Freshman GOP Lawmaker Who Voted For Cutting Workers Comp: I Didn't Know What I Was Voting For
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He realized one month later the change didn’t sit well with law enforcement.

A month after voting for an amendment to the coronavirus relief bill passed by the Legislature, it appears one Republican lawmaker didn’t know what he was voting for until he was approached by a local sheriff to explain the changes to workers’ compensation insurance.

Freshman lawmaker Rep. Timothy Ramthun, R- Campbellsport, emailed Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, last month to say that he didn’t know what was in an amendment he’d voted for in April, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

According to an email obtained by the newspaper, Ramthun then asked Vos to explain the portion of the amendment that dealt with workers’ compensation for frontline workers who contracted COVID-19 as the provision appeared “deeply disturbing.”

Ramthun’s confusion stems from last-minute changes made to the bill by Vos. The changes, written by the state’s largest business lobbying group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, narrowed the definition of healthcare workers who could apply for workers compensation if they contract the virus.

It also places the burden of proof on the worker to show they contracted the virus while at work, making it more difficult for frontline workers to qualify.

Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, said Wednesday the news is troubling on several fronts.

“It’s another example of continuing corruption between Republicans and WMC,” Hansen said. “It was a last-minute amendment with no time to review.” 

Hansen added that Vos describes the amendment as “no big deal.”

Ramthum learned this was not exactly the case and the amendment he had voted for was a big deal when he was approached by Kewaskum Police Chief Tom Bishop and asked to explain it. 

“I think the burden of proof is almost unobtainable right now,” Bishop told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “People are asymptomatic for a period of time that can be days. If I come down with it tomorrow I don’t really necessarily have a way to look back and guarantee where I got it.”

Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, the state’s largest law enforcement group, said the amendment passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature was “absolutely not” doing enough to protect essential workers. 

After the bill passed, Palmer said he approved of the version Gov. Tony Evers had been working on with lawmakers. That version, compared to the amended version that was passed, would have provided workers compensation for most essential workers, including grocery store workers, childcare providers and sanitation workers. 

As for the new provision that requires first responders and healthcare workers to prove they contracted the virus while interacting with someone else who was positive while at work, Palm said that is not even possible, largely due to privacy issues surrounding patient medical information.