Dem legislative agenda includes Medicaid expansion, criminal justice reform, other priorities

Wisconsin State Capitol

Dem lawmakers are targeting Medicaid expansion, criminal justice reform and more money for education and water quality ahead of the upcoming fall floor period.

But they aren’t pressuring Gov. Tony Evers to call a special legislative session on gun violence bills.

The guv previously threatened to call a special session if Republicans wouldn’t bring up the bills on their own. But Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, said Monday in a Capitol news conference the guv was working “earnestly to encourage” GOP lawmakers to schedule hearings on proposals that would introduce so-called “red-flag” laws and broaden requirements for background checks on firearm purchases.

“It takes a little bit of time for those to get the bill numbers and move forward,” she said. “I believe he believes in the democratic process and he hopes that the Legislature does what we are charged to do: hear the voices of the people of Wisconsin.”

Still, Sargent didn’t explicitly rule out a special session either, saying Evers and his aides are “considering seriously their next steps here.”

The Dems accused Republicans of ignoring the will of Wisconsinites, citing large majority support among citizens for Medicaid expansion, background checks on gun purchases and medical marijuana legalization.

But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald in an email noted that Republicans in the budget “managed to cut taxes and invest more money in schools, health care, and clean water.”

“Unfortunately, every single legislative Democrat voted against it – despite the governor of their own party signing it into law,” Fitzgerald said in an email.

A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos also knocked the Dem plan, which she said, “focuses on legislation that they know the GOP doesn’t support like expanding welfare.”

“Interesting enough, several of their agenda items were approved in the state budget that they voted against like cutting taxes and increasing special education funding,” said spokeswoman Kit Beyer.

Dems said bills like marijuana legalization would bring a multi-billion dollar industry to the state and help farmers survive. They called Wisconsin an “island” surrounded by states with some kind of cannabis legalization.

But the group was non-committal when asked by reporters if they would settle for a medical marijuana proposal that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos indicated he would be open to considering.

Republicans stripped Gov. Evers’ medical marijuana and decriminalization plan from the budget before sending their version to the guv, but the Rochester Republican told reporters in June shortly before the budget was signed into law that he would like to “figure out a way to get to yes” on medical marijuana in the fall.

“I’d certainly love for us to be able to have a discussion that is rational, that takes our time, that we figure out an answer to see if Republicans could actually support it who are skeptics like I am,” Vos said.

But Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said she believed GOP lawmakers in both houses already supported a medical cannabis bill she rolled out three weeks ago alongside Sens. Jon Erpenbach, D-West Point, and Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point.

“There are no excuses for not moving this bill,” she said.

See the GOP letter:
http://legis.wisconsin.gov/assembly/97/allen/media/16076/cannabis-research-request.pdf

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