WJI is taking a look at justice-related bills adopted during the 2019-20 session.
2019 Act 97 – This act makes battery to a nurse or to a person working under the supervision of a nurse a Class H felony rather than a misdemeanor, as was previously the case.
The misdemeanor was punishable by up to nine months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. The felony is punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of $10,000 or both.
It previously was a felony to commit battery against an emergency medical care provider. Act 97 expands that Class H felony to cover battery against any health care provider who works in a hospital.
"Hospital" has a broad definition under the act and includes any facility devoted to treatment of and medical care for three or more nonrelated individuals.
The law was introduced as Senate Bill 163. The companion bill was Assembly Bill 175.
The lead authors of SB 163 were Senators Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee).
The lead co-sponsors were State Representatives Gae Magnafici (R-Dresser) and Cindi Duchow (R-Delafield).
An amendment to exempt some people with mental illness or brain damage, degenerative brain disorder, or developmental disability from the harsher penalties was defeated in the Assembly along a party line vote.
State Reps. Jonathan Brostrom (D-Milwaukee) and Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) voted against the bill.
Gov. Evers signed the new law Feb. 5, 2020.
District attorneys, Department of Corrections, Department of Justice and State Public Defender's Office all said they could not determine how much the new law would cost.
Kooyenga – Workplace violence should not be a part of the job for a nurse. However, the reality we have all seen depicted in the news shows otherwise and unfortunately, earlier this year, a nurse was beaten to death at an area healthcare facility. Workplace violence against nurses can be found in just about every type of practice setting – hospitals, clinics, home care, psychiatric, long term care and correctional health settings. .
Wisconsin Nurses Association – Instances of workplace violence against nurses have gone beyond the emergency room. Incidents are regularly taking place on other units of hospitals, same day surgery, ambulatory care, primary care, long term care, home care, hospice, and employer based clinics.
According to a report published by the American Nurses Association one in four nurses are assaulted while on the job. This data is similar to WNA's research. It is important to note that one common theme in all of these reports is that the majority of nurses did not report the incident. Reasons for not reporting include the belief that assaults are part of the job and/or the belief that their report will not be investigated and acted upon. This is why workplace violence against nurses is also referred to as the "Silent Epidemic."
Froedtert Health – There are a number of factors that contribute to the higher risk in a healthcare environment. Healthcare facilities are generally widely accessible to the general public and providers are committed to caring for all, both through their professional and ethical responsibilities to "do no harm" and through various laws and regulations....Patients often feel sick and are often frightened and facing uncertainty. Some are in significant pain. Others are under the influence of medications or illicit drugs, have a history of violence, or have a medical condition that impacts their decision-making and behavior. Family members and visitors can feel extreme stress, concern and anger when a loved one is facing a serious health issue. All of these factors can contribute to inappropriate acts of violence....We support this legislative effort to improve safety and discourage violence through a penalty enhancer.
Disability Rights Wisconsin – We respect the concerns of the bill's authors regarding addressing workplace violence against nurses. However, after reviewing the potential impact of the bill on people with disabilities, we are concerned that the bill may have unintended consequences and would not have changed the tragic incident that this proposal is responding to.
AB 175/ SB 163 has been described as addressing "bodily harm to a nurse" but the actual scope is far broader. The penalty enhancer included in this bill would also be applicable to situations involving "an individual working under the supervision of an RN or LPN." This is very expansive and would include personal care workers, Certified Nursing Assistants, and other paraprofessionals who work in a wide range of community settings including private homes and apartments, group homes and schools, as well as traditional healthcare settings.
We are also concerned that AB 175/ SB 163 could potentially criminalize actions by some people with disabilities that are a manifestation of their disability. This concern is particularly acute because of the expansive nature of the proposal and its applicability to large numbers of paraprofessionals who provide care to people with disabilities. Certain types of disabilities such as traumatic brain injury, dementia, autism, or mental illness, may in some cases manifest challenging behaviors, especially when an individual is in crisis. Unfortunately, on occasion these behaviors result in bodily harm to a caregiver. Under this bill a person with a disability could be charged with a Class H felony. While we acknowledge that intent is an element, that does not guarantee that a person with a disability will not be charged or convicted....
Registering for the bill
AFSCME International Union, Aurora Health Care Inc., Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, Froedtert Health, LeadingAge Wisconsin, Medical College of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Academy of Physician Assistants, Wisconsin Association of School Nurses, Wisconsin Nurses Association, Wisconsin Professional Police Association.
Registering against the bill
Registering for "Other" position
Comment: We have concerns about the broad scope of this legislation; the term "intentional" can be interpreted subjectively. People with Alzheimer's or dementia, who may be experiencing a crisis situation, could potentially be charged with a Class H felony.
Ascension Wisconsin (supported bill with an expansion that was eventually adopted).
Disability Rights Wisconsin (see testimony above).
Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources
Comment: Concern-This bill could have unintended consequences as some illnesses/disabilities (dementia, traumatic brain injury, dementia, mental illness, etc) can manifest in behaviors that could subject individuals to being charged with a Class H felony.
League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Inc.
Comment: We could support this bill if amended to include all health personnel and to exempt patients determined to have certain behavioral disabilities, based on evidence-based standards.
Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin (supported bill with an expansion that was eventually adopted).
Wisconisn Academy of Physician Assistants (supported bill with an expansion that was eventually adopted).
Wisconsin Coalition of Independent Living Centers Inc.
Comment: This may have unintended consequences for some people's behavior who have dementia, autism, some mental illnesses and result in them having a felony.
Wisconsin Hospital Association (supported bill with an expansion that was eventually adopted)
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