- In this Dec. 19, 2019, file photo, Wisconsin Gov.
Tony Evers sits for an interview with The Associated
Press at his office in Madison, Wisc. Evers is
assigning "homework" to the
Republican-controlled Legislature. Evers, a former
teacher and state superintendent of schools, has sent
a letter to legislative leaders on Thursday, Jan. 9,
2020, calling on them to spend more money on combating
homelessness, restrict the use of water-polluting
chemicals and close a loophole that lowers property
taxes for large retail stores.
MADISON — Democratic Gov.
Tony Evers, a former teacher and state superintendent of
schools, assigned “homework” to the
Republican-controlled Legislature on Thursday, calling on
them to spend more money on combating homelessness, restrict
the use of water-polluting chemicals and close a loophole
that lowers property taxes for large retail stores.
But Republicans gave Evers a
failing grade for his approach.
“I thought I had a good
meeting with the governor last week where we discussed
priorities,” Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald
said in a statement. “But giving a coequal branch of
government ‘homework’ in a condescending letter won’t
help him grow support for an agenda with Senate Republicans.
The tone of this letter is ridiculous."
Republican Sen. Dave Craig
said in a Twitter message that Evers couldn't assign
homework to the Legislature.
“Just checked Article V of
the Wisconsin Constitution and did not find 'authority to
assign homework' under 'Powers and duties'... #CivicsClass,”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos,
who invited Evers to give his State of the State speech with
a snarky letter that noted unemployment had increased since
Evers took office, did not immediately return a message
Many of the issues detailed
by Evers in the letter to Democratic and Republican
legislative leaders have bipartisan support. But Evers does
not name issues Republicans have said they intend to take
up, including cutting property taxes.
The Legislature is scheduled
to return to work next week but will be in session only a
handful of days before adjourning for the session, perhaps
as soon as February. Evers said in his letter that he hoped
the Legislature would remain in session as long as necessary
to act on the priorities he laid out.
“The people of Wisconsin
elected us to show up and get to work, so I look forward to
working with you in the new year to continue moving
Wisconsin forward, together,” he wrote.
Republicans have shown little
interest in passing many of the priorities of Evers and the
Democrats. Evers called a special session of the Legislature
to act on gun control measures, but Republicans refused to
debate them. The Senate also fired Evers' agriculture
department secretary and nine other members of Evers'
Cabinet remain in limbo.
Evers did not renew the call
for lawmakers to take up the gun control bills in his letter
Thursday. Instead, he focused on seven areas where bills
have already been introduced, including five that have
— Capping the cost of
insulin at $100 for a 30-day supply. The measure has no
— Closing the “dark
store” loophole that allows retail stores to pay less in
property taxes by having vacant stores taxed at a lower
value. The bill has bipartisan support.
— Directing the state
Department of Natural Resources to create and enforce new
standards to reduce the level of pollution-causing chemicals
known as PFAS in the water supply. No Republicans support
— Doing more to prevent sex
trafficking in Wisconsin. One bill would not allow children
to be charged with prostitution if they are victims of sex
trafficking. Another would impose a mandatory $5,000 fine
for people convicted of patronizing or soliciting a
prostitute. Both have bipartisan support.
— Preventing future
backlogs of sexual assault testing kits. Evers named two
bills that have bipartisan support. Passing the measures
also has the backing of Democratic Attorney General Josh
Kaul and victims of sexual assaults who have lobbied the
Legislature to take action.
— Spending more to fight
homelessness. A bipartisan package of bills spending $3.7
million a year has passed the Assembly, but it remains
stalled in the Senate because of opposition from some of the
most conservative senators who question the spending.
— Reimbursing local
municipalities for the costs of administering special
elections. The bill has bipartisan support.