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GOP Leaders Gavel In, Adjourn Unemployment Session

Maayan Silver
After a short lived special session, the Republican leaders rejected a $5.3 million proposal by Gov. Tony Evers to modernize the Department of Workforce Development.

Republican legislative leaders took no action Tuesday on Gov. Tony Evers' call to modernize the state's backlogged unemployment system, convening and adjourning a special session within seconds.

Evers called the GOP-controlled Legislature into special session on Tuesday to pass a $5.3 million plan to modernize the Department of Workforce Development's process for handling unemployment claims.

GOP leaders rejected the proposal, saying Evers has the power to make upgrades without legislative approval. Republican leaders in the Assembly gaveled in to Tuesday's special session and immediately adjourned with no debate. Republican leaders in the Senate followed suit about a half-hour later.

The session remains open, but lawmakers have shown no signs of wanting to pass any bills.

“Governor Evers knows full well that he’s had the power to initiate the changes he’s asking for without a special session or bill from the legislative branch," said Republican Majority Leader Jim Steineke in a statement.

The Department of Workforce Development has been struggling for months with a massive backlog of unemployment claims sparked by layoffs and business closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Republicans have blamed Evers for the backlog, saying his incompetence has left people waiting for months for life-sustaining payouts. The governor has blamed DWD's antiquated processing systems.

Republicans have all but ignored Evers’ special session calls in the past, including sessions on gun control and criminal justice reform.

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