HUDSON — The St. Croix County Health and Human Services Committee hit pause on controversial vaccination-related legislation in spite of a parade of speakers voicing opposition to a bill that’s been sitting idle in Madison.
More than 40 people — some of whom were seated in an overflow room — spoke Jan. 8 at the Government Center, asking the committee to oppose a bill that seeks to end Wisconsin’s personal conviction waiver, a policy that allows families to opt out of vaccination requirements based on their beliefs.
The public comment period, which lasted about 1 hour and 45 minutes, saw unanimous opposition among speakers, including two women who said their infants’ deaths were connected to vaccinations.
The testimonials followed two straight HHS committee meetings that focused on whether the county should weigh in on personal conviction waiver legislation. Board members heard in December from St. Croix Immunization Coalition members, who defended vaccines, while opponents of the bill also spoke out in November.
But after learning the bill appears dead for the 2020 legislative session, committee members backed off taking a position on the measure. Rather, the panel voted to table the issue until no later than February 2021 — until after the elections for both County Board and the Legislature. Four of the six County Board members who serve on the HHS committee will not be seeking re-election in April.
If there is no action on the personal conviction waiver bill this year, the legislation would need to be reintroduced. Under that scenario, the first opportunity for that would be when legislators convene in 2021.
Assessment wait time achieved
St. Croix County leaders gave credit where credit was due.
After putting a Department of Health & Human Services division under the microscope last summer, St. Croix County Board members saluted workers for turning around a wait time that exceeded state requirements.
County leaders raised concerns in July that the wait time for OWI convicts to receive an alcohol assessment was about two months long. The state requires those assessments to be completed within 14 days, with the option for a 20-day extension.
The department whittled that to 13 days by Nov. 4, according to a report submitted to the Health and Human Services Committee.
County Board Supervisor and HHS committee Chairman Dave Ostness tipped his cap to Steve Kirt and members of the behavioral services division that was tasked with bringing the wait time into compliance.
“Your staff has done a great job getting where we are from months ago with that long wait period down to that short one,” Ostness said.
The behavioral services division was also recognized at the Jan. 7 County Board meeting. Steve Kirt, administrator of the division, said staff were “moved by that.”
“It does tax them when they feel like they’re underperforming because of all the pressures on them,” he said.