Wisconsin legislative session starts with vow to pass COVID relief quickly
MADISON, Wis (CBS 58) -- The newest Wisconsin lawmakers took their oaths in Madison Monday, Jan. 4, to kick off the next legislative session.
The state's pandemic response is taking center stage in more ways than one.
The governor and democrats put forward their ideas to extend COVID relief and provide additional help to those struggling in Wisconsin, but Assembly democrats skipped Monday's ceremonies.
They're fuming over what they say are lax COVID rules in Wisconsin's lower chamber.
"We shouldn't be in the position that we're in for 2020, we had virtual options for the time we met on the floor," said Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz.
He said the legislature needs to take COVID seriously, both in its chambers and in the laws to help Wisconsinites.
"We aren't doing pie in the sky stuff," said Hintz.
The democrats unveiled a bill incorporating what the governor negotiated with legislative republican leaders, but it adds some extras like expanding Medicaid. Hintz said democrats are not trying to score political points.
"Our legislation, the governor's package, these are things that aren't aimed at poking the bear, there aren't ideological pushes, these are things we think are really doable," said Hintz.
"The proposal we are introducing today has over 44 different provisions to help fight the virus and reopen our economy and our schools," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
Vos urged republican lawmakers to pass the compromise bill within the week. He also vowed to keep government from growing and to take a hard look at the state's elections laws.
"Over the next two years, we will not let state government expand at the expense of our freedoms or our liberties," said Vos.
"We simply can't have hundreds of thousands of people in Wisconsin questioning the integrity of our electoral process in Wisconsin, reforms must be made," said Vos.
Democrats will have to do some work in the chamber such as casting votes. Their leader said they will do that, but will limit their time in the Capitol building as much as possible.