LeMahieu vs. Vos on COVID-19 bill, and their relationship

    Wisconsin Legislature in session
    Wisconsin State Senate in session (via the Legislative Reference Bureau)

    Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu plans to bring forward a new COVID-19 response bill today that is “thinner” than the 44-part bill advanced by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos that the Assembly passed and sent to the Senate for consideration.

    The Senate version has fewer than half that many provisions — around 18 to 20 — which LeMahieu said will be voted on Monday in Senate committee and be taken up by the full Senate on Tuesday. 

    Because it is a change to the Assembly bill that passed last week, the Assembly will also have to reconvene to approve those changes

    The Senate removed the provision requiring local elected officials to vote to continue any emergency order issued by local health officials after two days — arguing that public health officials should not be able to issue such emergency orders at all, according to comments LeMahieu made on the radio on Jay Weber on NewsTalk 1130 WISN early Monday morning.

    “Making sure that local levels of government approves shutdowns before they go into effect. I think that would be the preferred option,” said LeMahieu.

    “So, you don’t want the public health officials making pronouncements on their own, period, whether it’s 10 or two days?”

    “Correct,” LeMahieu responded.

    The bill will include the controversial provision from the Assembly bill that came from Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, to exempt businesses and other entities from any COVID-19 lawsuits, giving them a pass even if they disregarded public health rules.

    Weber asked LeMahieu if Vos saying very publicly that the Senate was on board with the bill — only to be contradicted on that agreement by LeMahieu on the evening before the Assembly vote — indicated “a new, more cranky and unsettled relationship” between the two Republican leaders. 

    “I think this was the Speaker and I finding our way,” answered LeMahieu. “I’m new. There may be some bumps in the road. I’m learning the way. So I’m committed to work with the Speaker. I think he’s committed to work with me. We’ll make sure we get together going forward and try to do what’s best for Wisconsin.”

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    Melanie Conklin
    Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.