By Hoven Consulting – WiHPCA’s lobbying firm
· November General Election Results – State Legislature
o State Assembly: In the 2023-2024 legislative session, Republicans will have 64 members and the Democrats will have 35 members. Republicans gained a net of four Assembly seats. One of these Assembly seats is located in the western Milwaukee suburbs, two are located in far northwest Wisconsin, and the other is a district that is between Milwaukee and Madison and also includes the southcentral Wisconsin city of Milton.
o State Senate: During the next legislative session, Republicans will have 22 members and the Democrats will have 11 members. Senate Republicans gained one Senate seat that was held by Democrats. This seat is located in far northwest Wisconsin and includes the community of Superior.
· Assembly and Senate Elect Leadership
On November 10, both the Senate and Assembly Republican caucuses met to elect their respective leadership teams for the 2023-2024 legislative session.
Senate Republicans re-elected their current senior leadership team:
o Senate President – Chris Kapenga (Delafield)
o Senate President Pro-Tempore – Patrick Testin (Stevens Point)
o Majority Leader – Devin LeMahieu (Oostburg)
o Assistant Majority Leader – Dan Feyen (Fond du Lac)
The Assembly Republican caucus elected several members to new senior leadership roles. The new senior leadership members are:
o Assembly Speaker – Robin Vos (Rochester)
o Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore – Kevin Petersen (Waupaca)
o Majority Leader – Tyler August (Lake Geneva)
o Assistant Majority Leader – Jon Plumer (Lodi)
During the week of November 14, both the Assembly and Senate Democratic caucuses elected their respective leadership teams for the 2023-2024 legislative session. Senate Democrats also elected new members to their leadership team. Their new senior leadership team is:
o Minority Leader – Melissa Agard (Madison)
o Assistant Minority Leader – Jeff Smith (Brunswick)
Assembly Democrats re-elected the following members to their current leadership roles:
o Minority Leader – Greta Neubauer (Racine)
o Assistant Minority Leader – Kalan Haywood (Milwaukee)
· Occupational License Study Committee Update
On Tuesday, November 15, the Legislative Council Study Committee on Occupational Licenses held its November public meeting. Included in the agenda for this hearing was testimony from a number of individuals, including representatives from the state Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) – which processes most occupational credentials in the state – as well as discussion on several draft bills intended to improve the ongoing occupational credential processing backlog. Most of the testimony from the DSPS representatives focused on this backlog.
During the hearing, DSPS representatives repeatedly underscored their need for more staff – particularly call center staff and occupational credential processing staff. They also discussed the need to offer higher salaries in order to attract and retain employees. Committee chair/Senator Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) indicated that he is open to possibly providing more funding in the 2023-2024 state budget to DSPS to hire more staff. However, he underscored the committee’s prior request for more data on the processing backlog, which would help him justify that funding request. DSPS representatives stated a few times during the hearing that they would need to re-task credential processing employees to gather that data, which would likely increase the backlog. Chair Stafsholt stated that he realized that but obtaining that data would be critical to help to possibly secure additional staff funding for the agency. Committee Vice Chair/Representative Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers) also appeared to be open to providing funding for additional agency staff but also agreed that DSPS needed to provide them with more data on the backlog first.
DSPS representatives appeared to be supportive of committee draft legislation increasing credential renewal periods from two years to four years, as well as legislation that removes the requirement for the agency to review certain types of minor criminal offenses. However, they also noted that several of the committee’s other draft bills would require additional staffing to accomplish.
After hearing all of the testimony, the committee was scheduled to have a discussion among themselves regarding their various draft bills addressing this processing backlog. However, as the DSPS testimony and questioning ran much longer than anticipated, the committee agreed to adjourn and postpone discussion on these draft bills to their next public meeting, which is scheduled for December 13.
NOTE: If your hospice/palliative care agency has employees who are experiencing delays in receiving their occupational licenses, please contact WiHPCA’s government affairs professionals – either Nathan Butzlaff at (608) 310-8833 or email@example.com or Tim Hoven at (414) 305-2011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
· Uniform Death Reporting Standards Study Committee Update
The Legislative Council Study Committee on Uniform Death Reporting Standards held a meeting on October 17 in Madison. Senator Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan) and Representative Jesse James (R-Altoona) serve as chair and vice chair, respectively, and heard various presentations, which are summarized below.
Representatives from the state Department of Health Services (DHS) were the first to present at this hearing. They discussed the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) and the State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS). In response to questions from committee members, DHS representatives noted: (1) DHS requests NVDRS data from all counties, and most participate, though such participation is not required and (2) a significant majority of physicians continue to use a “fax attestation form” when certifying the cause and manner of natural deaths, rather than submitting that information as an electronic user of the State Vital Records Information System (SVRIS).
The second presentation featured representatives from the state Department of Justice. Much of this presentation covered the types of death investigation training offered in Wisconsin. In particular, they discussed: (1) the death investigation training provided at police academies, (2) an annual 80-hour course for death investigators organized by DOJ and (3) an annual four-day death investigation symposium organized by the Wisconsin Association of Homicide Investigators.
Following the presentations, committee members discussed various issues. Committee members expressed interest/support for the following:
o Expanding the death record to include different data points, including noting whether substance abuse contributed to the death.
o Requiring physicians to receive training on how to properly certify cause and manner of death, including training how to address the types of death that must be reported to coroners or medical examiners.
o Requiring all those who certify deaths (e.g., physicians) to submit the medical certification electronically using the State Vital Records Information System (SVRIS).
o Creating a state statute governing fatality review teams in a manner codifying current practice (allowing counties to decide which types of teams, if any, are created).