On Monday, Gov. Tony Evers called on legislators to take up his proposed COVID-19 response legislation as the first bill of 2021-22. Here he is seen delivering his State of the State address on Jan. 22, 2020, in the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison.

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers on Monday sent a letter to the Wisconsin State Legislature asking members to approve his proposed COVID-19 response legislation as the first bill of the 2021-22 legislative session. 

“As we begin a new year and you begin a new legislative session, I write today to ask for your urgent consideration and support of legislation to aid in our state’s continued response to COVID-19,” the governor wrote. “I respectfully request that you prioritize the COVID-19 compromise bill—LRB-6592—that I introduced several weeks ago now, and ask that the bill as drafted, which includes provisions agreed upon by Republican leaders and me, be the first bill taken up and passed by both respective houses so it can be sent to my desk without delay. 

“Time is of the essence, and frankly, we cannot delay any longer. It is time to move forward on legislation where there is agreement.”

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31-page bill called ‘compromise’

Evers, a Democrat, released the 31-page legislation, which his office described as a “compromise bill,” in December. Its provisions include:

  • Creating a call center – that would operate 12 hours a day, 7 days a week – to handle unemployment claims;
  • Making sure to sure to cover pharmacist-administered COVID-19 vaccines, and that the state Department of Health (DHS) reimburses them;
  • Authorizing first- and second-year pharmacy students to administer COVID-19 vaccines;
  • Establishing coverage limits on certain prescription drugs;
  • Providing for liability coverage for physicians and nurse anesthetists;
  • And allowing the transfer of employees among state agencies.

Republicans control both houses

Republicans hold the majority of seats in both houses of the Legislature. They control the State Senate 21-12 and the State Assembly 61-38. GOP leaders in the Senate and Assembly have issued their own proposals to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Legislature has not voted on anything in 264 days. 

The Senate and Assembly will both meet Monday afternoon, kicking off the new two-year session and swearing in new members. They didn’t plan any other activity. 

“Wisconsinites expect and are counting on perhaps now more than ever a state government that works effectively and efficiently for them,” Evers wrote. 

“As the pandemic continues to have effects on our small business owners, our workers, students and parents across the state, and every aspect of Wisconsinites’ daily lives, it would be inexplicable after more than 260 days of inaction for any other issue or topic to be taken up by the legislature prior to passing a bill to address COVID-19—especially one on which we’ve already been able to find common ground.” 

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Paul Holley is retired from careers in journalism, public relations and marketing but not from life. These days, he pretty much writes about what he feels like writing. You may contact him directly at:...