The Republican-controlled State Assembly failed to override Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ veto Jan. 15 on legislation concerning the required training hours needed to practice as a certified nursing assistant, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. 

Federal law requires CNA trainees to have only 75 training hours, while Wisconsin policy requires 120. The bill aimed to reduce the number of hours for CNA trainees in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Health Care Association.

The assembly passed the bill in May by a 66-31 vote. Members such as Rep. Steve Doyle, D-Onalaska; Rep. Beth Meyers, D-Bayfield; and Rep. Don Vruwink, D-Milton exhibited bipartisan support for the bill by joining GOP lawmakers. 

But, Evers vetoed the bill in November. Evers said in a statement he is concerned about reducing training for those who care for Wisconsin’s most vulnerable citizens, according to the Wisconsin State Legislature. Addressing the shortage of CNAs, he sent the Governor’s Task Force on Caregiving to seek strategies to attract and keep nurses. 

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The Republican legislature sees the current 120 hours as excessive and preventing many competent CNAs from providing care many Wisconsin residents desperately need. They also cite the state’s increasing nursing shortage and call for members across the aisle to display support for what they see as a nonpartisan issue, according to a joint statement from Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, and Rep. Warren Petryk, R-Eleva. 

Groups such as the AARP view this federal requirement as necessary and possibly preventative of an extreme risk, such as under-certified CNAs providing faulty care, according to wispolitics.com. 

In order for the veto override to be successful, three additional Democrats would have had to join their GOP colleagues in backing the veto override. Regarding the Jan. 15 vote, the three aforementioned representatives who previously voted in favor of the 120-hour requirement chose to vote against the override, according to The Cap Times.

Rep. Cindi Duchow, R-Delafield, said partisans may receive consequences for voting against their party.

“My understanding is the minority leader had threatened them with taking away their staff and some other things if they voted with us, so they always vote along party lines,” Duchow said.

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Assembly Republicans attempted and failed in November to override three of Evers’ budget vetoes, and these veto overrides have not been tried for nine years. These four attempts were only permitted because a chamber decision allowing unlimited veto override votes was passed last fall. Before this, a veto override could only occur once, according to The Cap Times.

So far, the Assembly has largely voted along party lines, as seen in the attempted CNA override. Republicans control 63 of 99 seats in the Assembly, so achieving the two-thirds majority vote for a veto override remains challenging. 

Steven Davis, a political science professor at Edgewood College, spoke on the current position of the Republican party in Wisconsin, and how this may affect bills.

The GOP in Wisconsin is strengthened by gerrymandering, Davis said. He explained that in 2018, 54% of all votes cast in the State Assembly races were for Democrats. But, because of how the districts were drawn, they only won 36% of the seats.

“Though a new redistricting plan must be drawn up by the legislature after the 2020 census, a less extreme and less biased compromise map is more likely this time because Gov. Evers must sign off on it,” Davis said. 

This new plan will be based on the 2020 census and put into effect by 2022, Davis said.

So far, many of the bills Evers signed are relatively nonpartisan. Duchow said if Evers continues this trend, bipartisan task forces for important issues like adoption and clean water could push lots of legislation through with no issue. 

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But, the Republicans may subsequently have trouble pushing bills concerning more controversial issues, like welfare and voter ID requirements, Duchow added. 

“We want to have stricter requirements for people getting welfare, and Gov. Evers is not going to go along with that,” Duchow said. “We want to tighten up the elections—right now. In Milwaukee, you can vote up to six weeks prior to an election, and I personally think that’s wrong.”

Six bills unanimously passed the Assembly Jan. 15 regarding two years of collective bargaining agreements for the several hundred unionized trades workers spread across the University of Wisconsin System campuses, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

These workers, who are carpenters, painters, bricklayers and plumbers, were still waiting for cost-of-living raises despite the UW Board of Regents approving these agreements nine months ago.

The workers are entitled to the retroactive 2018-2019 agreement of a 2.13% increase and the 2019-2020 2.44% raise. 

Duchow spoke on Governor Evers’ goal for the year and the Assembly’s next steps.

“Right now, he’s trying to get some things done so that the Democrats have something to run on in the fall,” Duchow said. “So we have put a lot of bipartisan legislation forward.”