We’re one day away from the nine month anniversary of Wisconsin’s state Legislature passing a bill.
That date was April 14, and that legislation just happened to be a COVID-19 relief package.
Since then, Wisconsin has endured the worst of the pandemic — hopefully — yet nothing has been done to help the state from the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Tuesday, however, a bipartisan package passed 29-2 in the state Senate on COVID relief that makes it look like Wisconsin is finally moving forward.
“It’s a first start,” newly-elected Sen. Brad Pfaff said on La Crosse Talk PM. “We have a lot more that we need to do, but at least we’re doing something. It’s been close to 280 days since the legislature had actually moved forward here on any type of COVID relief in the Senate.”
Not just the Senate. Again, legislation of any kind that would get to the governor’s desk.
“There’s still more work to do. Believe me,” Pfaff added. “We need to make sure that we provide assistance out for our families, our workers, our small business. That all needs to take place. But we gotta, at least, pass a piece of legislation that gets our government moving.”
Don’t hold your breath on this passing the Assembly, however.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said yesterday: “It seems some would think the only way to find common ground is to cave in to the governor’s demands.”
The Assembly then decided it was a good time to pass a resolution … not on anything related to COVID-19 relief, but a resolution praising Vos for becoming the longest-serving speaker in state history.
That led to this tweet by Gov. Tony Evers’ spokeswoman, Britt Cudaback: “Extraordinary. Your Wisconsin State Assembly is currently taking up a resolution to honor checks notes Robin Vos. Anyway, 272 days — how’s that second COVID bill coming along?”
In response’s to Vos’ “caving” comment, new Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said in a statement that the Senate was protecting schools, churches and employers.
“This is a great win while we continue to work on our core priorities of opening schools, lifting gathering bans and putting limits on local bureaucrats,” LeMahieu said.
The Senate’s bill would put $100 million to fighting the virus and still ensures Medicaid covers COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. It would also guarantee that SeniorCare, Wisconsin’s prescription drug discount program for senior citizens, would cover vaccinations.
The bill also retains a provision allowing college students to satisfy course requirements by volunteering to assist with COVID-19-related work.
“We provide assistance for those within nursing homes,” Pfaff said, “to make sure we move forward to help our small businesses, when it comes to liability, and when it comes to make sure that people who are providing the goods and services, can continue to do that. I like that. I thought that was important.”
That’s actually the part that Evers and other Democrats don’t like — the limiting liability for COVID-19 claims against businesses, schools, governments and health care providers.
The bill is scaled back from what the Assembly passed, which included numerous provisions opposed by Evers, including limiting the ability of health and school officials to manage the pandemic.
Pfaff in is his first-ever term as a state Senator, after defeating Dan Kapanke last election for the 32nd District, which includes La Crosse. Pfaff was, for nearly a year, the state’s acting ag. secretary before Republicans decided not to confirm him, which caused a bit of a controversy.