Virus, Elections, Budget Top Wisconsin Legislative Agenda

Pandemic response measures and changing election procedures will take center stage when the Wisconsin Legislature opens its 2021-22 session on Monday, eclipsing even state budget deliberations that typically consume the first six months of every session.

The Legislature returns in January with Republicans in the majority and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers at midterm. But the political dynamics have shifted since then. Robin Vos remains Assembly speaker, but Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has moved on after winning a congressional seat. Devin LeMahieu takes Fitzgerald’s place and will deal with a more conservative caucus than Fitzgerald had.

Governor Evers was first out of the gate with a roughly half-billion dollar package of ideas. Assembly Republicans countered with 50 proposals, many of which Democrats and Evers oppose. Senate Republicans have said they would only spend $100 million from Medicaid surplus funds, but didn’t specify on what. Republicans also are looking to limit liability for employers, schools and others. That idea has met resistance from Democrats.

Governor Evers put together a list of initiatives he feels both sides support the week before Christmas and asked the GOP to vote on it. But the package included extending immediate eligibility for unemployment benefits, a non-starter for Republicans. Vos and LeMahieu said the proposal amounted to Evers walking away from negotiations.