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Friday, March 24, 2023
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers gives a speech

GOP bills would limit Gov. Evers’ pandemic powers, allow dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccines

State Republicans introduced legislation yesterday that would limit Governor Evers’ pandemic powers and complicate his use of emergency powers, following a succession of court cases aimed to restrict the governor’s powers. 

Elsewhere state officials are considering allowing dentists to administer vaccines after a 12 hour training program, as well as other bills that would speed up vaccine rollout.

The set of emergency power bills are being circulated by GOP lawmakers Rep. Joe Sanfelippo and Sen. Eric Wimberger.

The first would prohibit DHS or local health officials from ordering home confinement and prohibit Evers from labeling businesses as “essential’ or “nonessential.”

The second limits the governor’s powers regarding state of emergency declarations. 

It would require state of emergency declarations to be approved by at least two legislative leaders out of the Senate majority leader, Senate minority leader, Assembly speaker and Assembly minority leader. It would also prohibit the governor from issuing consecutive state of emergency declarations on closely related issues, require the governor to call together the legislature before considering a state of emergency and limit these declarations to no longer than 30 days at a time. 

“Over the past year, we have witnessed a constant struggle between individual liberty and government powers,” Sen. Wimberger said in a release. “While governments do need emergency powers in certain, rare situations, they should be severely limited in duration and scope.”

State leaders have been constantly trying to loosen pandemic restrictions since May 2020, attempting to consecutively repeal Evers mask mandates. After their most recent attempt to strike down the mandate in January, Gov. Evers issued a new mask mandate immediately after it was repealed by Republicans.  

Vaccine rollout

Meanwhile, state officials are considering loosening restrictions on who is allowed to administer vaccines as supply is beginning to increase rapidly. AB 124 would allow dentists to administer vaccines, though it would require a $20 copay since dentists are not primary care providers. 

“Wisconsin should issue a call to arms to vaccinate,” President of Wisconsin Academy of General Dentistry Dr. Virginia Scott said in an Assembly Health Committee meeting Tuesday morning. “Dentists are arguably trained to administer injections in a much more complex area of the body.”

According to the bill, dentists would need to complete 12 hours of training regarding vaccine protocols, including storage, administration, record keeping and emergency procedures. 

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The initial legislation was included in a COVID-19 relief package from state Republicans, which was vetoed by the governor early last month after Republicans completely overhauled the proposed package both sides previously agreed on. The original package also included allowing pharmacy students to administer COVID-19 vaccines. 

The other bill, AB 148, would set standards for hospital services provided in family homes and allow health care providers from other states to work in Wisconsin as long as they have applied for a medical license in the state, among other things.

“We are well aware of the policies and politics in the COVID laws set in Wisconsin, but we have worked diligently to find common ground,” President and CEO of the Wisconsin Hospital Association Eric Borgerding said to the committee. “This legislation is a critical step to put water where fire is, as we all try to improve public health.”

Both bills currently sit in the Committee on Health where legislators will amend and vote on them before they travel to the Senate. 

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