Vos, LeMahieu propose advisory referendum on work search requirements for welfare benefits

MADISON, Wis. — Two Republican lawmakers introduced legislation Friday seeking to ask voters whether able-bodied Wisconsin adults without children should be required to look for work to receive welfare benefits.

The resolution from Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, would put an advisory referendum on the spring election ballot asking Wisconsinites for their thoughts on the idea. An advisory referendum can help gauge public opinion on a proposal but is not binding and lawmakers don’t have to act on the results, according to the state’s Legislative Reference Bureau.

“This is an opportunity for us as policymakers to hear directly from Wisconsinites,” Vos said in a statement Friday afternoon. “Last session I voted to provide real solutions to the workforce crisis to get thousands of people off the sidelines and back into jobs. Unfortunately Governor Evers did nothing.”

The lawmakers said the resolution will be considered on the floor in each chamber next week in order to put it on the ballot for the April 4 election.

Last January, Republican lawmakers introduced a package of bills dubbed “The Stronger Workforce Initiative” that they argued would help alleviate workforce shortages. Within the package were bills that would have tied unemployment benefits to the state’s unemployment rate and would have prohibited able-bodied childless adults from turning down a job for the sole purpose of remaining eligible for medical assistance.

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Evers vetoed those bills in April.

Last fall, Dane County residents voted in favor by a wide margin on three advisory referendum questions regarding repealing Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban, legalizing marijuana and expunging minor marijuana crimes from criminal records.