Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 26, 2021
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — The Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday passed a joint resolution that aims to end Gov. Tony Evers’ endless emergency declaration and his statewide mask mandate.
The resolution now moves on to the state Assembly, which could take it up as soon as Thursday. Evers has no power to stop the move to stop him.
While Democrats are predicting a surge of death and destruction ahead with the ending of the mask mandate, Republican lawmakers said the crux of the matter is Evers has broken the law by continuously extending public health edicts throughout the pandemic. They say it is more than time to revoke “Executive Order #104 and declare it unlawful and terminated.”
“Today, the Senate took a stand for liberty and the rule of law,” said Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg). “Governor Evers has abused his limited authority for far too long by repeatedly issuing unlawful orders beyond his 60-day emergency powers. The Senate voted to end the executive overreach and restore our constituents’ voice in the legislative process.”
The Evers administration’s overreach originally was checked in May, when the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the statewide lockdown the governor’s health czar extended. State law gives the executive branch 60 days of emergency powers in certain crises. After that, the administration must receive approval from the Legislature to extend an emergency declaration.
Evers and Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm went around the Legislature — and kept doing so in subsequent emergency declarations that have led to nearly six months of a statewide mask mandate. Other orders have drastically capped the number of customers restaurants, bars and other businesses could serve, all but closed places of worship, and restricted travel.
“For too long, Governor Evers has acted like a dictator, illegally and unilaterally enacting health policy for the entire state,” Sen. Julian Bradley (R-Franklin) said in a statement.
The resolution passed on a nearly party-line vote, with Republican Sens. Dale Kooyenga of Brookfield and Rob Cowles of Green Bay joining the opposition.
While Kooyenga said he agrees with the language of the resolution, he is worried about its effect. He said it could give Evers and school districts another reason to keep schools closed. And he believes it’s a certainty the governor will just re-issue the executive order in an identical form after the Legislature strikes down the existing order.
“The endless cycle of ordering and revoking is a distraction from other priorities. This back-and-forth can only be addressed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court,” Kooyenga said.
Gloom and Doom
Before, during and after floor debate on Tuesday, Democrats kept a death vigil over Wisconsin. They noted the 5,753 COVID-19-related deaths as of Tuesday, rounding them up to “nearly 6,000” for greater effect.
“The only thing Republicans in both houses can agree on is they want the death rates to climb and they want prolonged economic devastation,” said Sen. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) during a press conference Tuesday morning — a virtual press conference, of course.
Liberals went beyond morbid warnings, however. Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) predicted “more civil unrest” if lawmakers put an end to Evers’ power grab.
They say the resolution is just another attempt by Republicans to hinder the governor from stopping the spread of the infection. But Evers hasn’t been able to do that with extraordinary powers, including his mask mandate. He has been able to dismantle civil liberties over the past 10 months.
And that’s the point, the real problem, and it has to stop, conservatives say.
“It is not okay, or normal, or inevitable, or necessary to indefinitely suspend the lawmaking process,” said Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) “There’s no such thing as a perpetual emergency.”