THU AM News: Milwaukee area real estate market sets new record for annual sales; Health workers tout bill to provide sick leave, hazard pay and other benefits

— The Milwaukee area real estate market set a record for sales last year with 23,827 total units sold, the latest report from the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors shows. 

The prior record of 22,445 units sold was set in 2020, according to a previous report. While December is typically a slow month for real estate sales, the report notes year-over-year sales increases were seen across most of southeastern Wisconsin. 

While last month’s sales were 7.6 percent higher in the four-county metro area — Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee counties — sales for the greater region including Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties were up by 8.8 percent. 

For the year overall, sales for the metro area were up 6.2 percent while sales for the greater region up 5.9 percent. 

Last year also marked the sixth year in a row that annual real estate sales were over 21,000 units, which the GMAR calls “a sure sign of the market’s strength.” But the group says the area needs nearly 8,000 more units to satisfy market demand expected this winter. 

In December, the area only had enough inventory to match under two months of demand, the report shows, and that doesn’t include units with an offer in place. The relatively tight market has been driving up real estate prices, which increased by 10.8 percent over the year for the metro area and 11.1 percent in the seven-county area. 

“The price increases we have seen are directly related due to supply constraints and buyer demand … especially in the last five years,” the group wrote in its report. “That combined with the demographic surge of Millennial and Gen Z buyers, historically low interest rates, and a growing economy, have all contributed to an historically tight market and rising prices.” 

Looking ahead to 2022, the GMAR says the outlook is “excellent,” though slightly less strong than last year. 

See the full report here: 

— Health care workers say legislation to provide paid sick leave, hazard pay and other benefits would help address burnout and retention issues among frontline medical personnel. 

“If the Healthcare Heroes Act passes, there would certainly be a collective sigh of relief from health care workers across the state,” said Louise Nordstrom, a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Meriter in Madison. “From receiving hazard pay, to the assurance of paid sick leave, to the 100 percent insurance coverage of treatment costs for COVID, this legislation serves to protect those of us who have answered the call to fight this deadly virus for the last two years.” 

Nordstrom spoke yesterday during a news conference organized by Democratic lawmakers who are reintroducing the legislation after previously introducing it in June 2020. Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, said “the best time to pass this bill was in 2020. But the second-best time is right now.” 

He explained the bill would provide hazard pay and paid medical leave for these workers, ensure these workers don’t have to pay for COVID-19 testing and that they have health coverage. The legislation would expand BadgerCare “to bring federal dollars back to our state, and uses some of the savings to fund this program,” Spreitzer said. 

Nordstrom noted hospitals and health systems in the state are losing nurses every week as the pressures of providing care during a pandemic continue to build. 

“The virus that is breaking down the doors of our hospital is breaking down any resolve that we have left to carry on,” she said. “Hazard pay will go a long way to help support and retain staff so we can continue to care for the people of Wisconsin.” 

In response to a reporter asking about GOP bills related to vaccination requirements and mandates, Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-West Point, slammed Republicans for “making sure that those who don’t want to be vaccinated are protected from not being vaccinated.” 

“We’re just on the flip side, making sure that vaccinations and testing is out there as often as possible, but at the same time, doing the best we can legislatively to protect those people who are trying to protect us,” he said. “It’s like a night-and-day difference.” 

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, declined to comment. 

Mike Pochowski, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Assisted Living Association, said yesterday evening the group had just received the bill and needed to review it further before taking a position. But he highlighted a potential conflict related to its paid medical leave provision. 

“While we appreciate the proposals are intended to assist the long-term care profession during the current workforce crisis, upon first glance there might be some concerns with the proposed 15-days paid medical leave provision conflicting with the current 5 and 10 day work restriction guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” he said in an email. 

— Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, clashed with Sen. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, in a hearing after his GOP colleague quoted a constituent who compared the treatment of non-vaccinated people to Nazi Germany.

During a Senate Health Committee hearing yesterday on legislation to ban requiring a COVID-19 vaccination to enter businesses or access government services, Felzkowski said a constituent asked her, “How is this different from the star of David in Nazi Germany?”

Carpenter called the comments “asinine” and “bullshit.” Carpenter criticized what he called the “Republican pandemic,” arguing that Republicans were not involved in addressing the pandemic in the past.

