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Tool of the Week: Dane County’s power-hungry health director

Empower Wisconsin | Sept 14, 2020

MADISON — Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Need proof?

Look no further than Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison & Dane County.

Heinrich has pushed her power to the extreme during the COVID-19 pandemic. Well past the boundaries of her authority, according to an order issued last week by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

The court’s conservative majority announced it would take up three lawsuits (consolidating them into one) against Heinrich and her overreaching health department. While taking the case, the court slapped a temporary injunction on Public Health Madison & Dane ending Heinrich’s order barring in-person education at all pre-K-12 schools in the county. Her 11th-hour order last month forced many of the county’s private schools to quickly transition from educating students in the classroom to an all-virtual learning model.

The lawsuits argue that parents know what’s best for their kids. But Heinrich insists she knows better.

While the court’s emphasizes the fact that state law doesn’t give local health bureaucrats the authority to close schools, Heinrich’s laughable defense is that she’s really not closing schools, just preventing in-person instruction. But, as the court notes, the state statute was drafted in 1923, so the most reasonable reading of what it means to “close schools” would seem to be preventing in-person instruction, not just preventing learning generally.

In short, the crafters of the law weren’t considering the Internet and virtual learning in the 1920s.

Heinrich and her fellow health officers insist they’re only trying to protect us from a virus that has — at worst — taken the lives of .02 percent of Wisconsin’s population. But her sweeping orders, from all but canceling in-person church services to shutting down bars, have exposed them for the power-hungry bureaucrats they are.

They are big government tools.

Public Health Madison & Dane County Director Janel Heinrich is Empower Wisconsin’s Tool of the Week.

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