Empower Wisconsin | Aug. 4, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Assembly Republicans are hearing an earful from constituents who want the Legislature to get back to business and overturn Gov. Tony Evers’ mask mandate.
State Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) tells Empower Wisconsin that as of Monday afternoon her Madison office had received 600 constituent contacts. All but two were against the governor’s constitutionally questionable order.
“And many of these constituents say they are wearing masks, they’re just against the governor taking away their constitutional rights,” Felzkowski said.
Felzkowski is running for the 12th Senate District Seat previously held by Hazelhurst Republican Tom Tiffany, who earlier this year was elected as U.S. representative of Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District. Felzkowski is calling on the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass a joint resolution ending the mask mandate and Evers’ accompanying emergency order.
“I am vehemently opposed to Governor Evers’ latest preposterous overreach. A statewide mandate is not only unnecessary, but something that just last week the Governor himself acknowledged he likely didn’t have the authority to pursue. I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation from him on this drastic policy change,” Felzkowski said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has said his caucus has the votes to overturn Evers’ mandate, but Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), who has said he opposes the edict, has not said whether he would call his members back in.
Pollsters and mainstream media outlets repeatedly report that public sentiment is behind Evers’ and his mask mandate. But that’s not what Republican lawmakers in several districts around the state are hearing.
State Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), said she’s receiving a similar ratio of calls to her office, with only a “small minority” in support of the mask order and most of those coming from outside her district.
Brandtjen, too, said she would like to see the governor’s mandate stopped.
“I think we need to have that conversation because this new emergency order is just the tipping point for the governor’s overreach,” the lawmaker said. “This will not be his only executive order.”
She said Evers is more concerned about his mask mandate than fixing a dysfunctional state Department of Workforce Development that has kept tens of thousands of Unemployment Insurance claimants waiting for benefits, many for several months.
“People are still losing their homes,” she said, noting it was Evers’ lockdowns that threw hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites, particularly ‘nonessential” employees out of work. “How do you worry about COVID when you don’t know where you’re going to get your next meal?”
There is growing concern Evers will use his new fiat to issue more shutdowns and closures, including K-12 schools. The governor has in recent week said those decisions would be left up to local school districts. But as Felzkowski noted, Evers said he didn’t think he had the power to issue a mask mandate because of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision in May striking down his administration’s illegal extended lockdown order. The court said Evers would need the consent of the Legislature to enact such statewide restrictions.
He cast those concerns aside, announcing his mandate late last week, to take effect on Aug. 1, when liberal Jill Karofsky replaced conservative Justice Daniel Kelly on the court.
State Rep. Barb Dittrich (R-Oconomowoc) on Monday released a statement saying that her office had received more than 800 contacts “stridently and overwhelmingly opposing the governor’s most recent executive and emergency orders.” More troubling, Dittrich said, is that liberal Attorney General Josh Kaul has “advised law enforcement to charge people with disorderly conduct for face mask violations so that you cannot transparently see how many people are being criminally charged for not wearing a face mask.”
She is calling for the Legislature to push back Evers’ mask mandate.
“To be clear once again, I believe businesses have the authority to require face masks for their customers and have no problem with people freely wearing them as part of a multi-pronged approach to combatting COVID-19,” the lawmaker said. “At the same time, my constituents expect me to stand up for them against times of government overreach and this is one such time.”
Rep. James Edming (R-Glen Flora) joined GOP Assembly members endorsing a return to session to take up a joint resolution against the orders.