Rep. Callahan supports Assembly-amended COVID-19 Relief Bill
Provisions protect individual and religious freedom in Wisconsin
TINA L. SCOTT
During the State Assembly’s floor session in Madison on Tuesday, Jan. 26, Rep. Calvin Callahan (R-Tomahawk), representing Lincoln County in the Wisconsin State Assembly, once again voted in favor of Assembly Bill (AB) 1. A press release from his office said, “The Assembly amended AB 1 before passage to ensure Wisconsinites are provided adequate protection against government overreach, mandated vaccinations, and certain liabilities to reduce the possibility of frivolous lawsuits.”
“As a co-author of AB 1, I was very disappointed to see many of the bill’s conservative provisions removed during the State Senate’s vote,” said Rep. Callahan. “I am glad to see my colleagues in the Assembly agree that these provisions needed to be restored.”
The lengthy AB 1 bill covers some diverse topics including additional support for hospitals and clarifications for schools relative to COVID, but also adds or modifies some other key sections of Wisconsin Statutes that should be of interest to Northern Wisconsin residents. The bill:
• Creates a “Visitation by Essential Visitor” provision enabling nursing home or assisted living facility residents to designate an “essential visitor” who can visit and provide support to the resident in specific circumstances relative to the resident’s best interest, including grief support, difficulty adjusting to their environment, emotional distress, and mental or physical decline. This section recognizes the effect loneliness and long-term separation from family members is having on residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
• Allows dentists and pharmacy students, with proper training, to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. This section provides for what Callahan’s office calls an “all-hands-on-deck approach” to increase accessibility to COVID-19 vaccinations.
• Prohibits employers from requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccination, and prohibits the health department from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations in the state. These sections protect the individual’s right and freedom to choose whether or not they want to receive the vaccinations.
• Forbids the closure of churches or places of worship in response to COVID-19. This section protects the freedom to worship in Wisconsin.
In addition, the bill provides nonstatutory provisions to address the backlog of unemployment insurance claims, calling for the department to develop a plan within 30 days and publish it on their website, provide call center services for claimants 12 hours per day/7 days per week “until the number of weekly claims in process is comparable to those in January and February 2020,” and report to the Joint Committee on Finance regarding these activities.
“The COVID-19 virus is serious and everyone who wants a vaccine should be able to get one,” said Rep. Callahan. “However, it is not the role of state government to mandate what is worn or put in one’s body. I am proud to once again support AB 1 and provide some important tools for my constituents to help combat the virus in the 35th Assembly District.”
Callahan ran for office to protect Northern Wisconsin’s way of life for “your kids, grandkids, and great-grandchildren.”
“My goals were increasing our rural broadband efforts, working on rural development, such as, but not limited to, workforce and economic development, as well as being a voice for the Northwoods in Madison,” Rep. Callahan said. His primary areas of focus right now are: “a. COVID Relief in the state, b. Broadband Expansion, c. Workforce/Rural Development,” he added.
One other piece of legislation Rep. Callahan recently introduced may be of interest to area hunters: Senate Bill 54, co-sponsored by Rep. Callahan, was introduced on Jan. 28 and referred to the Committee on Sporting Heritage, Small Business and Rural Issues. This bill prohibits the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from limiting the use of shot shells based on shot size for the hunting of fur-bearing animals [which current law defines to include otter, beaver, mink, muskrat, woodchuck, marten, fisher, skunk, raccoon, fox, weasel, opossum, badger, wolf, coyote, bobcat, cougar, and lynx]. Currently, DNR regulations state that no person while hunting may use, possess, or have under the person’s control shot shells containing shot larger than T. If this bill passes, it will remove the DNR’s authority to enforce that limit.
“The last few weeks have been incredibly busy and, with the state budget process beginning soon, it is not likely to slow down. In every meeting I attend and every Assembly floor session that is held, I am so humbled to represent the hardworking folks of the 35th Assembly District,” Rep. Callahan said. “ … Please feel free to reach out to me or my office down in Madison with any comments or concerns you may have about the state budget or other state issues.”
The 35th Assembly District includes all of Lincoln County and portions of Langlade, Marathon, Oneida, and Shawano Counties.