prison, the lawmakers say. The bill now heads to the State Assembly for further consideration. 

Both bills received unanimous support on the Senate floor.

Lawmaker proposes new state holiday: Democracy Day

State Rep. David Crowley (D-Milwaukee) is proposing a new state paid holiday called Democracy Day, which he said would honor our system of government, the role that each of us plays within it, and all those who have fought to secure and maintain democracy.

“We should all be unsatisfied that in a country that guarantees us the right to vote, only a fraction of us actually use our voices to take advantage of that paramount privilege,” Crowley said. “Turnout in low-income areas is especially dismal because people cannot afford to take time off work to go to the polls — or when they do they are discouraged and disenfranchised by the long lines. My proposed legislation, Democracy Day, can raise these dire figures and make our state truly representative by enabling every citizen to practice the foundational right of every democracy: the right to vote.”

Crowley said the holiday would serve the state, our communities, and our lives. 

“We deserve to choose how best to govern, and we make that choice through our vote,” he said. “It is long past time to ensure that everyone is able to make their voice heard. The fact of the matter is that not everyone is able to cast their vote. We all lead intricate and busy lives. Many people simply cannot afford to take time off work to vote — or simply cannot find the time to amidst their busy schedules. Whatever the reason, a paid holiday devoted to voting would allow countless more people to vote without the fear of hindering their daily lives, families, or finances.”

But Crowley said the paid holiday would not merely be for voting. 

“Its purpose and significance is further reaching,” he said. “Democracy Day celebrates our system of government — a system of government devoted to giving power to its people. We would have far less to celebrate without the tireless and courageous undertakings of our Wisconsin Veterans, yet Wisconsin is the only state in the union that does not recognize Veteran’s Day as a paid state holiday.”

Democracy Day would provide a day not only to vote but to give necessary recognition to veterans, Crowley said.

The holiday would be observed on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of each November.

“This will enable people to realize fully their democratic freedom, while recognizing and commending the bravery and valor of our nation’s veterans who have fought to protect the right to vote around the world,” Crowley said.

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