This is a story that demands clarification from both Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, and from the Republican-controlled state legislature: To date, that clarification has not been forthcoming.
Nor has the media provided any sort of clarification. This, however, is somewhat understandable. Most media outlets, to keep abreast of current events, simply move on to their next story.
But what about Evers? His decision in late November to sign assembly bill 426 angered many Democrats and ignored strong opposition to the bill from many progressive, environmental, and social justice groups, groups that in the past have supported Evers and the Democratic Party. Evers made a brief statement at the signing, but has not elaborated.
So what touched off the outrage? The bill echoed language promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that assists Republican legislators with the drafting of legislative initiatives that have been and continue to be adopted across the county in states where Republicans are in control.
The legislation also attacks free speech and may be unconstitutional, according to those opposed to the bill, in part because it makes it a felony for protestors to trespass on property owned, leased, or operated by companies engaged in the distribution of oil or petroleum. Violators can end up in prison for six years and fined up to $10,000. The legislation is clearly designed to prevent protests like those against the Dakota Access Pipeline that started in 2016.
To better understand and appreciate what the bill does, why it is so controversial, why Evers signed it, and the scope of the disappointment it generated, check out these articles: