MADISON — Wisconsin
Republicans who continue to largely dismiss Democratic
Gov. Tony Evers' call to pass gun safety legislation
introduced a series of bills Tuesday designed to bolster
mental health services in the state, a move they said was
not in response to recent mass shootings.
Evers has called for the
GOP-controlled Legislature to pass universal background
checks and a "red flag" law that would establish
a process to take guns away from people determined to be a
threat to themselves or others. But Republican legislative
leaders have instead emphasized the need to improve mental
"If I did have the
answer, or if any other legislator had a clear answer to
this issue, we would have already implemented it,"
said Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald,
adding that Congress should play a role. "It's
frustrating, I think, because every time one of these
incidents happened we kind of wring our hands and say
'What can we do?'"
Assembly Minority Leader
Gordon Hintz, a Democrat, said lawmakers should do
"everything possible while respecting Second
Amendment rights" when it comes to combating gun
violence. He said Democrats will introduce universal
background check and "red flag" bills and hope
to receive bipartisan support.
"I don't think anybody
in our country right now can ignore gun violence and mass
shootings," Hintz said.
Fitzgerald told reporters
he didn't support a universal background check law on gun
sales because that would mean registering firearm sales.
He said "there is always going to be a constituency
who vote Republican and ... they are going to be opposed
However, he said he would
be open to expanding the types of offenses in which the
people charged could have their guns taken away. Wisconsin
law already allows for taking weapons away from people
under a domestic violence restraining order or injunction.
Neither Fitzgerald nor
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who appeared together at a
forum Tuesday, named the background check or "red
flag" bills as priorities for the remainder of the
Vos repeated that he did
not want to take away Second Amendment rights and said he
wanted to focus on topics that will bring Republicans and
Democrats together such as water quality, increasing
adoptions and suicide prevention. Fitzgerald said he wants
to work on criminal justice reform and issues facing the
state prison system.
Last week, Evers called on
Republicans to pass the bills. Evers and Vos were
scheduled to meet on Wednesday, while a meeting with
Fitzgerald had not yet been scheduled, said Evers
spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff.
Vos said last week that he
hoped to find common ground with Evers on mental health
issues, which he called the "real problem."
On Tuesday, Rep. Paul Tittl,
chairman of the Assembly's mental health committee, was
the latest Republican to refuse to answer questions about
whether he supports a universal background check. And he
said a package of mental health bills that he and other
Republican lawmakers and advocates unveiled was part of a
yearslong push to improve mental health services and not a
response to the shootings this month in Texas and Ohio
that left 31 people dead.
Tittl noted that he first
served on a legislative task force on mental health in
"We have cared all
along about mental health," Tittl said. "This is
not a reaction at all to any of the shootings. This is
basically a reaction to what we're working on."
The bills would make grants
available for mental health centers and nonprofits across
the state as a way to ensure services are available;
provide a $100,000 income tax deduction for psychiatrists
and double for those in more rural, underserved areas to
entice more of them to work in Wisconsin; and update
standards and practices for psychologists. Those who spoke
in support of the measures at a Capitol news conference
included a person who said he's been battling mental
illness for more than 25 years, the leader of the state
Boys & Girls Clubs and the head of a Painting Pathways
Clubhouse that provides mental health services.
urges diversity in talk to state chamber of commerce
MADISON — Wisconsin Gov.
Tony Evers is telling the state's business leaders to
embrace diversity and make all people feel welcome in
order to help deal with worker shortages and an aging
Evers spoke Tuesday at
a policy forum organized by Wisconsin Manufacturers
and Commerce, the state chamber of commerce. An arm of
the group spent more than $1 million in attack ads
against Evers in last year's governor's race.
Evers urged business
leaders to make the state attractive to younger
workers, who he says are drawn to Wisconsin because of
its natural resources and other things that contribute
to a high quality of life like a strong educational
Evers says to welcome
diversity because "when we bring in workers from
out of state, the chance of them being 67-year-old
white guys is pretty slim."
says Republicans want veto-proof majority in Assembly
MADISON — Wisconsin
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he
wants to grow the GOP majority to a veto-proof
level following the 2020 election.
Vos said at a forum
Tuesday organized by Wisconsin Manufacturers and
Commerce that his goal is to grow the number of
Republicans from the current 63 to 67. That would
be enough to override vetoes by Democratic Gov.
Leader Gordon Hintz conceded that Democrats will
not be able to overtake the majority next year. He
blames Republican-drawn maps with giving them a
majority that Democrats can't break.
But Vos says it's
the quality of candidates, not the maps, that
In the Senate,
Republicans hold a 19-14 majority and Majority
Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he expects that to
hold or grow by one next year.
joins multistate lawsuit challenging coal rules
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul has
joined a multistate lawsuit challenging the
Trump administration's decision to ease
restrictions on coal-fired power plants.
Environmental Protection Agency in June
eliminated its Clean Power Plan and replaced
it with a new rule that gives states more
leeway in deciding upgrades for coal-fired
plants. The lawsuit alleges the new rule
violates the federal Clean Air Act.
The lawsuit was
filed in a federal appellate court in the
District of Columbia by attorneys general in
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware,
Hawaii, Maine, Maryland Massachusetts,
Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico,
New York, North Carolina, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia,
Washington, Wisconsin and the District of
Kaul said in a
news release that the new rule only prolongs
the nation's reliance on coal.