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Wisconsin Senate acts on pharmacy, election bills

Wisconsin Senate acts on pharmacy, election bills

The Wisconsin Senate passed bills Wednesday that would license remote dispensing sites as pharmacies and make it a felony to tamper with a vaccine. The chamber also took up election bills that drew concerns from those with disabilities and their advocates.

The chamber unanimously forwarded a plan that would allow for the licensing of remote dispensing sites, which are pharmacies that operate via remote supervision instead of having a pharmacist physically present.

Rules promulgated by the Pharmacy Examining Board allow such sites to operate. But contradicting state law has led the Drug Enforcement Administration to stop authorizing new sites for controlled substance use unless they’re licensed, per testimony submitted to the Senate Committee on Health last month by bill author Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac.

Separate legislation approved by the chamber would make vaccine tampering a felony. Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, authored the bill in response to a pharmacist in his district who intentionally spoiled more than 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Stroebel also wrote a bill that passed along party lines allowing clerks to train employees sent by long-term care facilities as special voting assistants if special voting deputies can’t visit. Long-term care facilities would have to notify next of kin when special voting deputies arrive to help residents vote.

And employees of long-term care facilities who coerce occupants to apply or not apply for an absentee ballot or force them to cast a ballot for or against a candidate would be guilty of a felony.

Stroebel said that special voting deputies were not allowed into long-term care facilities during elections held during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that state lawmakers have to act in case there’s another pandemic and to ensure “fair voting.”

“We really had kind of a wild west thing going on,” he said.

Another bill that passed would require more paperwork to vote absentee and require voters who are indefinitely confined due to age or disability to provide copies of their photo ID more often. An additional bill approved by the chamber would limit ballot drop boxes.

Barbara Beckert, Disability Rights Wisconsin Milwaukee Office Director, asked lawmakers to slow the process down.

“We are asking policymakers to take a pause and not advance changes that could create new barriers and impact the voting rights for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites with a disability and older adults and could potentially impact all voting age Wisconsinites,” Beckert said at a Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition briefing before the votes. “These bills are not ready for prime time.”

Beckert said the bill on long-term care facilities could make it more difficult for residents to vote as it originally restricted staff from offering information about voting.

An amendment modified that, but Beckert said they’re already hearing from care facility staff who are “confused and frightened” by the threat of criminal penalties and are unwilling to take the risk of helping residents with voting. Current law already makes it illegal for any person assisting an elector to persuade them to vote for or against any candidate, she noted.

This article first appeared in the Wisconsin Health News daily email newsletter. Sign up for your free trial here.


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