It is always difficult to write a column about a topic that is continuing to develop. By the time you read this column, this bill may be passed and signed. Or, it may have changed. Or, it may still be in the works.
The bottom-line is that the Wisconsin legislature is working hard, with Governor Tony Evers, on a COVID-19 Relief bill that solves state-level issues, provides liability protections and sets aside funding for future needs. We are working together and trying to put together a bill that meets our needs as vaccines are deployed and we continue to work through the pandemic.
At the time of this writing, the State Senate has decided that we need to get something done for you. We may not get everything we want, but we are prioritizing what we think is most important to you.
We agree with many of the ideas Governor Evers proposed such as extending several waivers that we extended last spring, covering COVID-19 testing and vaccine costs and setting aside $100 million for future needs if they arise. We also have several ideas of our own that we already agree on such as liability protections, Essential Visitor designations at nursing homes and providing regulatory relief for hospitals. We are working on a true compromise, no matter what the main stream media tells you.
The most important element of this bill, in my opinion, is liability protections for schools, churches, non-profits and employers. Already last June, many of our school districts asked me about liability protections.
Unfortunately, there are already unscrupulous lawyers looking for people to exploit for these purposes. They are filing lawsuits against schools, churches and employers. The legal costs for a school, church and employer to defend themselves against this is significant. It is unacceptable for these entities to operate in fear of frivolous lawsuits when they are doing their best to serve you.
All of our schools, churches and employers are doing what they can to protect their employees, students, members and customers. They should not be fearful that they are going to be sued for something that even our hospitals are having difficulty treating.
Now, if someone is actively and knowingly endangering a person’s safety, this is another story. They will not be protected by this part of the bill. But for our schools, who are bending over backward to clean, physically separate students and make adjustments to the best of their knowledge, this protection is necessary and essential.
No matter how this bill ends up, I want you to know that we are actively working to get something done for you. I am optimistic. But I am also well aware that the legislative process is fluid. I will try to keep you informed.
As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance.
— Sen. Howard Marklein represents Wisconsin’s 17th Senate District. He can be reached at 800-978-8008 or email Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov.