Weekend Roundup: Legislators, Capitol Watchers Wait For Evers’ Response To State Budget Bill

Bucks Are One Victory Away From NBA Finals; Fireworks In Short Supply This Holiday

Clouds and a blue sky are seen behind the Wisconsin State Capitol
The Wisconsin state Capitol on Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

The ball is now in Gov. Tony Evers’ court as the ongoing partisan battle over the state budget appears to be entering the endgame.

Earlier this week, the Republican-controlled Assembly and state Senate approved the budget on mostly party-line votes Tuesday and Wednesday.

Now, Republican legislators are asking Evers to sign the state budget, but the governor said it’s too soon to say how he’ll respond to the budget, which will cover the state government’s spending for the next two years.

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The GOP-backed budget spends billions of dollars less than what Evers called for earlier this year and omits major proposals from the Democratic governor, including legalizing marijuana, expanding Medicaid and raising the minimum wage. It also includes a $3.4 billion tax cut the governor didn’t propose.

Wisconsin DHS: COVID-19 Weekly Recap

From June 27 to July 1, there were 288 new cases of COVID-19 reported by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 612,506. Wisconsin has lost 7,314 total lives to the disease.

Forty-seven percent of Wisconsinites are fully vaccinated — 81.4 percent of people age 65 and older and 21.8 percent of children age 12-15.

In other COVID-19-related news, University of Wisconsin-Madison officials said this week that even without a vaccine mandate, they expect at least 80 percent of the campus population will be vaccinated against COVID-19 this fall.

Meanwhile, childhood immunizations dropped dramatically during the pandemic and efforts to boost them by sending out postcard reminders has prompted an effort to change state law on how some medical information should be sent through the mail.

Milwaukee Bucks Head To Atlanta With 1 Game Away From Heading To NBA Finals

Even without star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who hyperextended his knee in Game 4, the Milwaukee Bucks won Game 5 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals Thursday.

The Milwaukee Bucks beat the Atlanta Hawks 123-112 and are now one win away from their first NBA Finals since 1974. They lead the best-of-seven series 3-2.

Game 6 is set for Saturday in Atlanta. It’s unclear whether Antetokounmpo will return this series.

Bobby Portis took the spot in the starting lineup for Antetokounmpo, a two-time MVP and was a crucial player in the Bucks’ victory Thursday. He had 22 points. This is the first season in Milwaukee for Portis.

The team that wins the series will face the Phoenix Suns. The last time the Suns reached the NBA Finals was in 1993.

UW-Madison Names New Chief Diversity Officer

Beginning Aug. 2, LaVar Charleston will serve as the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s chief diversity officer. He will hold the titles of deputy vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, vice provost, and Elzie Higginbottom Director of the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement.

“UW–Madison means so much to me — it’s where I grew as a scholar, a researcher and an administrator. I want every member of the campus community to feel welcome, accepted and supported here,” Charleston said in a video.

Wisconsin Birth Certificates To Have Gender-Neutral Options

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers says the state’s birth forms should include gender-neutral options for identifying the parents of a child.

Evers and the state Department of Health Services announced Monday that starting July 1, forms used to generate birth certificates will include “parent-parent” and “parent giving birth” options in addition to the current “mother-father” option for identifying parents.

New forms will also be made available in English, Spanish and Hmong.

Evers says the change reflect his administration’s commitment to gender-neutral terminology and “to recognizing that Wisconsin families are diverse and should be valued and respected.”

“I am glad to see this change being made as we continue to update our state policies and procedures to better reflect the Wisconsinites we serve,” Evers continued.

People who want to request the label on their or their child’s existing birth certificate be changed can contact the Vital Records Office.

Wisconsin Dairy Breaks Own Record For Longest String Cheese

Wisconsin is famous for cheese, and one of its dairies is claiming a new feat. Weyauwega Star Dairy unofficially broke its own record for the world’s longest piece of string cheese at 3,832 feet.

WLUK-TV reports that the cheesemakers needed a good slice of Weyauwega’s more than 1,700 residents.

Standing seven feet apart, on a shut-down Main Street, residents of the northeastern Wisconsin town grabbed a piece of the potential record as it was uncoiled Thursday.

The dairy’s old record was 2,000 feet. It says the new big cheese probably equaled about 30,000 sticks. Participants got to keep long pieces.

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Facing Shortage Of Inventory, Fireworks Retailers Seek To Meet Demand

A shortage of fireworks in the United States this summer is proving challenging for stores and vendors in Wisconsin, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

While the annual fireworks shows that many Wisconsin municipalities organize to accompany the Fourth of July holiday aren’t facing significant issues, those Wisconsinites who seek to buy their own fireworks for a backyard display might encounter problems.

According to the story, fireworks vendors tend to buy their supplies year-round so as to have a buffer if demand is high around the holiday. Last year, demand was so high that many retailers sold out their supplies early, which ate into the buffer that would have stayed into this year. At the same time, the story says “the supply chain this year hasn’t recovered from the pandemic.”

Businesses Say They’re Seeking Workers To Fill Jobs

As much of the country returns to something like the pre-pandemic normal, the U.S. economy remains vibrant despite the blows it has suffered throughout the pandemic. In fact, the recovery has been such that many businesses are saying they are struggling to find workers to fill available positions, NPR reported.

The U.S. Labor Department reported on Friday that employers added 850,000 jobs in June. Those numbers included 194,000 positions in the bar and restaurant industry. Despite that growth, overall payroll employment is still 6.8 million below pre-pandemic level, officials said. As a result, the unemployment rate inched up in the month of June to 5.9 percent.

According to a survey by jobs site Indeed, most “job-seekers plan to start working within the next three months, but many are waiting for schools to reopen, vaccination levels to rise or for their personal savings — boosted by unemployment benefits and three rounds of federal relief payments — to run out.”

Editor’s note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.