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GOP leaders gavel in, gavel out of unemployment session

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican legislative leaders convened a special session Tuesday to fix the state’s unemployment system in the face of a massive backlog of pandemic-related claims but ended it seconds after it began without taking any substantive action.

Gov. Tony Evers announced he wants to improve the Department of Workforce Development’s systems during his State of the State speech earlier this month. He called a special legislative session to begin at noon on Tuesday to pass a $5.3 million plan to modernize the department’s processes.

GOP leaders have balked at the proposal, saying Evers has the power to make upgrades without legislative approval. Republican leaders in the Assembly gaveled in at 12:30 p.m. and immediately gaveled out. Republican leaders in the Senate followed suit about a half-hour later.

The Department of Workforce Development has been struggling for months with a massive backlog of unemployment claims sparked by layoffs and business closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Republicans have blamed Evers for the backlog, saying his incompetence has left people waiting for months for life-sustaining payouts. The governor has blamed DWD’s antiquated processing systems.

Republicans have all but ignored Evers’ special session calls in the past, including sessions on gun control and criminal justice reform.

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