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GOP veto override fails, leaving $300 federal unemployment benefits in place until September
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GOP veto override fails, leaving $300 federal unemployment benefits in place until September

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Enhanced federal unemployment benefits will remain in place in Wisconsin until early September after a failed effort Tuesday by Assembly Republicans to override Gov. Tony Evers’ veto of a bill that would have ended them immediately.

In addition, Evers’ request to lawmakers to meet in special session to boost education spending by $550 million, which the Democratic governor called for Monday after Republicans announced plans to convene for the veto override attempt, also failed with the GOP-led Legislature quietly gaveling in and adjourning without debate.

The Assembly convened in extraordinary session Tuesday to override Evers’ veto and do away with federal coronavirus unemployment benefits, which provide unemployed individuals with an extra $300 per week in addition to the state’s maximum of $370 per week.

The GOP motion failed 59-37 along party lines, leaving the added federal benefit in place until it expires Sept. 6. Republicans needed to secure a two-thirds majority in order to successfully overturn the governor’s veto, a margin that also would need to be achieved in the Senate.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said striking the federal benefit wouldn’t entirely solve the state’s workforce shortage challenges, which were present before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, but added doing so would eliminate a disincentive for some to find employment.

“It’s not a silver bullet, there’s no doubt about that, but is it a part — a major part — of the problem? Yes,” Vos said. “If you pay people over $17 an hour tax-free to stay home and not work, there are going to be fewer people working. It’s not rocket science.”

Robin Vos

Vos

Democratic members, who blasted the GOP effort as shortsighted and disingenuous, said there are several other factors at play when it comes to the labor shortage such as child care needs, an aging workforce and residents who remain concerned about returning to work amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Don’t fall for the political gamesmanship and easy rhetoric,” Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, tweeted. “Ending these final few weeks of extended benefits won’t solve a deep-seated problem — other states have already shown this. We need to get to work on real solutions that will draw workers to our communities.”

Earlier this month, Evers announced plans to spend $130 million in federal stimulus funds to help unemployed people find work and address ongoing workforce shortage challenges across the state.

As of June, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was 3.9% — near the 3.5% rate in February 2020, according to the state Department of Workforce Development. The national unemployment rate last month was 5.9%.

Education spending

As Democratic members rejected ending unemployment benefits, they also called on Republicans to take up Evers’ request to boost education spending by $550 million.

However, Republicans, who have rejected Evers’ previous special sessions, did so again on Tuesday, calling the request a “smokescreen” to distract from the workforce challenges in the state. Vos said the governor’s request was “a day late and a dollar short.”

“We do not have a crisis level for funding our schools,” he said before Tuesday’s session.

As they’ve done with previous special sessions called by Evers, Republican lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate Tuesday afternoon gaveled into session and then immediately adjourned. The Legislature is required to gavel in to a special session called by the governor, but does not have to hold debate and can immediately adjourn.

Tony Evers

Evers

“It’s breathtaking, frankly, that Republicans had the chance to do the right thing, and do what’s best for our kids and they chose to play politics instead,” Evers said in a statement. “Republicans had time to go to Madison for another political stunt but couldn’t be bothered to even consider investing more money into our kids and our schools — that’s just wrong.”

All told, Evers called for $240 million for per-pupil aid given directly to schools, $200 million for special education aid, $90 million for the University of Wisconsin System and $20 million for the Wisconsin Technical College System.

The funds Evers requested for education spending stem from a partial veto he issued while signing the state budget earlier this month that removed GOP plans to transfer $550 million from the general fund to the state’s rainy day fund. If the Legislature doesn’t pass a bill to direct use of those funds, they would remain in the general fund heading into the next budget, or provide a buffer if a recession were to hit.

With Evers’ partial vetoes, the state budget is expected to leave more than $1.6 billion of taxpayer money uncommitted.

