By LaKeshia N. Myers
This week has been a doozy, even for the Wisconsin State Capitol. I would never have imagined that within the span of one week, my Republican colleagues would attempt such a carnivorous political rampage. On Tuesday, Assembly Republicans (at the behest of their leader) amended a bipartisan bill that would have moved the state in the right direction with regard to COVID-19. The senate’s amended version of AB1 was a collaborative COVID-19 omnibus, chock full of necessary relief measures that were overdue to the people of Wisconsin.
The bipartisan version of the bill included among other things: increasing the Department of Workforce Development’s call center to 12 hours per day, seven days a week; waiving the unemployment one week waiting period; providing medical assistance payments for hospitals for nursing facility care; and restricting out-of-network costs related to health coverage for COVID-19. All of which are necessary to aiding our state in dealing with the coronavirus. Instead of presenting this bill for passage, Assembly Republicans chose to be petty and vindictive—adding provisions they knew wouldn’t be agreed to by the senate counterparts or the governor, whose signature is required for this to become law. Assembly Republicans moved to include provisions aimed at ending home COVID-19 testing, penalizing schools for having virtual instruction, ending civil liability for all health care professionals ad infinitum and restricting the governor’s oversight of COVID-19 relief efforts. Not for any real reason, just because they could.
As if that weren’t enough, Senate Republicans returned to their chamber to invalidate the governor’s statewide mask mandate. But, as the colloquialism goes, “it be your own people”—and in this case Republicans’ quest to curb the governor backfired in a major way. Eliminating Wisconsin’s mask requirement would cut off nearly $50 million in food assistance per month to the more than 652,000 low-income people and those thrown out of work during the coronavirus pandemic. This means approximately 175,000 households in predominantly white, predominantly rural, Republican-leaning districts would lose assistance.
So, I urge Wisconsin Republicans to use their voices to put their representatives on notice and in check; if we are ever to see an end to this pandemic and its gruesome economic effects, your leaders need to get on board. Wearing masks is not a choice, it’s a necessity for survival. It’s done to ensure more businesses don’t close, to ensure goods and services remain available, and to look out for your fellow man. This is not a time for political posturing, theatrics, fake news or fabricated illusions. It’s time for legislators to put themselves aside and put the people of this state first. Call your state representatives and your state senators, tell them what you want; don’t let them feed you partisan rhetoric.
This is a matter of life and death; and elections really do have consequences.
To contact your state legislator you can visit https://maps.legis.wisconsin.gov/ or you can call 1-800-362-9472.