Gov. Tony Evers on Monday welcomed the state Legislature back to session, then once again tasked lawmakers with passing his version of a coronavirus relief package.
(The Center Square) – The new year for Wisconsin lawmakers is beginning much like the old one ended.
The Republican-controlled Assembly and Senate have rejected the governor’s ideas at least twice before.
“I respectfully request that you prioritize the COVID-19 compromise bill – LRB-6592 – that I introduced several weeks ago now, and ask that the bill as drafted, which includes provisions agreed upon by Republican leaders and me, be the first bill taken up and passed by both respective houses so it can be sent to my desk without delay,” Evers wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “Time is of the essence, and frankly, we cannot delay any longer. It is time to move forward on legislation where there is agreement.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has said in the past that Gov. Evers’ demands to lawmakers are counterproductive.
Legislative leaders say the governor’s plan does little to actually help fight the virus in Wisconsin. Much of Gov. Evers’ proposal focuses on shifting state employees, continuing a moratorium on evictions, and stopping the state’s Department of Public Instruction from tracking school and student success.
The governor’s demand comes as lawmakers return to Madison for the first time since last spring.
“I would hope he’d reconsider his decision to walk away from the table,” Vos said in December, the last time the governor told lawmakers to quickly vote on his proposal.
The coronavirus is already causing hiccups, however.
Republicans hold even stronger majorities at the Statehouse after last November’s elections. In the Assembly, Republicans will enjoy a 60-38 supermajority, while in the Senate Republicans are one vote shy of a supermajority with a 20-12 advantage.
“I can tell you our constituents care far more that we are putting something out there, that we are getting behind things, that we are calling for bipartisan action than they do whether we’re there for an in-person ceremony or not,” Hintz told reporters during a virtual news conference.
Most of Wisconsin’s Democratic lawmakers skipped Monday’s inauguration ceremonies after opting for virtual swearing-in ceremonies last month. Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oskosh, was one of them.
“[W]hen we have committee meetings I will be in the building,” Sen. John Erpenback, D-West Point, told reporters on Monday. “Sometimes it will be in attendance, sometimes it will be on Zoom.”
Other Democrats are talking about avoiding time in the State Capitol unless and until there is a mask requirement for lawmakers.
“I don’t think you’ll see a lot of Assembly Democrats coming to the floor to give 20-minute speeches,” Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, added. “We’re not going to want to debate things ad nauseam in a room with people who shouldn’t be spending a lot of time together in close spaces.”
By Benjamin Yount | The Center Square
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Reposted with permission