In year-end interview, Gov. Evers suggests support for bail reform, doesn’t rule out DA investigation

MADISON, Wis. — In a year-end interview with News 3 Now, Gov. Tony Evers said his office was reviewing a complaint for authenticity and would weigh whether to launch an investigation of Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisolm after the Waukesha holiday parade tragedy.

The letter and the governor’s upcoming decision over whether to launch an investigation into Chisolm comes after an assistant district attorney set a $1,000 bail for murder suspect Darrell Brooks, who was out on bail when he was accused of killing six and hurting dozens more by driving his SUV through the Waukesha holiday parade.

Gov. Evers suggested he might support bail reform laws as well in the wake of the tragedy, but cautioned that any reform would need “every stakeholder” at the table.

“You hate to use tragedy like this to create an impetus to change,” he said. “But if everybody sits back and takes a breath…maybe there’s a way that people that have a violent past could have higher bail. I’m open to that.”

COVID hospital relief

The governor doesn’t have current plans to mobilize the National Guard for relief at hospitals and nursing homes strained by staffing shortages and COVID-19 patients, saying he was relying instead on federal FEMA staffing aid to come through.

“It’s not like the National Guard has all these people hanging around that are skilled to do this work,” he cautioned. “We want to make sure that as we bring people in, they can actually do the job and not pretend to do the job.”

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He didn’t rule out a return of the field hospital facility, set up last year in the Milwaukee area, but noted it takes months to set up and tear down.

His focus, however, is convincing Wisconsinites to get vaccinated. So far, about 58% of the eligible population has completed their vaccination, according to data from the Department of Health Services.

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“We have people dying of COVID-19 that don’t have to die,” he noted. “And we can make a huge effort around getting people vaccinated.”

Abortion laws

Gov. Evers says he wants to use his political clout to take an old law off the books in Wisconsin banning all abortions, a law that is among a small handful in the country that would take effect again should Roe v. Wade be overturned.

That effort is almost certainly doomed by Republicans who control the legislature, something he all but acknowledged.

In that event, he said, his focus is also on working with other states to get women their abortion access, although he didn’t elaborate on what types of efforts he might have in mind.

“We’re taking rights away from women all across the state of Wisconsin and the country,” he said. “I support women’s rights to choose, so initially I’ll be focusing whatever political efforts I can on getting the state law that bans abortions off the books.”

On lack of cooperation between parties

The relationships between the executive and legislative leaders at the state capitol is well known to be strained amid partisan divides, and Gov. Evers noted he hadn’t talked to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in months–but talked occasionally to Senate leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg).

“It is what it is. If I knew there was some accommodation in various areas that we could reach common ground, I’d meet every single day. That’s not the case.”

He called votes from Democrats against the redistricting maps drawn up by his Peoples Map Commission earlier this year as a mark of “confusion.” He submitted different maps to the state Supreme Court for consideration, after the court ruled that it would only accept maps to review that included minimal changes from the maps heavily favoring Republicans ten years ago.

“The fact that some Democrats voted against fair maps, that was more of a vote of confusion than leadership,” Gov. Evers said.

Rather than ironing out partisan divides between his and the GOP offices, he said his focus was on issues mattering to Wisconsinites.

“Whether it’s broadband, whether it’s been income taxes, whether it’s been funding for our public schools, all those things [that] people kind of outside this bubble that we work in here actually care about.”