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Wisconsin GOP leaders want oversight of federal aid, vaccine plans



FILE - Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos speaks during an interview with The Associated Press Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Legislature’s top Republicans have signaled that they want oversight of how Democratic Gov. Tony Evers divvies up any future federal pandemic relief money and distributes vaccines.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and incoming Senate Majority Leader Devin LaMahieu said during a conference call with Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce on Wednesday that they believe Evers is making too many unilateral decisions on how to respond to COVID-19 without any public input. They said legislative oversight of federal aid and vaccine distribution would create transparency.

Evers rejected suggestions of legislative oversight during a news conference Thursday, saying having more than 100 lawmakers in the state Capitol figuring out who gets a vaccine first “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

“We need to make decisions in a timely manner,” the governor said.

They also said they want to restore a one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits that Evers and the Legislature suspended in April as part of a pandemic relief bill. They said unemployment has subsided since then and that the state shouldn’t provide incentives for people to stay home and not work.

The lawmakers’ remarks come as the Senate, the Assembly and Evers’ administration wrestle over three plans to bolster pandemic relief. The Legislature has not met to consider any COVID-19 legislation since April.

Evers has proposed a multifaceted bill that would continue the suspension of the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits, allow workers to collect worker’s compensation benefits if they contract COVID-19 on the job, and waive student test and school report card requirements, among other things.

Assembly Republicans have proposed their own package that would prohibit employers and the government from mandating vaccinations, offer weekly COVID-19 tests for home use, make it harder for schools to hold virtual classes, and require state health officials to create a plan for distributing vaccines by the end of December. The state Department of Health Services has already developed such a plan.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, want to tap medical assistance surpluses to cover testing and overflow facilities for COVID-19 patients.

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