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State legislature needs to show up or shut up

Members of the Wisconsin State Legislature are big talkers when it comes to criticizing how Gov. Tony Evers has handled the state’s COVID-19 response and economic fallout.

They have been less willing to actually take action to deal with things such as updating the state’s antiquated unemployment system or looking at ways to ease the burden for individuals and small businesses being harmed by the financial fallout of the ongoing pandemic. It is past time for the legislature to step up to the plate.

About the only thing the legislature has done of note was hide behind the robes of the state supreme court last spring when they were too cowardly to come into session and take action themselves. State law gives the legislature final say on the emergency orders with only a simple majority needed in both houses to overturn them. Republicans hold a 19-13 majority in the Senate and a 63-36 majority in the Assembly, which begs the question of why they are spending so much time bashing the governor in the media, rather than actually doing something on their own.

With the governor declaring a new state of emergency in response to climbing COVID-19 numbers, legislative leaders are again raising a ruckus. Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald took time out of his congressional campaigning to threaten that the legislature was ready to convene and end the governor’s order. Assembly speaker Robin Vos has held off on suggesting the assembly would take action, perhaps worried about the potential political fallout with only a few months until the election.

Others such as Senator Scott Nass, a Republican from Whitewater, are criss-crossing the state speaking at events condemning the governor and riling up opposition to his order. The speaking tour has more to do with Nass trying to position himself as a successor to Fitzgerald than any desire to actually enact a change. If it was about wanting to make change, Nass would spend less time touring the state and more time pressuring his own party leadership to.

State legislative leadership is quite happy allowing Gov. Evers to make the unpopular decisions when it comes to working to protect public health and safety. Life is easier in the cheap seats where you can play Monday morning quarterback and criticize the calls made by the person on the field, rather than suiting up and getting into the game.

Rather than whining about the governor’s orders, the legislature needs to show up or shut up. And when they eventually show up, they need to be ready to work and to bring ideas and plans to the table to move Wisconsin forward rather than simply standing in opposition.