January 2021 Legislative Update

The 2021-22 legislative session is officially underway here in Wisconsin. The session started last week on January 4 and runs through spring of next year.

Right out of the gate, the legislature and governor have focused on another COVID-19 bill. In April, the legislature passed, and the Governor signed Wisconsin Act 185. Many of the provisions included in Act 185 have expired.

Last week, Assembly Republicans quickly introduced, held a public hearing and floor vote on their comprehensive COVID-19 legislation. Assembly Bill 1 passed the Assembly 56-34 along party lines. The state Senate, however, took a different approach and this week held a public hearing and floor vote on AB 1. The Senate introduced and passed 29-2 a substitute amendment – which basically replaces the language passed by the Assembly with a different bill.

Of note for WPRA, the bill as passed by the Senate, includes COVID-19 liability protections for, associations, tribal governments or entities, governmental entities, schools, institutions of higher education, or nonprofit organizations, as well as employers or business owners, employees, agents, or independent contractors.

Governor Evers has publicly said he would sign AB 1, as amended by the Senate, into law. Assembly Republicans have not yet agreed to this compromise and have publicly criticized the amended bill.

The amended bill must return to the Assembly for concurrence before it heads to the governor’s desk.

SDMAC Vaccine Subcommittee Considers Next Vaccination Phase Framework

  • This week, the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC) vaccine subcommittee met to discuss the groups covered in the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccination (Phase 1B).
  • Wisconsin in currently in Phase 1A which is limited to healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
  • The state has not completed vaccinating all individuals included in Phase 1A and has released a dashboard of the status of Phase 1A.
  • Also this week, DHS announced their plans to move forward with law enforcement and fire fighters before the Phase 1B recommendations are finalized.
  • The draft recommendations include the following groups in Phase 1B: individuals 70 and older, those living and working in congregate living, mink husbandry workers, public-facing essential workers, including first responders, non-frontline healthcare personnel and educators.
  • Educators includes those works in daycare, preschool, K-12, and higher education.
  • Once the recommendations are approved, the subcommittee will then provide the recommendation to the full SDMAC and then submit the recommendation to DHS. DHS can accept the recommendations or modify if desired.

Governor Will Give Budget Address on February 16; Expected to Increase LUG in Stewardship

  • Governor Tony Evers announced he will virtually present his 2021-23 state budget on Tuesday, February 16.
  • The Department of Natural Resources requested a 10-year reauthorization of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program (KNSP) at $50 million annually (through fiscal year 2032).
  • At a recent meeting, WPRA leadership learned that the governor plans to allocate $11 million annually to the LUG Stewardship program. WPRA advocated for an increase to the LUG program to provide more resources to local communities.
  • WPRA will continue to work with governor’s office and begin to prepare for the #TeamKnowlesNelson coalition work during the JFC process.