Assembly fast-tracks GOP coronavirus bill, Evers signals at possible veto

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Just one day after it was introduced, Assembly Republicans fast-tracked their version of a coronavirus relief bill with a public hearing, committee vote and scheduling for a full chamber vote this week.

But the bill’s fate is up in the air after Governor Tony Evers expressed frustration over Republicans moving forward with their own bill which included provisions he does not support.

“If it involves some of the [provisions] that I absolutely I couldn’t agree to, then the likelihood of a veto is probably really strong,” Gov. Evers told reporters during a media briefing Tuesday.

Evers said he was disappointed the GOP did not move ahead with a bill he rolled out and said was a compromise of both Democrat and Republican initiatives.

“Why not get something done?” Evers said. “Instead [Republicans] have decided that that bipartisan effort was not to their liking.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told CBS 58 he was dismayed by the governor’s threat of a veto.

“That’s disappointing,” Vos said. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Vos spoke with reporters following an Assembly meeting to schedule the floor session where the bill will be voted upon. The Republican leader said he hopes the governor reconsiders.

“We included all the provisions that he wanted. Some of the ones that he said he had the strongest objections to we jettisoned,” Vos said. “Hopefully at the end, once he’s had a chance to read it he’ll come around to say this is what’s best for Wisconsin.”

Vos testified before the Assembly Health Committee Tuesday.

The hearing heard mixed testimony over the bill but one provision – which would put in place liability protections for businesses, schools and other groups for coronavirus-related illnesses – was the primary focus.

“We face unique vulnerabilities from fraudulent or frivolous lawsuits, over the exposure of COVID-19,” Wisconsin Restaurant Association President and CEO Kristine Hillmer said. “Wisconsin should enact liability protections for businesses, schools and other groups.”

“[This legislation] protects those bad actors we keep hearing people testify about and puts their customers and employees in danger,” Heath Straka, the legislative liaison for the Wisconsin Association for Justice told the committee.

Another person who testified was Lazy Susan MKE restaurant owner and chef AJ Dixon. Dixon also opposed the liability protections provision but also hoped the Legislature works together to provide more relief for businesses and communities like hers.

“I only see things that are going to hurt more businesses and the general public,” Dixon told CBS 58. “So I want to see something that will help everybody and not just some people.”

The bill is scheduled to be before the full Assembly on Thursday, Jan. 7.

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