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Wisconsin Assembly to vote on several Republican-authored bills Tuesday

Wisconsin Republicans will be voting on COVID-19 measures and tougher penalties for shoplifters and rioters.
FILE - The Wisconsin Assembly.
FILE - The Wisconsin Assembly.(WMTV Elise Romas)
Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 7:20 AM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly are voting Tuesday on a number of proposals and bills.

Assembly Republicans were poised to vote on bills that would create tougher penalties for protesters. One proposal up for a vote Tuesday would make attending a riot or blocking a street a misdemeanor punishable by up to nine months in jail and participating in a riot that causes property damage or personal injury a felony punishable by up to three-and-a-half years in prison. Anyone who harms or throws a bodily substance at a National Guard member would be guilty of a felony punishable by up to three-and-a-half years in prison.

Another bill would make it a felony to damage government property of historical significance. The bills come after protesters burned parts of downtown Kenosha and damaged two state Capitol statutes in 2020.

Another bill up for a vote Tuesday would create tougher penalties for coordinated shoplifting. The measure comes in response to reports last year of gangs of shoplifters running rampant through high-end department stores in California. There’s been no reports of similar smash-and-grabs in Wisconsin, but the bill’s chief Senate sponsor, Duey Stroebel, said in written remarks to the Senate judiciary committee that the state must send a strong message that organized theft rings will be punished. Under the bill, the severity of penalties for committing thefts as a group would be determined by the total value of the all the stolen items.

The state Assembly is also set to vote on a Republican-authored bill that would prohibit government entities from creating COVID-19 vaccination passports. The bill’s main Assembly sponsors, Reps. Rob Stafsholt and Scott Krug, say they developed the legislation because they’re worried the Biden administration may mandate such passports. They say the bill would prevent government outreach.

The Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards as well as the Wisconsin Public Health Association have registered against the bill. Approval would send the bill to the Senate, although Democratic Gov. Tony Evers almost certainly will veto it if it reaches his desk.

A vote on a bill that would require employers to count a prior COVID-19 infection as an alternative to vaccination and testing is also expected Tuesday. The GOP maintains natural immunity is at least as effective as being vaccinated. Similar bills passed in Florida and Arkansas last year.

A number of Wisconsin medical groups oppose the measure, arguing vaccination is the best way to protect against COVID-19 and it’s not clear how long natural immunity lasts. Approval would send the bill to the Senate, but Gov. Evers almost certainly will veto the measure if it reaches his desk.

A package of bills designed to bolster police recruiting is also up for a vote Tuesday. The measures come as officer applications have dwindled in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the national debate over police brutality and racism. The bills would create bonuses for applicants and officers who stay on the job; require at least two technical colleges establish part-time police academies; create a marketing campaign to attract recruits; prohibit local governments from banning no-knock search warrants; and require schools teach courses on how to respect and cooperate with police. Approval would send the bills to the Senate.

The Assembly was set to vote on all of the bills Tuesday afternoon.

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