By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers will lay out his policy agenda and goals for the year in his second State of the State speech to lawmakers on Wednesday, presenting a wish list sure to include some bipartisan measures that the Democratic governor hopes will have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled Legislature.
In the Democratic governor’s first year in office, Evers and Republicans found little they could agree on, and they will have little time this year to do anything of substance. Lawmakers plan to be in session voting on bills just a handful of days. The Assembly is hoping to complete its work by the end of February and the Senate is likely to wrap up its work shortly after that.
The State of the State address tonight will give Evers a chance to make his plans the center of attention while also prodding lawmakers to support them. Both Democratic and Republican legislative leaders said ahead of the speech they were looking for things they can agree on.
“We have been continuing to look for things that are bipartisan,” Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Tuesday. That includes bills meant to combat opioid addiction, protect water quality and prevent suicide, he said.
“We hope he addresses the problem of rising unemployment but we also hope he focuses on topics that could bring people together,” Vos said. “I hope he doesn’t choose to make it a partisan exercise.”
Evers will talk about criminal-justice reform and other subjecs on which Republicans and Democrats might be able to find common ground, said Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz.
“The governor’s certainly going to highlight the opportunities we have,” Hintz said. “We’re at our best when we get things done.”
Several bipartisan proposals, such as one calling for an increase in funding to fight homelessness, were included in a “homework” assignment Evers gave Republicans earlier this month.
He already has called on Republicans to restrict the use of water-polluting chemicals known as PFAS, close the so-called “dark store” loophole that lowers property taxes for large retail stores, do more to prevent sex trafficking and prevent future backlogs of kits for sexual-assault testing.
Republicans have not been willing to go as far as Democrats want on those and other issues.
Evers also called on the Legislature this week to pass a series of bills aimed at reducing vaping among the young. The proposal would ban vaping and vapor products at K-12 schools and pay for a public-health campaign.
Vos faulted Evers for not working with Republicans before putting forward his anti-vaping propoals.