Wisconsin Republican legislators defy governor and place Christmas tree in state's capitol building

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Two Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin placed a Christmas tree in the state’s Capitol building this month, defying a decision by Gov. Tony Evers, whose administration said it would not place a tree this year while the building was closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

State Reps. Paul Tittl and Shae Sortwell placed the small tree in the center of the Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda and called for students around the state to send in ornaments for decoration. The two Republican legislators took action weeks after Evers said there would be no tree and directed students to send their ornaments for use in other buildings, such as hospitals.

“We really wanted to have a Christmas tree in the Capitol,” Tittl said in a video published on the Wisconsin Assembly Republicans’ YouTube channel. “The governor said no, but we decided we were going to put one up anyhow.”

Wisconsin lawmakers have placed a Christmas tree in the state capitol building for decades. Evers drew criticism from Republicans last year after he said it should be referred to as a holiday tree rather than a Christmas tree.

A notice on the tree says it “belongs to Representative Tittl and Representative Sortwell. Do not move without prior written approval from these Representatives.”

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The Evers-led Wisconsin Department of Administration rejected a permit request from the two Republicans asking to place a “historical display” in the building through Jan. 6. A representative for the DOA said it is rejecting all permits of that kind while the building remains closed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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