First Assembly veto override effort in 9 years fails

First Assembly veto override effort in 9 years fails

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Assembly Republicans on Thursday failed in their effort to overturn three of Gov. Tony Evers’ budget vetoes, the first time the Legislature has made an override attempt in nine years.

Republicans, who control 63 of 99 seats in the Assembly, were unable to muster any Democratic support to achieve a required two-thirds vote for the override effort to succeed. Despite Thursday’s setback for Republicans, they said they may attempt other veto overrides in the new year.

Under new Assembly rules, they can attempt a veto override multiple times. They could also target other gubernatorial vetoes not attempted Thursday.

A two-thirds majority is required in both the Assembly and Senate to override a governor’s veto. The last time lawmakers attempted to override a gubernatorial veto was in 2010, when Assembly Democrats failed to gain enough support to override former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s veto of a bill to strip the governor’s power to appoint Department of Natural Resources secretaries.

The three override votes Thursday failed 62-34 along party lines.

After the vote, Evers chastised GOP lawmakers, saying Republicans have failed to accept the results of last year’s gubernatorial election.

“Republicans are clearly more interested in playing politics than getting anything done for the people of our state — it started with the lame-duck session, then it was changing the constitution, then it was ignoring farmers and rejecting a cabinet appointee for the first time in Wisconsin modern history, and today it’s trying to override vetoes that happened months ago,” Evers said in a statement.

Republicans targeted three budget vetoes of legislative items Republican leaders said all lawmakers should support. Republican leaders said they brought the bills to the floor because they thought they could persuade a handful of Democrats to break ranks.

“This is obviously the quickest and easiest way to pass what we already passed in the budget,” said Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna. “Hopefully, the governor can see the error in his ways.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Steineke said the veto overrides were meant to ensure Wisconsinites have access to health care and mental health treatment. Vos and Steineke said Republicans haven’t ruled out passing separate legislation to address the topics taken up in the unsuccessful veto override attempts.

But Democrats are opposed to the overrides, contending they were undertaken rashly and served as political cover for Republicans’ decision to reject Evers’ call to pass gun-control legislation in special session.

Suicide prevention

Assembly lawmakers also approved a package of Republican-authored bills meant to prevent suicides in Wisconsin. In 2017, suicide was the ninth-leading cause of death in Wisconsin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bills stem from Vos’ task force on suicide prevention that met throughout the year. In total, the task force this fall recommended 10 bills that would spend up to $1 million annually.

Five of the bills passed with near unanimous support. They would provide grants to gun shops for voluntary gun storage for those experiencing mental health crises; establish a suicide prevention program administered by the Department of Health Services; create a grant program for peer-to-peer suicide prevention programs in high schools; create a grant program for suicide prevention programming; and require that school and college student ID cards include contact information for suicide prevention hotlines.

A sixth bill, which passed 56-39, would require certain mental health professionals to complete a brief course in suicide prevention when renewing their credentials. The bills now go to the Senate.

Verona taxes

Assembly lawmakers on a voice vote approved a bill that would allow the city of Verona to reimburse property tax payers on the hook for a $135 hike in city property taxes this year due to an extra zero mistakenly added to the value of a tax incremental financing district.

The bill passed the Senate earlier this fall and now heads to the governor.

Contraception

Lawmakers by an 82-13 margin approved a bill that would allow pharmacists to prescribe certain hormonal contraceptives without the involvement of a doctor.

The bill, authored by Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, would allow women 18 or older to obtain both hormonal contraceptive patches and common birth control pills through a pharmacist’s prescription. Under current law, women in most circumstances need to obtain a prescription for such medication through a physician or advanced nurse.

Kitchens said the bill intends to reduce unplanned pregnancies and their long-term costs for both baby and mother. While some Democrats wanted it to go further, they praised Republicans for taking up the bill they say takes down barriers to obtaining contraception and preventing unplanned pregnancy.

Several anti-abortion groups are opposed to the bill because it promotes the use of certain birth control medications they are morally opposed to because they believe they equate to chemical abortions.

But Republican lawmakers rejected those complaints, arguing they are not based in science.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

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