The run is over. It’s been eight-and-a-half months since Wisconsin’s state legislature met in session for literally more than a minute. That hiatus came to and end Monday with a swearing-in ceremony.
The session was mostly ceremonial but even that wasn’t controversial. The legislature decided to kick of 2021 with quite an exhausted debate over masks, which we’ll get into later.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers tried to put out a bill he thought both sides of the aisle could agree on. Regardless, Democrats added to that proposal, releasing their package in the morning, while Republicans followed suit with their own bill later in the day.
Session two happens at 1 p.m. Thursday, but don’t hold your breath, Onalaska State Rep. Steve Doyle essentially said Monday on La Crosse Talk PM on his way back from Madison.
“I don’t like backroom kind of stuff, but I do think that you need to have both sides talking ahead of time,” Doyle said, “so that when a package comes up for a vote in the legislature, at least you know it’s going to pass and not get vetoed, and I don’t think we have that at this point.”
Doyle added that once he got back home, he would begin to cram, like a final exam, what Republicans who control the legislature proposed, because that’s the bill that will be passing Thursday.
“I’m just trying to figure out two things: One, What’s in it? And, secondly, What’s next?” Doyle said. “If this is a one-and-done, and Republicans’ position is, ‘This is all we need to do,’ I’m going to have a hard time with that because there certainly some things that aren’t in there that should be.”
Doyle said the Democratic proposal had additions to Evers’ package like hazard pay and sick leave for health care workers, he believes need to come to a vote at some point.
The last time the legislature passed a bill of any kind was back in mid-April, which was the first round of COVID-19 legislation.
The GOP-led legislature did meet one other time since April. That came in mid-August, a special session called by Evers, to debate a package of policing bills in the wake of both the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis and the Jacob Blake shooting by Kenosha Police. Republicans gaveled in and almost immediately out of that session without debate.
As was said earlier, the session kicked off with Republicans believing that masks aren’t necessary in the state chamber for some reason, despite everyone else in Wisconsin being mandated to do so while indoors.
Doyle wasn’t happy about the lack of masks, and vented that frustration on the show, as well as with a statement.
“When I looked in the chamber and saw that a lot of people didn’t have masks, I and my Democratic colleagues, decided that we would be in the building, we were there to do our job, but we weren’t going to go in the chamber because that’s setting the wrong example.”
In his statement, Doyle added some unflattering stats that have plagued the state of Wisconsin when it comes to COVID-19.