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Wisconsin Democrats call for public to vote against set of Republican-written amendments on the August ballot



Two proposed amendments by Republicans in the state Legislature to change the Wisconsin constitution could affect how federal funding gets to communities around the state.

Those amendments will be on the ballot in the August primary — not the November general — and Wisconsin Democrats want voters to say “no” to both questions.


Question 1: “Delegation of appropriation power. Shall section 35 (1) of article IV of the constitution be created to provide that the legislature may not delegate its sole power to determine how moneys shall be appropriated?”

Question 2: “Allocation of federal moneys. Shall section 35 (2) of article IV of the constitution be created to prohibit the governor from allocating any federal moneys the governor accepts on behalf of the state without the approval of the legislature by joint resolution or as provided by legislative rule?”

The two questions would essentially strip power from the governor and hand it to the legislature when it comes to distributing emergency funding.

Democrats argue that if the power is handed to the Legislature to accept and distribute funds for emergencies — from anything like flooding assistance to COVID-19 funds — that the money would not be appropriated in a timely fashion.

During a news conference outside a 4th Street business Tuesday, state Assembly Rep. Jill Billings (D-La Crosse) said the amendments are deceptive and could give Republicans in the legislature more power to control funding.

“I’ve seen how Republicans can’t even distribute state moneys properly,” Billings, speaking outside the Vision of Light stained glass shop, said. “And they want us to allow them to have sole control now over all federal moneys, in all situations, by constitutional amendment?”

Vision of Light owner Penny Fassler said local businesses were disappointed by the inaction of lawmakers during the COVID outbreak four years ago. That’s when COVID started to ramp up and the Republican-led Legislature remained out of session the last nine months of 2020 without calling an extraordinary session to deal with the pandemic.

“Wisconsinites should not give the Legislature the sole power over critical funding” to help small businesses, Fassler said. “In 2020, they sat on the sidelines while we waited for support, and we can’t trust them to do right by our businesses, next time we need help.”

William Garcia, both the La Crosse County and the 3rd Congressional District party chair for the Democrats, pointed out that Republicans didn’t have a problem with governors distributing emergency funding when Scott Walker was in charge.

In August of 2018, Walker flew by helicopter to Coon Valley to check out flooding and by October had requested from then-President Donald Trump a federal disaster declaration for multiple counties, including La Crosse and Vernon counties.

“And of course, at that point, the Republican Legislature was like, ‘Great, this is working exactly as it should be,'” Garcia said on the Democratic Voice podcast. “But now, because we have a democratic governor and they don’t have control over it, they want to stop it. The dangerous part of emergency is, that our Legislature in particular, can’t pass anything. They can’t agree on anything.”

La Crosse Democratic Party chair William Garcia discusses the GOP Constitutional Amendments in this episode of the Democratic Voice Podcast.

Billings does believe the two parties can work together to allocate money for projects, such as cleaning up PFAS “forever chemicals” in drinking water, which has kept residents on French Island on bottled water for 4.5 years now.

Republicans wrote into their budget that the Democratic governor signed back in January, $125 million to spend helping fight PFAS. Since then, however, the money has sat idle, while the two sides fight over details into how to allocate the funds.

Among community organizations, which would be affected by the constitutional amendment changes, is Black Leaders Acquiring Collective Knowledge (BLACK) in La Crosse. Board member Andrew Rasmussen said the group wants federal funding protected.

“Our funding helped over 60 students and staff expand their world view through summer experience programs that focused on academics, cultural identity and history, college and career readiness, and mental health,” Rasmussen said.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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  1. walden

    July 6, 2024 at 5:03 pm

    The difference is Walker was responsible in his spending.

    Evers seems primarily interested in spending that caters to his voting blocks, as illustrated by the participants in this particular dog and pony show.

    There, I solve your confusion for you.

  2. LG

    July 10, 2024 at 11:58 am

    If the Democrats are against these amendments, then I am for it. I plan to vote yes to both. Better decisions come from multiple opinions, so it is best to let the legislature decide rather than a single governor. At the risk of sounding contradictory, this is why free markets work better than government making decisions. Put another way, millions of people making decisions via the free market is much better than 535 members of the house and Senate. William Garcia says Republicans can’t pass anything and can’t agree in anything. That is a ridiculous blanket statement that cannot be true. Terms like always, never, anything are irrational, rendering his statement completely false. and yes, Walden, Scott Walker’s goal was to reduce spending and he certainly was responsible. That’s an important difference and I continue to like and appreciate your perspective.

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