MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) – Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday vetoed a bipartisan bill designed to help save two closed paper mills and another measure criticized by open case advocates to create an office of human resources for the legislature, saying it would protect the documents from public release.
Evers signed bills to eliminate the need for a barber’s or cosmetology license to practice natural hair braiding; authorize designated local authorities to kill beaver and muskrat less than 50 feet from a public road and allow 15-year-olds to obtain a driving-school license, six months earlier than what is currently authorized.
In his veto message to lawmakers, Evers said he had vetoed the stationery bill because he would use federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay off loans to buy the closed Verso paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids and the Park Falls mill formerly known as Flambeau River Papers.
Evers said state money should be used instead and the use of federal coronavirus money for loans may not be allowed. Evers said there was enough money from the state to support the establishment of a financing mechanism for the loans.
Republican supporters of the bill had argued that federal money could be used for loans.
The bill came after a year of discussions with state, local and federal officials on how to save the Verso plant, which closed in June 2020 after more than a hundred years of operation. It employed 900 people.
The measure, which was passed with bipartisan support, would have made available $ 50 million for the purchase of the Verso plant and $ 15 million for the Park Falls plant.
Evers said he vetoed the bill creating the office of human resources because, as written, it would protect records of wrongdoing by public office holders from the open records law. of State.
The proposal states that the office “must at all times observe the confidential nature of files, requests, advice, complaints, reviews, inquiries, disciplinary measures and other information in its possession relating to human resources matters”.
Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, had sounded the alarm over the wording, saying it gave the office the ability to withhold files.
Evers agreed, saying “the people of Wisconsin have the right to be informed of wrongdoing by officials and employees, including those in the legislature.”
The bill came after the Associated Press and three other news outlets sued the legislature for access to all records related to allegations of sexual harassment brought against a Democratic lawmaker. A judge last week sided with the media, arguing that Assembly leaders had misapplied a balancing test, mistakenly concluding that the complainant’s privacy outweighed the public’s interest in the documents.