Wisconsin Assembly to require in-person attendance this session, masks encouraged but not required

MADISON, Wis. — Lawmakers in the Wisconsin State Assembly are going to be required to physically come into the capitol this session despite spending the majority of 2020 with a virtual option.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, did not take questions from the press after the inauguration on Monday and his office did not give News 3 Now reasoning as to why he is requiring this.

Democrats have made their concerns about this quite clear, especially since masks are not required for lawmakers. They boycotted the inauguration today, while Republicans in attendance largely wore masks.

Their chairs were spaced, but lawmakers often gathered in groups, took off their masks shook hands or high fived.

Rep. Jimmy Anderson, D-Fitchburg, said he plans to ask Vos for an accommodation to prevent him from having to be on the Assembly floor without a mask requirement.

“As someone with a pretty significant disability I only have about 20 to 30 percent of my lung capacity that I did before my injury,” he said. “A respiratory illness like this could very easily kill me or put me on a ventilator.”

Anderson also asked the speaker for accommodations for his disability last session – something typically allowed under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Vos granted one of Anderson’s three requests, allowing him to get access to the speaker system during committee hearings.

Anderson said if he isn’t granted some this year, he may have to miss votes rather than put his life at risk.

“It’s my responsibility to represent my district so I will do everything in my power to do so, but I won’t put my life at risk,” he said. “I think that’s a little bit too much to ask.”

Anderson said he would consider compromising with Vos so he could vote from his office at the capitol instead of on the chamber floor, but he said that doesn’t make much sense.

“We have the technology in the department to do it, we’ve already proven that we can do it, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to sit there and deny us this opportunity now,” he said.