Evers and Republicans meet again to discuss virus response, Vos unveils COVID-19 initiatives

Published: Dec. 1, 2020 at 5:41 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Tony Evers has met with Republican legislative leaders for the second time in two weeks to discuss proposals to address the pandemic.

The meeting Tuesday came as the state reported a new daily record high in deaths due to the virus.

RELATED: Wisconsin reports record 107 COVID-19 deaths

Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu says Republicans have “serious concerns” about increasing spending to address the virus but would be open to spending surpluses from the medical assistance program.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) released a package of initiatives late Tuesday afternoon, saying it builds off of Governor Evers’ most recent proposals, provides emergency funding and creates a road map for the state as the pandemic continues.

RELATED: Gov. Evers releases COVID-19 relief legislation, Assembly announces relief ideas

Vos’ office says the package will also include a necessary statutory change to allow for the safe distribution of certain COVID-19 vaccines.

According to Vos’ office, the Assembly Republican GOP package includes the following items:

  • Creation of a $100 million fund to respond to the public health emergency
  • Double the number of local public health staff working on the COVID-19 response
  • Offer weekly rapid antigen tests for home use
  • Continue the prohibition of co-payments for any COVID-19 tests
  • Establish legislative oversight of a vaccine distribution plan
  • Provide guidelines for state employees to return to work
  • Reauthorize state employee transfers
  • Establish limited liability for schools, businesses and local governments
  • Allow for an essential family member/caregiver to visit a loved one in nursing homes in specific circumstances
  • Re-establish personal electronic computing device grants for schools ($9 million)
  • Require teacher instruction from school buildings by end of January, providing exceptions
  • Require school board approval of virtual instruction by two-thirds vote of the board
  • Provide payments to parents of $371 (half of the per pupil aid increase for the year) for students who will have had at least 50% virtual instruction since September
  • Allow health service providers from other states to practice in the state of Wisconsin
  • Require UW System to provide credit to students who help in the COVID-19 response
  • Creation of business grants for the hospitality industry
  • Require the Department of Workforce Development to eliminate the backlog of unemployment insurance claims

Early Tuesday evening, Assembly Democratic Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) issued the following statement regarding the legislation proposed by Republicans:

“There are so many extremely politically divisive items in this legislation at a time when we need the opposite. Not only do Wisconsin Republicans not want to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, they want to put into law limits on local governments in their ability to respond in the way that works for their community. This bill is politically driven, undermines Governor Evers’ efforts to combat the virus, and ignores the reality our state is facing.”

Assembly Democratic Leader Gordon Hintz

Also on Tuesday, the state Department of Corrections said it was closing part of the maximum security Waupun Correctional Institution and transferring inmates to other facilities because of staffing shortfalls exacerbated by the pandemic.

RELATED: Staffing shortages prompt closure of Waupun prison hall

Evers, as well as LeMahieu and Vos, last met Friday, November 20.

Earlier that week, Vos had outline steps Assembly Republicans would like to take to fight the virus, but hadn’t released any specific bills, and added the Legislature may come back in December to vote on bills.

RELATED: Evers calls meeting on virus with GOP leaders ‘productive’

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