WEDA Government Affairs Report
Latest Wisconsin COVID-19 Relief Legislation Remains in Limbo
The game of legislative “ping pong” continues with Assembly Bill 1, the latest COVID-19 relief legislation being considered by the Legislature. Earlier this month, the Assembly passed a comprehensive COVID bill that included safe harbor language supported by WEDA to provide broad civil liability protections for businesses, schools, local governments, and other entities relating to COVID-19 exposure.
The Assembly version of the bill also included several provisions opposed by Governor Tony Evers, such as language that would restrict the ability of local health officials to close businesses, a requirement that the Governor seek approval from the Legislature on spending federal COVID aid, and several measures related to K-12 schools and virtual learning.
However, the Senate ultimately passed an amended version of AB 1 after Senate Republicans reached a compromise with Gov. Evers. The amended Senate version of the bill retained the civil liability language, but removed numerous provisions important to the GOP-controlled Assembly and wrapped-in several COVID-related items proposed by the Governor.
Given the changes made to the bill, it was sent back to the Assembly for further consideration. Continuing the back-and-forth on the bill. Assembly Republicans earlier this week passed another modified version of the legislation that added back in several provisions that were stripped out by the Senate, including prohibitions on closing houses of worship during the pandemic and prohibiting employers from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.
The bill was then sent back to the Senate, immediately amended with a provision limiting the governor’s power to issue a public health emergency solely for the purpose of securing federal funding, and once again sent back to the Assembly for additional debate. The Assembly is likely to approve the modified bill next week, but it is far from certain if the Governor will sign it into law if it reaches his desk in its current form. The WEDA Government Affairs Team will continue to monitor the situation and keep members up to date on the latest developments.
Other Government Affairs Notes of Interest
– Earlier this week, the Senate passed a joint resolution to terminate the COVID-19 public health emergency and end the statewide mask mandate. The Assembly was scheduled to consider the joint resolution or Thursday of this week, but delayed a vote on the proposal when it came to light passing the measure would make the state ineligible for certain federal funding.
-Gov. Tony Evers announced last week that his administration is preparing to take legal action against companies responsible for PFAS contamination in Wisconsin. The Governor, in consultation with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, asked the Department of the Administration (DOA) to begin the selection process for an outside law firm to help the state evaluate and pursue litigation against companies responsible. The decision comes following recommendations from the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council’s PFAS Action Plan released in December 2020.
-According to a recently released Legislative Fiscal Bureau report, Wisconsin’s financial outlook just got stronger, as the state’s general fund tax collections are projected to be nearly $1.2 billion higher over a three-year period ending June 30, 2023 than what estimated back in November. The report also projected the state will have a net balance of $1.8 billion at the end of the current fiscal year on June 30 2021.
-ICYMI: WEDA recently unveiled our 2021-22 Legislative Agenda, which provides a comprehensive list of key initiatives to boost economic growth, including proposals to increase workforce housing, expand broadband access, improve state business attraction and retention efforts, and ensure local communities are properly equipped with policy tools to promote economic development. CLICK HERE to review the WEDA Legislative Agenda.