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The U.S. House chamber, with members socially distanced, shortly after passage of a $2 trillion-plus coronavirus relief bill on March 27, 2020. (C-SPAN) The U.S. House chamber, with members socially distanced, shortly after passage of a $2 trillion-plus coronavirus relief bill on March 27, 2020. (C-SPAN)

The U.S. House chamber, with members socially distanced, shortly after passage of a $2 trillion-plus coronavirus relief bill on March 27, 2020. (C-SPAN)

Eric Litke
By Eric Litke April 2, 2021

Wisconsin Republicans passed one COVID bill before long period of inaction

If Your Time is short

  • Imprecise wording leaves this claim open to multiple interpretations.

  • There was a 300-day span where legislators didn’t pass any bills.

  • But the Legislature did pass a COVID-19 bill in April 2020, weeks after the governor issued his “Safer at Home” order.

Amid a pandemic that changed almost every part of Wisconsin life in 2020, one thing was nearly constant — inaction from the Republican-led Legislature.

In October, we rated True a claim that Wisconsin Republicans hadn’t passed a single bill in six months, a streak that ultimately ran through the end of the year. We noted Wisconsin lawmakers had done less than almost any other state to address the pandemic despite being one of just 10 full-time Legislatures in the nation.

That streak ended in February. Republicans passed a $100 million COVID response bill that was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, but the two sides came together later that month on a bill that overhauled the state unemployment system while also expanding jobless benefits and protecting businesses and governments from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

A month later, Evers took aim at the Republicans’ pandemic record while pitching his plan to spend $3.2 billion in new federal coronavirus aid.

"It took the Legislature nearly 300 days to act on a #COVID19 bill during this pandemic," Evers tweeted on March 30, 2021. "We simply cannot afford to waste any time or let Republicans play politics and prevent these funds from going to folks who need our help."

Let’s take a closer look at that 300 days claim.

Multiple ways to read it

The key question is how one interprets Evers’ reference, which is imprecise.

Many would no doubt take this statement to mean the Legislature didn’t pass a COVID-19 bill for the first 300 days of the pandemic. And that’s inaccurate.

RELATED: Steineke’s actions, words don’t match on COVID-19 bill

Evers imposed his "Safer at Home" order on March 25, 2020, and within weeks the Legislature passed a broad COVID-19 relief bill that Evers signed on April 15, 2020.

That bill:

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  • Made workers’ compensation available to healthcare workers who contracted COVID-19 (though controversially only if they could prove they were exposed while working on a person with the virus)

  • Suspended the one-week waiting period before people who are out of work may collect unemployment benefits

  • Provided insurance protection for those infected with coronavirus and shielded health care providers from liability

  • Barred insurers from charging people more to get COVID-19 treatment out of network

  • Required insurers to cover coronavirus testing for free

That bill, however, was the last coronavirus-related action the Legislature passed for about 300 days. That’s the point Evers was making, said spokeswoman Britt Cudaback.

"The tweet says a COVID-19 bill because it did, in fact, take the Legislature nearly 300 days to pass a COVID-19 bill, and not for lack of the governor’s or public’s urging to pass it sooner," Cudaback said in an email.

The phrasing could also be taken to say the Legislature stalled a particular bill for 300 days, which is also inaccurate. Evers raised a variety of potential bills during that legislative drought, but no specific bill that was ignored for that length of time.

Sinec February 2021, the Legislature has passed several other COVID-related bills, including measures that allowed pharmacy technicians, pharmacy students and dentists to administer the vaccine.

Our ruling

Evers said, "It took the Legislature nearly 300 days to act on a (COVID-19) bill during this pandemic."

It didn’t take 300 days for the Legislature to take any action on the pandemic, as a wide-ranging bill was signed into law in April 2020. But the Republican-run Senate and Assembly did take a 300-day hiatus from passing legislation after that point, which stretched all the way to February 2021.

That lines up with our definition of Half True: a statement that is "partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context."

 

 

Our Sources

Tony Evers, tweet, March 30, 2021

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Gov. Tony Evers signs Wisconsin coronavirus relief bill, though there is criticism of how it treats first responders, April 15, 2020

MIlwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tony Evers signs bill to begin overhaul of unemployment system, Feb. 25, 2021

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tony Evers vetoes $100 million Republican bill on COVID-19 response, Feb. 5, 2021

Wisconsin State Legislature, 2021 acts, as of April 1, 2021

PolitiFact Wisconsin, Yes, Wisconsin legislators haven’t passed a bill in 6 months, Oct. 7, 2020

Email exchange with Britt Cudaback, March 31, 2021

 

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Wisconsin Republicans passed one COVID bill before long period of inaction

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