Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers calls on the Republican-controlled Legislature in his State of the State speech on Wednesday to keep working on a host of issues, including many with bipartisan support, before they adjourn for the year and begin to focus on elections in the fall.
Evers, a Democrat, is asking for nonpartisan redistricting reform — an issue Republicans oppose — clamping down on vaping among young people, capping the cost of insulin and getting the chemical pollutant PFAS out of the water.
Evers will also prod lawmakers to do more to make higher education more available to Wisconsin residents, including understanding the impact of loan debt on students and their families.
“We’ve got work to do,” Evers said in the excerpts. “There’s no rest for the elected, folks, and we’ve got a lot to get done before anyone takes a vacation.”
Evers and Republicans have found little they can agree on during the governor’s first year in office, and there will be little time this year for them to do anything of substance.
Lawmakers plan to be in session voting on bills just a handful of days, with the Assembly hoping to complete its work by the end of February and the Senate likely done shortly after that.
“We have been continuing to look for things that are bipartisan,” Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Tuesday. That includes bills combating opioid addiction, protecting water quality and preventing suicides, he said.
Evers will talk about areas where Republicans and Democrats could work together to get things done, like criminal justice reform, said Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz.
“The governor’s certainly going to highlight the opportunities we have,” Hintz said. “We’re at our best when we get things done.”
Evers said he will appoint a commission to draw non-partisan district maps after the 2020 census, calling them the “people’s maps.”
Evers this week called on the Legislature to pass a series of bills aimed at reducing vaping among youth people, a call he is renewing in his speech. The measures would ban vaping and vapor products at K-12 schools and fund a public health campaign to address youth vaping in the state.
Vos faulted Evers for not working with Republicans before putting forward his anti-vaping agenda.
This is Evers’ second State of the State speech and marks the kick off of his second year in office. His first year was dominated by debate of the state budget. This year the focus will be on the presidential election and state elections for the Legislature. Republicans hold a 63-36 Assembly majority and a 19-14 majority in the Senate.
At the end of the address, Evers said “On, Wisconsin,” cueing the UW Marching Band to enter the legislative chamber to perform the state song.