Speaking with reporters, co-chair of the state budget committee Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver-Dam, said the combined state and federal funds going to schools should be more than sufficient and there are no immediate plans to increase education spending this biennium.

“Nothing has changed from the budget the governor signed two-and-a-half weeks ago so we’re not looking to revisit the education budget because we made major investments when we did it the first time,” Born said.

The 2021-23 budget includes a $128 million increase in education funding and increased spending on general school aid that — paired with no increase to district revenue limits — would force local districts to lower their property tax levies. School districts say the move limits their ability to offer employee raises and cover other inflationary cost increases. Evers has also allocated $100 million in federal stimulus funds to schools.

Year in review: The top Madison-area stories of 2020

It started out well enough. The Badgers were making a late-in-coming run at the Final Four. Hometown insurance behemoth American Family announced it was boosting its starting minimum wage to $20 an hour. Madison East Siders welcomed a new Pinney branch library.

The first two and a half months of the year feel like a different era, when news of a strange new virus infecting people in China was safely tucked away in the back pages of the newspaper and the heart-breaking images of a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of a 46-year-old Black man had yet to go viral.

Then came March and successive waves of closures, cancellations, lockdowns, furloughs, layoffs, infections and deaths. If the subsequent uprisings over the killing of George Floyd weren't enough to remind America that it has plenty of work to do to overcome racism, the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha tragically emphasized the point. And a divisive presidential election carried the tone of the year at the end.

While it may not be a year to look back on with particular fondness, 2020 no doubt is one to remember. Here's a look back at some of the top stories in the Madison area as they occurred.

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It marked the fourth consecutive loss in the Rose Bowl for UW, and the first time since 2013 that the program lost its final two games of the year.

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Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said Sunday the victim who officers found in an apartment at 1905 McKenna Blvd. shortly after 2:30 p.m. Saturday was a 20-year-old African American male.

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Gutierrez, superintendent of the school district in Seguin, Texas, was announced Friday as the Madison School Board's pick to lead the district.

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The person returned to Dane County Regional Airport after a trip to Beijing Jan. 30 and went directly to UW Hospital's emergency room, officials said.

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Officers found the victim, believed to be an adult male, in the 100 block of North Blair Street about 3:45 p.m. Saturday after receiving a report that a person had been shot.

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This weekend's performances at the Alliant Energy Center will be the last with elephants in Dane County as a contract between the circus and the venue expires. 

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Tony Evers said he vetoed the legislation, which uses surplus revenue, because it doesn't invest in the state's schools. 

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Despite no Wisconsin cheeses finishing in the final top three, state producers dominated the competition, earning 45 gold medals out of 132 categories.

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This decision is unprecedented for Wisconsin's largest university and taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

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The closure order, to take effect no later than 5 p.m. on March 18, affects nearly 1 million Wisconsin children in grades K-12 in public and private schools.

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One was a man in his 50s from Fond du Lac County; the other was a man in his 90s from Ozaukee County.

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David A. Kahl, 53, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

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Tony Evers’ “safer at home” order represents a shift from the governor's position last week, when he said he did not plan on issuing such an order.

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A jogger saw a man and a woman lying in a ditch at about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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Most voting locations saw few lines and smooth operations. But other places, notably Milwaukee, experienced significant delays, chaos and conditions that made it impossible for some voters to cast a ballot.

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Jill Karofsky's win over Dan Kelly cuts the court's conservative majority to 4-3, giving liberals a chance to take back control in 2023.

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The U.S. Air Force announced the final selection of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing, capping more than three years of study and deep community division over the planes, which come with the promise of jobs and new construction but also noise and pollution.

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While applauded as a good first step, Democratic members, as well as public safety and health officials, have criticized the bill for not allocating more state funding to respond to the pandemic.

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For 30 years, "Ms. Milele" was the publisher of UMOJA magazine and a prominent leader in Madison's black community. She was "short in stature but mighty in force." 

