Empower Wisconsin | May 19, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, Gov. Tony Evers on Monday said he would end his pursuit of revising his lockdown through administrative rule.
The Democrat and his health chief have been angling to take back the unilateral power they had before last week’s Supreme Court ruling struck down their extended statewide stay-at-home orders. On Thursday, the governor approved a scope statement by state Department of Health Services’ Secretary-designee Andrea Palm, ostensibly aimed at charting new rules for controling the spread of COVID-19. But the rules in many ways appeared to follow Palm’s illegal lockdown order, allowing the Evers administration to re-seize the power to keep businesses closed and freeze civil liberties.
The Republican-led Legislature, which, thanks to the Supreme Court decision, has the power to suspend the emergency rules DHS was promulgating, is not interested in ceding emergency authority back to the governor. Evers has shown he is more than willing to use it extremely and indefinitely to keep Wisconsin locked down.
Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) issued a statement Friday asserting that Palm had failed to recognize that the rule of law and constitutional limitations on government are “not optional or mere suggestions.”
“The DHS Scope Statement leaves little doubt that Secretary-Designee Palm is no longer acting in a lawful capacity by circumventing the Supreme Court ruling and once again trying to improperly take control of the daily lives of every Wisconsin citizen,” said Nass, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, which has oversight authority over any emergency rule. He asked Evers to withdraw the scope statement.
On Monday, Evers took his ball and went home. He threw up his hands and effectively moaned, Oh, what’s the use?
DHS issued a statement ending its administrative quest.
“The Department of Health Services hereby withdraws SS 040-20, which is the statement of scope for an emergency rule for ch. DHS 145, relating to establishing protections to slow and contain the spread of COVID-19,” the agency stated.
Evers complained to reporters that Republicans wouldn’t go along with his new rules, anyway. He’s right. What he failed to note is that many of his constituents and Wisconsin businesses, freed from his lockdown, wouldn’t follow Evers’ lead now.
Despite Evers’ announcement, several Wisconsin cities and counties have implemented restrictions of their own, some following the administration’s invalid lockdown orders.
Oregon judge strikes down Brown’s lockdown
Another left-wing governor loses a court challenge on statewide COVID-19 restrictions.
Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff on Monday ruled Oregon Gov. Kate Brown did not seek the Legislature’s approval when she extended her state lockdown orders beyond the 28-day limit.
The judge ruled on a lawsuit by 10 churches arguing Oregon’s social-distancing orders exceeded constitutional limits.
Brown quickly appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court. The governor’s attorneys asked the rural judge to stay his ruling until the Supreme Court decides whether to take the review. He refused.
Brown made the same arguments as her liberal counterpart in Wisconsin. Gov. Tony Evers last week lost a Supreme Court challenge to his health chief’s extended lockdown order.
“The science behind these executive orders hasn’t changed one bit. Ongoing physical distancing, staying at home as much as possible, and wearing face coverings will save lives across Oregon,” Brown wrote in a statement.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued that the constitution hasn’t changed one bit, either, that their First Amendment rights are not subject to extended emergency rules.
Wisconsin’s Supreme Court is considering whether to to take up a similar lawsuit, Fabick v. Palm.