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Capital City Sunday: Securing the Capitol, corporate donations cut off, ongoing COVID bill stalemate

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Charles Tubbs watched the insurrection last week at the U.S. Capitol with a different eye than most. He knows what it's like to be charged with protecting a capitol building.

Tubbs was the chief of the Wisconsin State Capitol Police during the Act 10 protests in February 2011.

An estimated 1.5 million packed the Capitol and its grounds over the span of about month; they were protesting a Republican-enacted budget measure that all but stripped public employee unions of collective bargaining power.

Tubbs said while the protests challenged security planning, he saw no similarities to the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol when supporters of President Donald Trump broke into the Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of the electoral college results that declared Joe Biden the president-elect.

"In my view, they did not compare," Tubbs said. "We had, during Act 10, we had citizens come to the Capitol and they were very sensitive to the issue that was taking place but they were very cooperative."

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said Dane County Emergency Management, which Tubbs now directs, works with the Capitol Police to help form a security strategy.

"We're prepared, frankly, for anything that might occur," Parisi said. "We hope that folks don't show up and armed people don't show up but we're ready if they do and we just make contingencies for any circumstances."

During a press call Friday, Gov. Tony Evers (D - WI) said the State Patrol and Madison Police were also assisting the Capitol Police in preparing for possible armed protests throughout the weekend and on Inauguration Day January 20.

Corporate Cutoff

Following the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, some of the country's biggest corporations pledged to either suspend donations to Republican members of Congress who objected to the electoral college results or pause campaign contributions altogether.

Eleanor Powell, an Associate Professor of Political Science at UW-Madison, focuses much of her research on money in politics. She said the widespread cutoff could send a message to extremist lawmakers they need to avoid peddling conspiracies that have destabilized the country.

"It suggests the corporate establishment, the business interests value some degree of certainty, of democratic stability, of institutions," Powell said. "And suggests this can be an important guardrail."

Powell said the message should not lead to broad conclusions about whether money in politics isn't so bad after all because of its moderating ability but added that value should not be discounted either.

"This is why the relationship between money and politics has always sort of been more complicated and nuanced than people like to think," Powell said. "It suggests we really need to dig a little deeper and try to understand exactly what's going on here, both the positive benefits of money in politics and the negative."

Powell said something to monitor in them months to come is which companies stay out of politics and which ones resume donating to candidates, including those pushing baseless claims of widespread election fraud.

She suggested anyone interested in tracking donations use OpenSecrets as a resource.

Assembly GOP Holding Up COVID Bill

It has now been more than nine months since the Wisconsin Legislature has passed a bill. However, the dynamics have changed surrounding the ongoing stalemate.

Senate Republicans passed a scaled-down bill that Governor Evers said he would sign. The measure would reinstitute relief measures like reimbursing out-of-network charges for COVID-19 treatment, ensuring SeniorCare covers vaccine costs, and would extend the waived one-week waiting period for people filing for unemployment while extending hours at Department of Workforce Development call centers.

However, Assembly Republicans have said the will not bring the bill to the floor as it's written.

"Quite frankly, we were cut out of the negotiations after the beginning of the new year," said Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R - Kaukauna). "The senate went directly to the governor to negotiate their package with the governor."

Steineke said the Assembly GOP insisted the bill put back in measures their members wanted, including a ban on employers requiring workers to get vaccinated and restrictions on local health departments' ability to close or limit business capacities.

Vos said following the State of the State address Tuesday that Evers convinced the Senate to "cave" and got "almost everything he wanted."

A separate proposal Evers sent to Republican leaders on December 21 included items like an eviction ban and waived school district report cards for the 2021-22 year; those items were not in the compromise bill.

Steineke said the Assembly would bring the bill back to the floor on January 26 for amendments.

"I think we'll have resolution in pretty short order," he said. "I expect us to amend the Senate- what the Senate did to our bill, amend that and send it back to the Senate for their action; hopefully they can take it up the same day, get it passed and get it onto the governor's desk."