MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican legislative leaders announced plans Friday to convene the state Assembly next week for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak began in the state to pass a pandemic relief bill after removing key spending cut provisions Democratic Gov. Tony Evers opposes.
Assembly leaders notified members they they plan to call an extraordinary session beginning Tuesday morning. The session is expected to be conducted virtually with several members physically present on the floor. It’s unclear when the Senate might convene.
“During these uncertain times, we are steadfast in our resolve to address the needs of the state,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a joint statement.
Vos and Fitzgerald have been negotiating for days with Evers on a sweeping aid bill. The legislation is designed to supplement a federal stimulus package bringing about $2.3 billion to the state. The bill would eliminate the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits, delay interest and late fees on property taxes, prohibit health insurers from discriminating against COVID-19 patients and lift the minimum number of instructional hours for voucher school students, among other things.
Talks bogged down earlier this week, however, when Evers signaled he would veto the bill after Republicans inserted language giving the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee carte blanche authority to cut state spending on its own. Republicans control the committee.
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke tweeted that Republicans have removed the language from the bill.
Vos and Fitzgerald didn’t mention the provisions in their statement, saying they continue to work with Democrats to deal with the pandemic and protect the state budget.
Republican state Sen. Dan Feyen told WFAW-AM on Friday that the proposal has been cut, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
“There are going to be some tough decisions that we are going to have to make but we should all make those coming together as a legislature instead of just the Joint Finance Committee,” Feyen said.
Evers said Friday that he hadn’t seen details of what the Legislature would be voting on next week, but he was hopeful that a bipartisan agreement could be reached.
“It’s always important for the bills to be put out there so we can see and react to it,” Evers said. “We continue to have conversations with legislators and we’re hopeful that next week will see a bipartisan solution that helps us bridge the gaps in the federal legislation.”