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Legislatively Speaking

Wisconsin Republicans Unprepared to Lead As Death Toll Rises

Lena C. Taylor

Wisconsin’s Republican controlled state Legislature has pretty much been missing in action, when it comes to minimizing the universal damage of COVID-19. In fairness, I don’t want to give the impression that Republicans have not been working.

After all, they have been busy fighting Gov. Tony Ever plans to limit and contain the coronavirus spread. They railed against the extension of the “Safer at Home Order” and are engaged in stopping a requirement that folks were a mask in public spaces. They have been diligent in filing lawsuits and trying to take control from agency experts in making decisions regarding health and public safety. It, therefore, should come as no surprise that Republicans have done little else to help Wisconsin residents during the greatest health and economic crisis of our day.

In a recent interview, Wisconsin State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) felt he needed to remind us that “We have to remember that this is a virus. There is nothing that government can do.” After acknowledging that state legislators last met in February, to address unemployment benefit barriers and aid for health-care facilities, Sanfelippo didn’t seem to appreciate that Wisconsin needs a comprehensive response to COVID-19. Oh, did I mention that Sanfelippo is the chair of the Assembly Health Committee? This type of shortsightedness is dangerous.

Wisconsin is nearly at the bottom of the list for states that have aggressively responded to the need for additional COVID-19 related legislation. It is inconceivable that others have passed 50-70 bills to aid their communities. While under the auspices of Republicans, Wisconsin has had our hands tied. Much like their national counterparts, local GOP members seem to think that COVID-19 is just going to “go away.” If they have a strategy at all, it appears to be survival of the fittest, help for their friends, and everyone else be dammed.

While we set new daily records in confirming positive cases, deaths, and increased hospitalizations, the legislature should be doing more. COVID-19 is impacting nearly every facet of American life. We should be working to figure out how to minimize the loss of life, stabilize families, shore up needed resources, maintain our local economies and devise a plan to spur future economic growth.

K-12 education through post-secondary education has changed dramatically for this year. Educational divides will likely deepen and it may take years to recover from the damage done. Safety net services that include domestic violence, mental health, food insecurities and medical care have been disrupted. Prevention, treatment and continuing care have frequently been postponed since the pandemic began. Partisanship can’t continue to impede our ability to work together to protect and proactively aid our people. This is not a time to do less, it is a time to do more.

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