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Free community testing for COVID-19 started at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison on Monday morning.

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Gov. Tony Evers and legislative Republicans will need to work quickly to come up with a replacement plan.

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Authorities identified the victim of a Friday night homicide as Nang Yee Lee, who died Monday. The suspect is hospitalized.  

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The Vilas Zoo, Goodman Pool, beaches and movie theaters are among the places not opening yet.

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There were signs early Sunday that the violence was spreading into other parts of the city.

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"It’s clear they have important process issues to work out," the candidate said.

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School Board President Gloria Reyes said the decision to pull police from Madison's four main high schools is effective immediately. 

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Madison police are investigating a shooting Tuesday night at a Far East Side motel that left one man with life-threatening injuries.

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The Madison School Board chose Carlton Jenkins, a superintendent of a suburban Twin Cities school district, over another finalist for the job. He starts Aug. 4.

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There was no update on the second victim from the shooting at Schroeder Road and Chapel Hill Road Saturday night. 

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The girl was in a car that was struck by gunfire late Tuesday morning on East Washington Avenue.

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"The video that came out of Kenosha is absolutely horrific. I don’t understand how people can watch it and not be here," one Madison protester said. 

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Police are not recommending charges against Althea Bernstein, saying there is a difference between someone trying to deceive law enforcement and not being able to corroborate a report of a crime.

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The two victims, ages 17 and 18, who were taken to a local hospital, suffered significant injuries but were expected to survive, acting Police Chief Vic Wahl said Saturday night.

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A small crowd Downtown Saturday morning before the race was called turned into hundreds of people honking horns, cheering and waving signs after Biden was declared the winner, while some Trump supporters turned out in protest.

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Isai Morocho, 16, was “a caring friend and family member with a ready smile and great sense of humor,” his principal said. 

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A look back at the year 2020 through the lens of Wisconsin State Journal photographers John Hart, Amber Arnold and Steve Apps

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Protesters tore down statues of Forward and a Union Civil War colonel, assaulted a state senator and set a small fire in a city building Downtown on Tuesday night after the arrest of a Black activist seen causing a disturbance in a restaurant earlier in the day.

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As a Dane County public health order requiring face coverings in all indoor spaces outside the home took effect Monday, businesses offered mixed views on mandates, though for many retailers it was business as (the new) usual.

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Travis M. Christianson, 44, is tentatively charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

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The conference decided — after meetings between presidents and athletic directors, and outcry from players, coaches, politicians and fans — to cancel the fall sports season and will attempt to move football to the spring semester.

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UW-Madison is pausing in-person instruction for at least two weeks and quarantining more than 2,200 students living in two dorms.

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After 69 years as one of the leading attractions in the Wisconsin Dells area, the Tommy Bartlett Show announced Wednesday that it would close permanently after losing the 2020 season to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The alternate care facility at State Fair Park in West Allis may begin taking patients Thursday.

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With the Green Bay defense failing to lay a hand on 49ers running back Raheem Mostert for much of the first half and the Aaron Rodgers-led offense committing two turnovers and failing to convert a third down yet again during a scoreless first 30 minutes, the Packers dug themselves a 27-0 halftime deficit on their way to a demoralizing 37-20 loss.

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The fifth-seeded Heat finished off an upset of the NBA’s best regular-season team Tuesday, topping the Milwaukee Bucks 103-94 in Game 5 of their East semifinal series — while Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s reigning MVP, couldn’t play because of a sprained right ankle.

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"We understand the eyes of the world will be on these Wisconsin counties over the next few weeks,"  Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe said.

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Republican President Donald Trump also has caused controversy for saying he might deliver acceptance speech at White House.

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The jet from the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Field in Madison crashed Tuesday night. The status of the pilot remains unknown.

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St. Mary's and Meriter expect to get vaccine soon.

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The flurry of activity caps off a tumultuous post-election saga in Wisconsin that has now concluded.

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