By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Legislature’s first veto override attempts in nearly a decade failed Thursday, after no Democrats jumped ranks to provide Republicans with the votes they needed to have their way.
Despite not having the votes, Assembly Republicans forced votes on three budget proposals that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers had vetoed over the summer. The votes marked the first time either legislative chamber has tried to override a veto since 2010; the latest successful attempt happened in 1985.
The votes came on a tumultuous day at the end of a week of clashes between Evers and the Republican-controlled Legislature. Evers called a special session on gun control for Thursday, asking lawmakers to pass bills that would require universal background checks and allow judges to temporarily seize guns from people deemed to pose a threat.
Republicans avoided debating the bills by convening and then, seconds later, ending a special session called by Evers in both the Senate and Assembly. They ignored calls from Evers, the attorney general, gun-control advocates and Democratic lawmakers who urged them to take action.
That bit of theater followed the state Senate’s vote on Tuesday to fire Evers’ choice to run the agriculture department. Evers attended the debate in person and then tore into Senators after the vote, calling the action “BS” in comments sprinkled with profanity.
Evers fared better on Thursday, seeing all three veto override attempts fail.
Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said ahead of the session that the Republicans who were attempting the veto overrides were “trying to have cover for their cowardice on the firearms issue.”
“This is all done to delay, to distract from the business we were called into for today,” said Democratic Rep. Evan Goyke, of Milwaukee.
Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke rejected that accusation as “ridiculous.”
Republicans argued that there’s bipartisan support to build more regional mental-health centers in Wisconsin. For that reason, they said, Democrats should have supported their proposal to override a veto that had killed a $15 million plan to build such a center in northern Wisconsin. Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul organized a summit just last week to discuss the need for more centers.
Evers’ veto allowed that money to instead be used to expand the existing Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Madison.
In arguing for the construction of a mental-health center in northwestern Wisconsin, supporters of the override cited the time and expense of transporting people up to eight hours away to get them to the Winnebago mental-health center in Oshkosh.
Republican Rep. Rob Stafsholt, whose district is in rural northwestern Wisconsin, said he was appalled by the veto because it placed a burden on law enforcement and people who have to travel hours to get treatment.
“Today is our day where we can fix that wrong,” he said. “I hope that everybody sees this is not politics.”
The other vetoes targeted for override blocked $5 million a year for doctors who care for people in state health-care programs and gave the Evers administration more leeway over spending $500,000 to increase the number of health-care providers in the state, nixing the Legislature’s plan to create a new grant program.
All three failed on party line votes.
In a statement after the override votes, Evers didn’t defend his decision to strike the items but instead said Republicans were “more interested in playing politics than getting anything done for the people of our state.”
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