Senate GOP may not take up coronavirus legislation until new year, Democrats say ‘fate, health of our state is at stake’

NOW: Senate GOP may not take up coronavirus legislation until new year, Democrats say ‘fate, health of our state is at stake’

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – The governor and Republican-controlled Assembly and Senate all have different visions for how to move forward with potential coronavirus relief legislation, signaling a likely rocky road ahead for the state to respond to the ongoing pandemic crisis.

Assembly Republicans rolled out their proposals on Tuesday. You can read more about the proposals here.

“This is a great set of ideas from all over our caucus that we decided to put out there,” Rep. Tyler August (R – Lake Geneva) told CBS 58 in an interview. “I’m hopeful that the conversations with the governor are going to continue and that we will be able to get some sort of agreement but we feel that this is a really good starting point for us.”

Proposals like continuing to cover testing costs, boosting the amount of testing and creating grants for hospitals received positive feedback and may likely have a shot at getting the governor’s signature.

But other ideas like legislative oversight over vaccine distribution, requiring teachers to return to classrooms and limiting powers of health officials were viewed as sharply partisan.

The amount of funding of $100 million to address the pandemic is far less than the more than $500 million proposed by Governor Tony Evers.

“It basically says, ‘Here’s your turnip back, squeeze some blood out of it some more,’” Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley (D – Mason) said of the Assembly GOP plan in an interview.

On top of that, Senate Republicans are unlikely to take up any legislation until next year.

“We are discussing the Speaker’s Plan as a caucus and are interested in working on some of these items in the new year,” Senate Majority Leader-elect Devin LeMahieu said in a statement. “But right now, the Senate Plan to transfer surplus funds to COVID-19 response efforts offers the path of least resistance to quickly beat the expiration of the federal CARES Act dollars.”

Democrats said the state cannot afford to wait that long.

“Let’s forget about political points. Let’s forget about saying, ‘Yeah, we did it and we did it our way.’ Well how about just getting it done. Period. We can do that,” Bewley said. “We are trying to do something and we need to do it now. And we know we have to spend money because the fate, the health of our state is at stake.”

Before Thanksgiving, CBS 58 asked Gov. Evers about his thoughts of the Legislature not passing coronavirus relief until the new year. Evers noted the GOP-controlled Legislature met in December of 2018 to pass Lame Duck legislation to limit his powers so there should be no excuse why they can’t meet before January.

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