Assembly Republicans delay veto override attempts, bill on requiring national anthem passes

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Assembly Republicans chose not to move forward with votes to attempt to override a pair of bills rejected by Governor Tony Evers in April that deal with government powers during a public health emergency.

One of the bills would prohibit public health officials from mandating the vaccine (AB 23) and another would ban the closure of churches and other places of worship during the pandemic (AB 24).

Governor Evers vetoed both bills in April. In his veto message on AB 24, Evers said he objected because he is opposed to legislation that would “take away existing tools available to state and local public health officials to prevent and suppress COVID-19.”

But Republicans who control the chamber scheduled votes to override those vetoes which would require a two-thirds vote in the Assembly and Senate. Leaders told reporters Tuesday their supporters urged them to try to push the legislation through.

“These are issues that are critically important to our constituents,” Assembly Majority Leader Rep. Jim Steineke (R – Kaukauna) said at a news conference. “The ability to freely worship the way they see fit without government interference, the ability to choose for themselves without their employer interfering with their decision-making, whether they get a vaccine or not.”

Democrats, however, said scheduling the veto override attempts takes time away from other important issues.

“These are just distractions, these are political games,” Rep. Robyn Vining (D – Wauwatosa) told CBS 58. “What we need to be doing on the people’s time, the people’s business, is discussing BadgerCare, mental health care, jobs, child care, this is what we need to be doing right now.”

Republicans delayed the override attempts saying they did not have the votes needed to accomplish it. They said it could be brought up on a future session day.

The Assembly also passed a bill which would make it illegal for a sports arena with state funding to skip the national anthem. Most Wisconsin sports teams already play it and the proposal would not penalize anyone if they violate the requirement.

The issue was sparked by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s decision to not play the national anthem during games. The absence of playing the anthem went unnoticed for several games until a sportswriter published a story on it. The NBA clarified its policy on the anthem and the Mavericks resumed playing the song before competitions.

The bill’s author, Rep. Tony Kurtz (R – Wonewoc), discussed his reason for the bill during a news conference.

“I do want awareness of the national anthem,” Kurtz said. “And when one individual, a billionaire, can say on his whim ‘I don’t want to play it,’ that’s a problem.”

Prior to the vote on the bill, Rep. David Bowen (D – Milwaukee) told CBS 58 he had concerns over the bill’s implications.

“[I] really want to hear from my colleagues and ensure they’re not infringing, especially on athletes and their rights to be able to protest,” Bowen told CBS 58.

The bill passed 74-22. Bowen was among the 22 ‘no’ votes.

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