Wisconsin Republicans push welfare referendum, block Democrats' call for abortion rights question
An advisory referendum asking whether non-disabled adults without children should have to actively search for employment to be eligible for welfare benefits is a step closer to being on the April election ballot in Wisconsin.
The GOP-controlled State Senate OK'd the welfare referendum Tuesday, ignoring Democrats who say the job search requirement is already law.
Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard (D-Madison) ridiculed the recently-introduced GOP plan during a State Capitol news conference.
"Think about it. We're asking the public to weigh in on policies that were passed years ago. Advisory referendums are supposed to do just that—advise. So, the people are going to advise lawmakers on something that is already the law in the state of Wisconsin? That only makes sense if you're looking at the world through a cynical and political lens," said Agard.
Agard said Republicans are just trying to boost voter turnout for the April elections—especially the State Supreme Court race, where more liberal candidates are trying to take control of the court from conservative justices.
On Tuesday's Senate floor, no Republicans spoke in favor of the employment search referendum. A later press release from Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) contends that if the ballot question is OK'd, it will help reduce the labor shortage in Wisconsin.
Republicans were slightly more vocal on rejecting a resolution from Democrats to amend the welfare question by adding an April referendum supporting restoring abortion rights in Wisconsin. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) argued the Democrat's plan was out of order.
"Senate Substitute Amendment 1 is irrelevant to the subject matter of the proposal and negates the original proposal entirely, and therefore is not germane to the joint resolution pursuant to Senate Rule 50," said LeMahieu.
Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) quickly agreed and dropped the Democrats' proposal.
In other action, the Senate advanced a proposed constitutional amendment for April that critics say could raise bail on low-income criminal defendants.
Democratic leader Agard said it's time for Republicans to have a reality check.
"Politics and ideology are driving the majority party. They're not helping the people of Wisconsin. We're here to help the people of Wisconsin," Agard told her Senate colleagues.
The Republican-controlled State Assembly is expected to take up the welfare referendum, and the proposed constitutional amendment on bail, by a January 24 deadline for placing items on the April ballot.
State Capitol audio for this story provided by WisEye.org