MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Legislature’s first veto override attempt in nearly a decade seemed destined to fail Thursday, with no Democrats planning to jump ranks to provide Republicans with the votes they would need to succeed.
Despite not having the votes, Assembly Republicans planned to force votes on three budge items that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed this summer in what would be the first attempt by either legislative chamber since 2010 to override a veto. Such efforts are rarely successful, as the last time a veto was overridden was in 1985.
The votes come on what promised to be a tumultuous day at the end of a dramatic week of clashes between Evers and the Republican-controlled Legislature. Evers called a special session on gun control for Thursday, asking lawmakers to pass bills that would require universal background checks and allow judges to temporarily seize guns from people who pose a threat.
Republicans planned to avoid debating the bills by gaveling in and out without taking action. Gun control advocates rallied at the Capitol and Evers said he felt “positive” about the session, even though Republicans were not going to take action.
That bit of theater followed the state Senate’s vote Tuesday to fire Evers’ pick to run the agriculture department. Evers attended the debate in person and then tore into senators after the vote, calling the action “BS” in comments sprinkled with profanity.
Evers stood to fair better on Thursday, with the veto override attempts unlikely to succeed. Democrats will also force a debate on gun issues outside of the special session by bringing it up during debate over a different bill related to preventing suicide.
Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said ahead of the session that no Democrats would vote for the overrides. He said Republicans bringing the veto overrides were “trying to have cover for their cowardice on the firearms issue.”
Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke rejected that accusation as “ridiculous.”
There’s bipartisan support for overriding the veto of $15 million in funding to create a regional mental health crisis center in northwestern Wisconsin, Steineke told reporters. Evers’ veto allowed that money to instead be used to expand the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Madison.
Steineke said there is bipartisan support for building more regional centers, noting that Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul organized a summit just last week to discuss that need.
Calling for the override vote on funding to create such a center gives Democrats an opportunity to show their support for “something that has almost universal agreement is necessary,” Steineke said.
The other vetoes up for an override blocked $5 million a year for doctors who care for people in state health care programs and gave the Evers administration more flexibility in how to spend $500,000 to increase the number of health care providers, nixing the Legislature’s plan to create a new grant program.
Overriding a veto requires two-thirds of lawmakers present in the Assembly and Senate to succeed. Republicans have a 63-36 majority in the Assembly but would need 66 votes if everyone is there, meaning three Democrats would have to switch sides. Overriding a veto would also need 22 votes in the Senate, where Republicans have 19 seats. The Senate doesn’t plan to return until January.
Steineke said if the overrides fail but there’s support to try again in the future, he would bring them up for another vote. A rule change that Republicans adopted over Democratic objections last month allows for multiple veto override votes.