Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, addresses Assembly members in this file photo. 
(Photo by Jessica VanEgeren)
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, addresses Assembly members in this file photo. (Photo by Jessica VanEgeren)

GOP fails to persuade Dems to override Evers veto

Three Democratic lawmakers fell in line with Gov. Tony Evers Wednesday, switching their vote from nine months ago to maintain the governor’s veto of a bill that would have lowered training standards for certified nursing assistants.

In May, the bill, dubbed the CNA Shortage Relief Act, passed the Assembly on a 66-31 vote. At that time, Democratic Reps. Steve Doyle, D-Onalaska; Beth Meyers, D-Bayfield, and Don Vruwink, D-Milton, voted in favor of the bill that would have reduced the required training hours from 120 to 75 hours, which is the federal minimum standard. 

Evers vetoed the bill in November. Republican leaders brought the bill back before the Assembly, hoping Doyle, Meyers and Vruwink again would cross party lines. Instead, the Democrats sided with the state’s top Democrat.

Doyle said he met Tuesday with Evers’ chief of staff to discuss the attempt by Republicans to overturn his veto. He said he was told he needed to vote for what would be best for his constituents, not what was best for the governor or what was best for Republicans.

“We are not done today with this vote,” Doyle said. “This is not a silver bullet. We are not done today with this bill. That is why we cannot override the Governor.”

Republicans acknowledged that while low pay could also be contributing to what numerous lawmakers referred to as a CNA shortage crisis, so is the state’s 120 hours of training. The neighboring states of Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan require 75 hours. 

Doyle and others agreed that the higher number of training hours prevents CNA’s who are trained in those states from coming to Wisconsin to work without receiving additional training.

Vruwink said he changed his mind after watching and talking to the nurses and aides caring for his brother, who has cancer.

Rep. Warren Petryk, R-Town of Washington, and the bill’s sponsor, said if the Assembly waited for a “silver bullet” to fix the CNA shortage, “nothing would get done.”

“With all due respect to Gov. Evers, he would like to talk about the problem,” Petryk said. “I think every one of us would like to act on that problem. What this bill does is it will get CNA’s into the workforce faster, while still meeting federal standards and requirements.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, singled out the three Democratic members who sided with his party for the vote in May. 

“Are you going to follow the words of your leader, or are you going to follow your constituents,” Vos said at the start of the floor debate. 

Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna,  said it was “incredibly disheartening” to see Doyle, Meyers and Vruwink bend to the will of their party.

“Protecting our elderly and disabled, and ensuring they have access to the care they need should not have been a partisan issue,” he said in a statement. “I am disappointed that a bipartisan piece of legislation that would have made a huge difference for so many of our communities has gotten caught in the crossfire of petty party politics. Wisconsin deserves better.” 

Doyle said that by maintaining Evers’ veto, a third option, such as allowing the amount of work experience to count in exchange for additional training, could be explored.

“If I have been trained in Minnesota and want to come to Wisconsin to work, none of that experience counts,” Doyle said.