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Capital City Sunday: Evers vetoes COVID bill, mask order back-and-forth, Grothman defends Greene vote

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MADISON (WKOW) -- It took nearly 300 days for the state legislature to pass its first bill since the original COVID relief package last April. The Republican-backed proposal cleared the Assembly and Senate but was immediately vetoed by Democratic Governor Tony Evers.

Last month, the Senate passed a scaled-down version of the original Republican bill. Evers said he would sign the measure. However, Assembly GOP leaders accused their Senate colleagues of "caving" to Evers and amended the bill to include a series of measures that Evers said Friday led to the veto.

Those provisions included banning employers from requiring workers to get vaccinated, barring local health departments from closing places of worship, and giving the legislature more say over future federal relief money.

The Assembly passed another amendment Thursday that limited Evers' emergency powers during the pandemic to where he could only issue COVID-related emergency orders for the purpose of getting federal relief money.

The back-and-forth put the future of the $100 million COVID relief plan in serious question. The bill included a number of emergency extensions, including the waiver of the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits.

By allowing the waiting period to go back into effect, Wisconsin now risks losing future federal aid for unemployment relief.

It was the second showdown of the week between Evers and GOP leaders. On Thursday, the legislature struck down Evers' mask order only for Evers to issue a new one about an hour later.

More than 50 statewide organizations have called on Republicans to keep a statewide mask requirement in place, including the Wisconsin Medical Society.

"I think it's been proven over and over again that masking does work," said the medical society's CEO, Dr. Bud Chumbley. "And I think eliminating a mask mandate will cause some people to not mask."

Chumbley cited a CDC report on what happened when Kansas passed a statewide order but allowed counties to opt out. According to the report, counties that enforced the order had a slight decrease in cases while those who opted out experienced a 100 percent increase.

"It just seems like [mask orders are], in my mind, such a small thing," Chumbley said. "When we have such a horrible pandemic."

Grothman on stimulus, Greene vote

When the U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to remove freshman Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) from her committee assignments, 11 Republicans joined the chamber's Democrats in the vote.

Wisconsin's five Republican House members all voted to keep Greene on her committees.

Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Fond du Lac) said he believed taking Greene off her committees was an act that disregarded the will of the Georgia voters who sent her to Congress.

"I think you're going down a really dangerous path when you say other Congressmen can say the people of a district around the country got it wrong," Grothman said. "Not to mention, I think, she's gonna be a very enjoyable person. I've had a a chance to meet with her now and look forward to working with her."

Greene, who in recent years, and even months, has recorded videos questioning whether the 9-11 attacks really happened, hounded school shooting survivors, questioning whether those incidents happened as well, and liked social media comments suggesting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be executed.

Greene has also shown an affinity for the conspiracy-pushing QAnon movement, which has disseminated a series of unhinged accusations and whose adherents were prominent in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead, including a police officer.

"I think her belief in QAnon in the past, she kind of apologized for it," Grothman said. "I think there are a lot of people who get on the internet and believe things that, in retrospect, are kind of silly."

On the negotiations for a new round of federal COVID relief, Grothman said he was troubled by Democrats' consideration of a nearly $2 trillion package.

Grothman said he was opposed to $1,400 stimulus checks and also was not keen on the package including money for state and local governments.

"We've already appropriated over $1 trillion, which hasn't been spent on a federal level," Grothman said. "And the state of Wisconsin, as you know, recently came out, that the state government has about a billion dollars more than they expected so I think the first thing they want to do is not increase the money supply."

Previewing Impeachment

Next week, the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump will begin in the Senate. That Republican senators voted last month to not move forward with the trial indicates the votes are not there for a conviction.

UW-La Crosse political science professor Anthony Chergosky said Democrats would move forward with the trial because they felt it was the only way to hold Trump accountable for his role in inciting supporters to storm the Capitol on January 6.

"What we have seen in these last few months is that American democracy has taken some serious blows," Chergosky said. "And we've had to ask uncomfortable questions about the state of American democracy."

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A. J. Bayatpour

Reporter, WKOW 27

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