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Wisconsin Assembly Committee Approves Bill Giving Lawmakers Oversight On Federal Relief Money

A Wisconsin Assembly committee moved forward a bill that gives legislators 14 days to review allocation of federal COVID-19 relief money.

Republicans who control the state Legislature want to review any expenditures of Wisconsin’s portion of the latest federal COVID-19 relief package before Democratic Gov. Tony Evers distributes the money.

Wisconsin expects to receive $5.5 billion in aid from the $1.9 trillion package, which the House of Representatives gave final approval to on Wednesday. 

The money would go toward vaccine distribution, as well as to local governments, schools and other agencies.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu spoke at an Assembly committee hearing Wednesday and laid out the GOP’s request. 

“So, what the bill simply does is give a 14-day passive review through the Joint Finance Committee. Fourteen days is expedited, it’s fastest, so that way we can get the relief money into the hands of where it’s needed but have the input of the Legislature which is so vitally important. It's why we have three branches of government to give that legislative oversight over the spending,” said LeMahieu. 

Under the bill, the state Legislature would have input into distribution of federal COVID-19 relief aid for Wisconsin through June of next year.

Republican Joint Committee on Finance co-chair Mark Born told the panel that such a measure isn’t unique to Wisconsin.

“It’s not blazing a trail. It’s not something that’s a crazy new idea. It’s being done in other states. Some states, it’s being done because it’s their standard approach to this type of thing. Other states, because they’re doing what we’re doing here and bringing forward legislation, saying this is the right way to do it,” said Born. 

The Assembly Committee on Constitution and Ethics voted 6-3 along party lines to approve the measure. All three Democrats on the committee voted against the plan but did not voice their opposition.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Evers said he’ll veto the bill because “Wisconsinites can’t wait around for the Legislature” and the state needs relief as quickly as it can get it.  

The committee also voted 6-3 along party lines on bills that would forbid government officials and employers from requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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