Evers calls special session, GOP eyes veto overrides

Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison

Gov. Tony Evers on Monday called the Republican-controlled Legislature into a special session to increase funding for public schools and higher education on the same day the Assembly planned to vote on veto overrides.

The overrides on Tuesday were almost certain to fail because there aren't enough Republicans to vote for them without Democrats crossing sides. Likewise, Evers' special session call is also likely to be ignored, which Republicans have done repeatedly when he's made similar calls to pass his priorities.

Assembly Republicans were to announce Monday afternoon which bills or partial budget vetoes they planned to attempt to override.

Evers, in a video message announcing the special session, said as long as Republicans were coming back in session to vote on overrides, they should "do the right thing and invest in our kids and our schools."

"If they have time to come into session to play politics, then they have time to come in and do what’s best for our kids," Evers said.

He called on Republicans to spend $240 million per pupil aid for K-12 schools, $200 million more for special education and $110 million for higher education, including the University of Wisconsin System.

Republican legislative leaders had no immediate comment on the special session call.

Lawmakers are required to gavel into the special session, but they don't have to debate, let alone vote, on the proposals Evers is putting forward. Republicans have ignored Evers on several other special sessions since 2019.

For the veto override to be successful, it must pass both the Senate and Assembly with a two-thirds majority.

The Senate was not scheduled to be in session this week to take up overrides and it wasn’t clear if they would take up the same bills or not. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

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Republicans, who hold a 61-38 majority in the Assembly, would need 66 votes in favor of an override if everyone is present. That means at least five Democrats would have to switch sides, something that Democratic Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said would not happen.

"We'll uphold the veto," he said Friday.

Veto overrides in Wisconsin are rare. The Legislature tried, unsuccessfully, to override an Evers veto in 2019, the first attempt in nine years. The last successful override was in 1985, a 36-year span that is the longest in Wisconsin history, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau.

The Legislature last attempted an override in February 2020, failing to get the needed votes to undo Evers' veto of a state budget provision creating a $1 million grant program for fabrication labs in schools. The Assembly in May scheduled, but then delayed, override votes on bills Evers vetoed that would prevent health officials from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine and prohibit the closing of churches during the pandemic.

Override votes are often scheduled not because lawmakers think they will succeed, but to instead bring more attention to an issue, please a special interest or force the other side to cast a possibly unpopular vote.

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