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Tony Evers calls special session for $550 million in education spending as GOP looks at veto override attempt
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Tony Evers calls special session for $550 million in education spending as GOP looks at veto override attempt

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As state Republicans prepare to meet in extraordinary session Tuesday to try to override Gov. Tony Evers’ veto of a bill that would end additional federal unemployment benefits in Wisconsin, the Democratic governor has called for a session of his own seeking $550 million in additional state funding for K-12 and higher education.

Neither session is likely to move the needle on either measure, however, as Republicans in the Assembly and Senate lack enough members to secure the two-thirds vote needed in both chambers to overturn a governor’s veto. At the same time, the GOP-led Legislature has ignored Evers’ multiple attempts to call lawmakers into special sessions in the past on matters ranging from gun control to pandemic-related adjustments to last year’s spring election.

The Assembly will convene in extraordinary session Tuesday morning to attempt to override Evers’ veto of a bill that would eliminate the state’s participation in enhanced unemployment benefits, which provide unemployed individuals with an extra $300 per week, in addition to the state’s maximum of $370 per week. The added federal benefit is slated to expire Sept. 6.

In a video message posted to social media on Monday, Evers responded by calling on the Legislature to meet in special session Tuesday to boost state spending on education including $240 million on per-pupil aid directly to schools, $200 million on special education aid, $90 million to the University of Wisconsin System, and $20 million to the Wisconsin Technical College System.

“If Republicans have time to come into session just to try and override my vetoes, then they sure as heck have time to come into session and to do what’s best for our kids,” Evers said. “So if they’re going to come to Madison, then they have work to do.”

The funds Evers wants directed to education spending stem from his use of partial vetoes when he signed the GOP-authored 2021-23 biennial budget earlier this month. One of those vetoes removed from the budget Republican plans to transfer $550 million from the general fund to the state’s rainy day fund, which Evers said he wanted to go toward immediate spending priorities. 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.

Evers said on Monday those funds can be used “to make meaningful investments in our kids and our schools that they should have made in the budget.”

Co-chairs of the state budget committee Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, and Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, issued a joint statement describing the governor’s special session as “nothing but political posturing.”

“We’ve said it over and over again — the influx of federal funding has to be a part of this conversation,” the lawmakers said. “The Legislature’s budget, which he signed, accounted for the massive federal funds for schools, made significant investments in our student’s education and respected taxpayers. It was a good budget and we continue to stand by our decisions.”

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. When signing the budget earlier this month, Evers also announced $100 million in federal stimulus funds for schools.

Heather DuBois Bourenane, executive director of the Wisconsin Public Education Network, said in a statement Evers’ proposal would “go a long way to remedy the problem created by an inadequate budget that delivered funding in name only.”

“The Governor’s proposal would ensure funds get into every classroom in the state,” she said. “It would also resolve the absurd dilemma of attempting to force districts to use federal COVID-relief funds as a substitute for general aid.”

While lawmakers are required to gavel in to a special session called by the governor, they do not have to hold debate and can immediately adjourn. Republicans have dismissed Evers’ past requests, and none of the Democratic governor’s special sessions have directly resulted in legislation.

GOP efforts to overturn the governor’s veto also appear unlikely to succeed.

Republicans, along with some of the state’s largest business organizations, have been pushing to eliminate the federal benefits, which they say exacerbate Wisconsin’s workforce shortage — a challenge that was present before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Democratic lawmakers, including Evers, and some business groups have defended the benefits as much-needed assistance to those who are unable to find work or are reluctant to return to the workforce amid the ongoing pandemic. In mid-July, about two weeks after vetoing a GOP-authored bill to eliminate enhanced benefits, 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.

Republicans control the state Assembly by a 61-38 margin, but need a minimum of 66 votes to reach the two-thirds majority necessary to override a governor’s veto. A veto override also must pass the state Senate, where the margin is 21-12 in favor of Republicans — one vote short of the 22 needed to reach a supermajority.

The Senate is not currently scheduled to hold an extraordinary session this week and a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Republicans in 2019 changed state rules to allow for unlimited veto override attempts. However, votes that year to override three of Evers’ budget vetoes — as well as the governor’s veto of legislation to reduce the number of training hours required to become a certified nursing assistant — failed along party lines.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said Democratic members of the Assembly plan to once again prevent the GOP veto override attempt on Tuesday.

“It is telling that, at the exact moment Gov. Evers is urging the Republican-controlled state legislature to put the future of Wisconsin kids ahead of partisan politics, Assembly Republicans are poised to continue their pattern of playing political games, this time with a veto-override attempt they know will fail,” Hintz said in a statement.

After Wisconsin’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to about 14% in April 2020 due to the pandemic and subsequent shutdowns or restrictions on several industries, it began to slowly fall last year. As of June, the unemployment rate was 3.9% — near the 3.5% rate in February 2020, according to the state Department of Workforce Development.

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

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

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

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

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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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"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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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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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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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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