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Capitol Punishments: Line up for exposure!

This week’s horrible, foolish, and weird goings-on in Wisconsin state government.

Illustration: Ghosts and ghouls are shown swarming about the Wisconsin Capitol. Illustration by Maggie Denman.

Each week in Wisconsin state politics brings an abundance of bad policies, bad takes, and bad actors. In our new recurring feature, Capitol Punishments, we bring you the week’s highlights (or low-lights) from the state Legislature and beyond.

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Haven’t had COVID yet? Line up!

This week legislative Republicans passed a bill by Rep. Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago) that would allow people to bypass vaccine and testing requirements by swearing they have “natural immunity” instead. The original bill required a doctor to sign off, but legislative Republicans adopted an amendment that allows an individual to sign a notarized letter that says “to the best of the individual’s knowledge” they’ve had and recovered from COVID-19.

But Dr. Ann Helms, a Brookfield neurologist and Wisconsin State Lead with Committee to Protect Care, said in a press release earlier this month that research has shown that immunity from exposure to COVID-19 is inconsistent and unpredictable

On top of that, Rep. Rachael Cabral-Guevara (R-Appleton) said on the Assembly floor during debate on the bill that she wished there were two lines: one for the vaccine and one for people who want to be exposed to COVID-19. 

The problem is, that’s essentially what’s already happening, and it’s filling hospitals. Unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to need hospitalization, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The kicker: Cabral-Guevara is a board-certified family nurse practitioner.

What to do with an extra $2.9 billion? How about nothing?

Imagine your house is falling apart. You’ve put off repairs for years but it’s gotten to the point where cracks are really starting to show. Then you get a nice, cushy bonus. What do you do?

If you’re Wisconsin’s legislative Republicans, you do nothing. The Legislature hoarded $1 billion in the state’s rainy-day fund during a pandemic and set aside another billion during the budget process. Now the Legislative Fiscal Bureau predicts the state will receive $2.9 billion more than expected this July. 

Gov. Tony Evers has proposed spending that money on some things, particularly helping families with children, and investing in education.

Republican leadership’s response? Nah.

WILL’s war on dropboxes  

Remember the 2020 spring election? And how every six hours there would be new rules for what you could or could not do to turn in a ballot? And how frustrating that was for election officials and voters?

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) apparently doesn’t. The right-wing lawsuit factory and occasional partner in hate-group circles is trying to get the courts to ban ballot drop boxes. This effort, clearly aimed at discouraging voter turnout in Madison and Milwaukee, would have been successful if the Wisconsin Court of Appeals hadn’t ruled that the Feb. 15 primary was too soon to change the rules.

That’s not stopping legislative Republicans from putting together a package of bills on election law, potentially next week, that could limit the use of dropboxes.

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No experience? No problem! Here, run the entire UW System

Who first told business people they could do whatever job they want, at whatever rank, no experience required? 

The UW Board of Regents last week unanimously elected Jay Rothman, a lawyer and CEO of a legal firm, as the system’s eighth president. Rothman has zero education experience. He didn’t even attend public universities for his higher education; his Bachelor’s degree is from Marquette and his law degree is from Harvard.

Unlike Jim Schmidt, who was the other finalist. Schmidt has been chancellor at UW-Eau Claire since 2013. Before that, Schmidt was at Winona State University and Riverland Community College, both in Minnesota. 

It’s the latest in a recruitment process that has gotten quite a bit of scrutiny from university faculty, especially because Rothman and Schmidt did not undergo a public interview. The finalist in the 2020 search, University of Alaska System President Jim Johnsen, had an “underwhelming” and “lackluster” public interview before he withdrew. 

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