MADISON, Wis. — An advisory referendum on whether Wisconsinites receiving welfare should be required to work will be on the April ballot after the Assembly voted to approve the measure.
It will be one of two policy questions voters will have to decide after a binding constitutional referendum on bail reform cleared the final hurdle of the Legislature as well Thursday.
The referendum on work requirements is non-binding, largely serving as a poll of voters, and work requirements for welfare recipients are already in state law, but Republicans pushing for the measure argue that it is still important to hold the Gov. Tony Evers administration accountable.
“If the governor will not listen to the law, perhaps he will listen to the voters of the state,” said Rep. Barbara Dittrich, R-Oconomowoc.
“Governor Evers is perfectly happy to not have that work requirement in place and have more people sit on the sidelines,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said. “To ask the people who are working to put in overtime, spend more time away from your families, so that other people don’t have to, that’s not right.”
Some Republicans argued, however, that if the referendum fails, the state should revisit the current work requirements.
“I would expect it to come back, quite frankly, that the public does support having some worker obligations out there,” Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said on Tuesday. “But I would agree that if it comes back flipped the other way, then I think rightfully we would have to reassess it.”
Both referenda authored by Republicans could help drive conservative turnout for a hotly-contested state Supreme Court race on the ballot this April. The open seat will determine the balance of the now evenly-split bench and could set the direction for policies like abortion and gerrymandering.
For their part, Democrats offered a substitute amendment — asking to swap out the work requirement referendum for one on the state’s abortion ban. The motion failed quickly in the Republican-controlled chamber.
“Our friends on the other side of the aisle would rather talk about any topic than this [work requirement referendum],” Vos said during debate.
The constitutional amendment on bail reform passed earlier Thursday with significant bipartisan support — 12 of the 35 Assembly Democrats joined Republicans in supporting the measure. That included Reps. Shelia Stubbs and Lisa Subeck, both of Madison. The legislators were not immediately available for comment when News 3 Now reach out.
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COPYRIGHT 2023 BY CHANNEL 3000. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED.