Evers vetoes bills on teaching about race, extending work hours for young teens

By: - February 4, 2022 4:22 pm
Student of color raising his hand showing only the hand holding a pencil in a classroom background

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A proposed law to ban public schools from teaching about the harms of racism was vetoed Friday by Gov. Tony Evers, along with three other bills that had been passed by the Legislature’s Republican majority but without significant bipartisan support.

Evers also vetoed a bill allowing employers to assign younger teenagers to work longer hours both on school nights as well as on weekends and in the summer.

AB-411, the bill limiting how subjects relating to race and racism are taught in schools, is one of several bills that Republican lawmakers have promoted to limit educational and training programs that relate to racism, prejudice and social and racial inequities. So far it is the only one to reach the governor’s desk.

“I object to creating new censorship rules that restrict schools and educators from teaching honest, complete facts about important historical topics like the Civil War and civil rights,” Evers wrote in his veto message. Educators, parents and schools, should be and are able “to work together to do what is best for our kids,” he added, “without the political interference and micromanagement from politicians in Madison.”

The teen workers bill, SB-332, would have allowed employers not covered by federal labor standards to extend the shift-end time for workers younger than 16 to 9:30 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. on non-school nights.

In his veto message, Evers said the measure would have created “two separate systems of work requirements for employers” and increased administrative work for businesses trying to figure out whether they would qualify for the proposed looser state standard or not.

While the bill’s advocates have positioned it as a response to the difficulties some employers have had in filling job openings, Evers said the state’s workforce challenges require “meaningful, sustainable, and long-term solutions” that address issues such as child care and skills training to provide working families more support and help more people join the workforce.

“This bill does not further those goals, and I hope the Legislature will join me in addressing this issue with real, meaningful solutions,” he wrote.

Evers also vetoed AB-86, which would have eased licensure standards for alternative health care providers. The bill, he wrote in his veto message, “would allow some practitioners to practice without the necessary training. He noted that groups representing social workers and the mental health community had raised concerns about the prospect of untrained practitioners providing psychotherapy and other mental health services were the bill to be enacted.

The fourth bill that Evers vetoed, AB-440, would have increased penalties for marijuana hash oil processed through butane extraction. In his  veto message, he wrote that he favors full legalization of marijuana — a proposal stripped by GOP lawmakers from his 2021-23 budget.

The legislation, he wrote, would exacerbate “longstanding racial disparities” already found in Wisconsin, where criminalizing marijuana “has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color” and contributed to higher incarceration rates for Black people.

The governor signed 14 pieces of legislation Friday as well, including one expanding the use of telehealth in free and charitable health clinics and another that formally licenses practitioners of naturopathic medicine.

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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.

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