Governor outlines areas of likely agreement, but also spells out measures where GOP has “no appetite” to provide relief.
In the “interest of reaching a timely agreement on pressing issues,” Gov. Tony Evers on Monday sent the state’s top two Republican lawmakers a compromise bill to address the ongoing fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, asking for lawmakers to schedule a vote “without delay.”
In his letter to Senate Majority-elect Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), Evers said he has appreciated their conversations over the last several weeks but is “disappointed” there has not been willingness to move forward with a bill yet this month.
To that end, Evers said the “commonsense compromise” includes items that he said they could all agree on.
“I am calling on both houses to convene and take up the proposal expeditiously and without delay,” said Evers. “As always, I welcome additional feedback during the legislative process, but as I have continued to say, time is of the essence, and action must not be delayed any longer.”
Items in the compromise bill include:
- Extending the March 13 deadline requiring health insurance plans to cover COVID-19 testing to June 30,
- Requiring University of Wisconsin institutions and technical colleges to offer students course credit for volunteering or working for at least one semester in eligible pandemic response activities,
- Requiring the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to publish a plan to address the backlog of unemployment insurance and extending the hours of the unemployment insurance call center to 12 hours per day, seven days per week until claims numbers are sharply reduced,
- Using Medicaid funds to reimburse hospitals forced to provide patient care in an outpatient, clinic setting due to overcrowding from coronavirus patients, and hospitals caring for patients who have to remain in their care because no nursing home beds are available.
Evers said he hopes for more Republican support to the state’s continued response to the pandemic, and described it as “unfortunate there seemed to be no appetite from your caucuses on other items.”
Evers specifically lists topics that seem to have no interest in being addressed by the GOP, including: ensuring those impacted by COVID-19 aren’t evicted from their homes, requiring insurers to cover all telehealth services, easing work search requirements for those who have lost their jobs and can’t find new work, and making it easier for healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19 to claim workers compensation.
In a statement, Vos did not directly address Evers’ compromise bill but implied he does not plan on acting on it. He claimed Evers “walk[ed] away from the table” and said the Assembly and Senate will propose a bill “early next month.”
“I’ve consistently said I would like to get another COVID bill done in December,” Vos said. “It’s too bad we weren’t able to meet that goal. It’s the Governor’s job to work with us and negotiate a Covid package, not just give us his summary of where he thinks we are.”
LeMahieu’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, LeMahieu has stated he did not plan to convene the Senate to vote on pandemic relief bills in December.
The last time the Legislature was in session was mid-April.
Jonathon Sadowski contributed to this report.