Evers Responds to Legislature's Efforts to End Emergency Declaration

By Will Kenneally

January 29, 2021

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Tony Evers

Gov. Tony Evers during a DHS Briefing Sept. 15, 2020.

Gov. Tony Evers would not rule out vetoing the current Republican COVID-19 legislation when it hits his desk, but said during a Friday media briefing that he wants to see what is in the final bill.

This comes as a coronavirus aid bill has bounced between both chambers of the Legislature, after the Assembly amended a Senate compromise bill to include more Republican priorities.

The additions would prevent employers from requiring employees get COVID-19 vaccines, stop local health officials from barring religious services, and create greater legislative oversight over federal COVID-19 funds.

“There’s frankly no reason not to work together to pass a comprehensive compromise bill,” Evers said Friday. “It’s time for the Legislature to get on board with that compromise, and one that’s already made it through one house on a bipartisan vote.”

Senate Republicans made an additional change to the bill Thursday that would curb the governor’s ability to declare a COVID-19 emergency.

Evers could only declare a COVID-19 emergency to seek federal funds under the proposal. This is seen as a stop-gap to prevent Wisconsin households from losing food stamp benefits, while preventing the governor from implementing other measures—like the state’s mask mandate.

“It’s a nonstarter,” said Rep. Gordon Hintz, the Assembly’s top Democrat, during an interview with Here & Now. “These guys [are] trying to micromanage and continue to try to do Governor Evers’ job for him, and I just think that’s a nonstarter.”

Republicans however, see it as a way to reign in a governor who has overstepped his authority.

“This is about the governor issuing an illegal order that should have been struck down by the courts—they haven’t acted yet, which is why we’re going to do ours,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said during a Here & Now interview.

Republicans are poised to end the governor’s mask mandate by ending Wisconsin’s current emergency declaration. A resolution passed the Senate on Tuesday, but Vos put the breaks on the measure Thursday, saying he wanted to see what fiscal impact ending the emergency would have.

“We don’t want to sacrifice the $50 million a month in federal future for our seniors, that’s why we took a pause,” Vos said.

He said the Legislature will continue to study the potential ramifications of ending the emergency declaration, but expects the COVID-19 relief bill to pass.

“I’m optimistic the governor is going to sign it, it’s a good bill,” he said.

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