MADISON (WKOW) -- Gov. Tony Evers is proposing what he calls a "compromise" bill on COVID-19 relief that he wants legislators to act on immediately.
The governor sent a letter Monday to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader-elect Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, expressing disappointment in the progress of legislation.
"I have appreciated our conversations over the last several weeks, but have been disappointed there has not been a willingness to move forward on a bill yet this month," evers wrote in the letter.
The governor calls his proposal a "commonsense compromise" consisting only of policies he and the Republican leaders have already agreed to while leaving behind the more contentious issues.
A spokesperson for LeMahieu did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A call to Vos' office went unanswered.
The governor presented a bullet-pointed list detailing the proposals he says are contained in his new draft COVID-19 relief bill:
- Employee transfer authority;
- Authorize trust fund loans to municipal utilities;
- Rehired annuitants in critical positions;
- Health services providers from other states;
- MA payments to hospitals for nursing facility level of care;
- MA payments for outpatient hospital services;
- MA coverage of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations administered by pharmacists;
- Coverage of vaccinations under SeniorCare;
- No cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing;
- Third-party logistics providers;
- Prescription drug limits;
- Out-of-network charges and payments during COVID-19 pandemic;
- Liability insurance for physicians and nurse anesthetists;
- Lease of broadband infrastructure;
- Extension of prescriptions by pharmacists;
- Authorize pharmacy students to administer SARS-COV-2 vaccines;
- Eligible volunteer or work activity for UWS and WTCS;
- UI – Plan to reduce processing backlog;
- UI – Call center hours[Additional dollars would be needed in order to fund the expanded hours];
- UI – Work-share;
- Waive the annual hour limit for LTEs;
- Extend Act 185 provisions related to cremation of bodies of persons who died of COVID-19;
- Allow JFC to Transfer up to $100 million from sum sufficient appropriations
In the letter, Evers said that he had originally hoped to pass legislation by mid-December.
"However, we now face the end of the year, and a bill has not yet been passed," Evers wrote. "In the interest of reaching a timely agreement on these pressing issues, I am willing to make compromises and find middle ground to reach a bipartisan agreement."
The governor's proposal comes one day after Republicans and Democrats at the federal level announced an agreement on a $900 billion aid proposal. The deal includes additional stimulus payments and unemployment benefits, however both are half what had been included in the previous COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress in the spring.
Despite leaving them out of his compromise bill, the governor attached a second draft proposal with his letter that kept in some of his priorities to which he said Republicans had not yet agreed.
Among the policies left out of the compromise bill was a provision which would have continued to suspend the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits.
Prior to the passage of the state's last COVID-19 relief bill in April, Wisconsinites needed to wait one week after losing their jobs before they could receive unemployment. Act 185 suspended this waiting period until Feb. 7, 2021.
The governor has met a number of times of the past several weeks with Vos and LeMahieu as the three work toward drafting COVID-19 relief legislation that both chambers in the Legislature can pass and Evers is willing to sign.
Meetings between the three were an encouraging sign after relations between the governor and Republicans in the Legislature iced over in the spring and summer.
The already strained communications between the two side broke down completely over how to handle the state's response to the pandemic. Republicans in the Legislature successfully sued Evers and blocked his "Safer at Home" order, largely neutering the state's ability to respond to the coronavirus' spread.
Some Republicans preferred to leave the response up to local and tribal health departments believing that they would know what measures would be best for their communities.
The governor eventually tried to seize back some control by declaring new emergencies and issuing new orders in the late summer and fall. One of those orders, a statewide mask mandate, remains in force.
COVID-19 has hospitalized over 20,000 Wisconsinites and killed 4,425 as of Monday, according to numbers released by the state Department of Health Services.
"Wisconsinites are demanding and deserve the legislature to reconvene and pass legislation that addresses the continuing needs of our response to COVID-19," Evers wrote in his letter to Vos and LeMahieu. "I agree, and I hope at the very least this first compromise bill will be sent to my desk quickly and without delay, even if it means meeting during the next two weeks, and remain hopeful it will only be the first of several bills passed by the Legislature to support our state’s continued response to this pandemic."Leaders-Letter-12-21-20