“When we had an opportunity after April 15 of 2020 to do something, none of you Republicans showed up in session; you took off the rest of the year. All I hear from you is basically ‘no, no, no.’ What is your position of what you’re going to do to try and stop the spread of coronavirus?” Carpenter asked.

Felzkowski argued for natural immunity as an answer to the pandemic.

SB 383 cosponsor Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, spoke about the role of individual freedom in the pandemic.

“What started as 14 days to flatten the curve has evolved into a dystopian future where our freedoms are tossed aside,” August said.

The committee also took testimony on SB 336, which would prohibits discrimination based on vaccination status.

“Just as we have made it a priority to ensure access to vaccines, we must also make it a priority to ensure that laws are in place to protect those who choose not to receive one or more vaccines for medical, religious or deeply personal reasons,” said bill coauthor Sen. André Jacque, R-DePere.

Jacque was diagnosed with COVID-19 in September and put on a ventilator. He spent more than three weeks in the hospital.

The Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards, Wisconsin Medical Society, Wisconsin Public Health Association are opposed to the legislation, according to lobbying reports. Members of Wisconsin United For Freedom and Vaccine Choice Wisconsin testified in favor during the hearing.

The committee also heard testimony on SB 337, which would ban businesses from discriminating against a customer based on vaccination status, and SB 342, which would prevent the state or other government from doing the same.

Yesterday’s hearing follows the Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform taking testimony on bills that would allow those who quit their jobs or are fired because they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine to still qualify for unemployment benefits.

The committee also heard testimony on bills that would allow people to use natural immunity to COVID-19 in lieu of getting vaccinated or tested and one that would allow those who can prove an injury from getting the vaccine as a condition of employment to receive worker’s compensation.

— The Senate Committee on Insurance, Licensing and Forestry approved a substitute amendment making several changes to a bill on regulation and licensure of naturopathic doctors before passing the legislation. 

The committee approved the bill 4-1 yesterday during an executive session. In its amended form, Senate Bill 532 would create a new licensed occupation for naturopathic medicine administered by an examining board with two categories of licensure, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Legislative Council explained during the session. 

Licensed naturopathic doctors, or NDs, would be able to diagnose and treat conditions, order tests and imaging studies, perform minor procedures, sign certificates and recommend certain non-prescription drugs. The other category covers a limited-scope license under which license holders can diagnose and treat patients and order limited types of lab tests, but are restricted from ordering diagnostic imaging, performing procedures or signing certificates. 

The bill also recognizes a third category outside of the licensure framework commonly known as a traditional or lay naturopath. These individuals don’t need a license and their practice is mainly limited to “rendering advice on certain remedies,” Leg Council said. 

Aside from adding a limitation on naturopathic doctors using the word “medical” in their title, the substitute amendment clarifies that naturopathic medicine is distinct from the practice of medicine and surgery. 

It also removes the ability for NDs to prescribe prescription drugs, and establishes that limited license NDs can have a doctoral degree from a naturopathic medical program completed by 2013. It also adds that the limited license NDs have to have continually practiced naturopathic medicine in the state for at least 10 years before application, and makes changes to other training requirements. 

And the amendment specifies that the licensing board for these professions may interpret practices identified under the bill that are included and excluded from practices and procedures, though the board wouldn’t be able to expand the practice of either licensed category beyond what is laid out in the legislation. 

The bill was introduced by Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, and Rep. Jessie Rodriguez, R-Oak Creek. 

See more on the bill here: 

Watch a video of the session here: 

— The Center for Technology Commercialization announced recently that five Madison-area businesses have earned SBIR Advance matching grants.

Cellular Logistics, Nano RED and Steam Instruments are receiving grants of $75,000. Meanwhile, Stem Pharm and Voximetry are getting $100,000 grants. Two Milwaukee companies also won grants: ReNeuroGen, with $75,000; and XLock BioSciences, with $100,000. 

“In this round, we have seven high-tech startups that are working to commercialize products in digital health, scientific instrumentation, biomanufacturing and drug and therapeutic discovery,” SBIR Advance Program Manager Brian Walsh said in a statement. “The SBIR Advance grant funds will help them achieve critical milestones like overcoming regulatory barriers, protecting intellectual property, forging partnerships and raising investment capital.” 

The SBIR Advance matching grant program provides assistance to companies in the process of completing a project in the SBIR or STTR programs.

See the release: 

See more at Madison Startups: 


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