By Hoven Consulting – WiHPCA’s lobbying firm
- Update on the FY2023-2025 State Budget
On May 2, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance voted to remove over 500 budget items included in Governor Evers’ Fiscal Year 2023-2025 budget request from further consideration by the committee. However, it is important to note that even though certain budget items from the Governor’s budget request remain in the budget bill after this vote, a majority of committee members will still need to vote separately to approve including those budget items in the committee’s version of the budget bill. Those votes will occur at committee meetings on various dates in the future, as the committee considers different state agency budgets. In addition, the Joint Committee on Finance is able to offer their own budget amendments to different state agencies.
However, on May 2, the Joint Committee on Finance did not vote to remove funding for the following budget items that may be of interest to WiHPCA:
- Nurse Educators –An annual increase of $5 million over the existing $5 million in annual funding.
- Health Care Provider Innovation Grants – $22.5 million in grants to health care and long-term care providers to implement best practices and innovative solutions to increase worker recruitment and retention.
- Personal Protective Equipment Stockpile – $17.2 million for DHS to maintain a PPE stockpile.
On May 23, the Joint Committee on Finance voted on the budget for the Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB), which includes funding for the nurse educators program. While an amendment was offered to increase the nurse educators program by $5 million per year – for a total of $10 million per year –that amendment unfortunately failed. It's important to note that demand for nurse educator program funds has been less than anticipated. That could be the reason why this amendment failed. However, the committee did not modify the existing annual $5 million for this program. In addition, HEAB anticipates that there will be unspent funds – at least $1.5 million – from Fiscal Year 2022-2023 that will be carried over to FY2023-2024. Therefore, if Governor Evers signs the budget bill, the nurse educator program will be funded at least at a $6.5 million level in FY2023-2024.
- WiHPCA Supports Draft Bill Allowing Universal Occupational Licensure Recognition
WiHPCA recently decided to support a draft bill that would allow the state Department of Safety and Professional Services or the relevant state credentialing board to grant a reciprocal occupational credential to an individual who has the same credential in another state. In order to qualify, the applicant could not be under investigation in the other state in which he/she is credentialed and could not have any limitations or restrictions on the credential in that state. Once an out-of-state credentialed individual applies for a Wisconsin credential, a provisional credential is granted immediately and the applicant would be able to practice in Wisconsin immediately, subject to the ultimate decision on whether to grant or deny the reciprocal credential. WiHPCA’s Madison lobbyists expect that this bill will be formally introduced in the coming weeks.
- Federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Ends
On May 11, 2023, the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency ended. With the end of this emergency, there are changes in the response to COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be provided free of charge to individuals until the government supply is depleted. The state-funded Say Yes! COVID Test program will continue to provide free at-home antigen tests through May 2023, as supplies allow. Eventually, however, all tests (antigen or PCR) will no longer be provided free of charge – individuals may have purchases reimbursed by insurance plans or may need to purchase them out-of-pocket. COVID-19 antiviral treatments, such as Paxlovid, will continue to be free to patients until the federal stockpile has been depleted. In addition, DHS will continue to operate its free-of-charge COVID-19 treatment telehealth service through December 31, 2023.
- Governor Calls Special State Assembly Election
On May 5, Governor Tony Evers called a special general election for the 24th Assembly District on July 18, 2023. If a special primary election is needed, it will occur on June 20, 2023. This vacancy was created by the election of then-state Representative Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) to the 8th Senate District, which was previously held by longtime state Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills). The 24th Assembly District includes portions of Waukesha and Ozaukee Counties, including the communities of Germantown, Menomonee Falls, and Grafton.