Evers vetoes more than 40 Republican-backed bills

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed more than 40 Republican authored bills Friday including a package overhauling election administration, while he signed a bipartisan measure that provides funding for the construction of a new juvenile prison in Milwaukee.

The 43 vetoes spanned a wide expanse of bills passed in this election year, measures that Republicans knew were doomed to fail but that give them — and Evers — something to campaign on. Republicans don’t have enough votes to override his vetoes.

Among the bills Evers vetoed were measures that would have prohibited schools from requiring students to wear masks and required employers to accept proof of natural immunity from COVID-19 rather than vaccination.

He also vetoed bills that would have allowed holders of concealed carry permits to have firearms in vehicles on school grounds and in churches located on the grounds of a private school. He also vetoed a measure that would have allowed anyone with a concealed carry license from any state to go armed in Wisconsin. Currently, only people with licenses from states that conduct background checks on applicants can carry concealed guns in Wisconsin.

Evers vetoed a bill that would have permitted classes on the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution to count for diversity or ethnic studies requirements at the University of Wisconsin. Another bill he vetoed would have forced UW System schools to use objective criteria for admissions. The measure would outlaw criteria based on race, national origin or religion.

Another bill he vetoed would have allowed students to sue University of Wisconsin professors and others who interfere with free speech rights on campus. The measure was designed to clear the way for conservative speakers on campus.

And he vetoed a measure that would have prohibited governmental agencies from requiring employees to attend training courses about topics related to systemic racism.

He also vetoed a package of bills that would have made it harder to vote. Republicans offered them in the wake of President Joe Biden narrowly winning Wisconsin over Donald Trump in 2020.

Evers vetoed a number of bills increasing penalties for crimes, including retail theft, as well as a measure that would have enshrined police’s ability to use no-knock warrants in state law. The national debate over no-knock warrants, which allow police to storm residences without any warning, has been growing in recent years.

Evers vetoed a bill that would have made damaging statues and other government property of historical significance a felony punishable by up to three-and-a-years in prison. That came after protesters tore down the statue of a Civil War hero outside the state Capitol in the summer of 2020 and damaged another one.

He also vetoed a raft of bills that would have directed how to spend millions of dollars from the federal government that was awarded as part of the coronavirus relief package. Currently, Evers has the discretion to decide how to spend the money. He said in his veto messages that he objected to the Legislature getting involved and that he has already earmarked much of the money for public safety and other initiatives.

One of 35 bills Evers signed was a bipartisan proposal that would authorize borrowing $42 million to build a new youth prison in Milwaukee County, the latest step in a years-long effort to close the troubled Lincoln Hills juvenile prison in northern Wisconsin and the Copper Lake prison for girls.

Four years ago, the Legislature voted to close the prison but lawmakers never came through with the money for a replacement facility. Its exact location has yet to be determined.

“For years, legislators have been talking about closing Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake as a juvenile facility while simultaneously delaying and obstructing plans to do so,” Evers said in a statement heralding enactment of the new law.

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