GOP Legislators Want to Repeal Mask Mandate
A joint resolution would terminate Evers' public health orders.
After repeatedly complaining about emergency declarations that Gov. Tony Evers has issued in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, Republican lawmakers for the first time have begun formal action to block him.
Senate Republicans introduced a joint resolution Thursday that would undo the governor’s most recent COVID-19-related emergency executive order and the new statewide mask order that accompanied it. Evers announced the orders on Friday, Jan. 15; they took effect Tuesday, Jan. 19.
The resolution declares that “the public health emergency declared by the governor in Executive Order #104 on January 19, 2021, in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus, is unlawful and is terminated,” and that “termination … applies to all actions of the governor and all emergency orders issued pursuant to the declaration of the public health emergency.”
If the Republicans’ resolution makes it to the floor of both the Senate and the Assembly, it is almost certain to pass, ending the emergency declaration and mask order. Republicans hold majorities in both chambers, and individual Republicans in the Senate and the Assembly have consistently criticized Evers for the mask orders he has issued starting in late July.
A simple majority of each chamber is sufficient to pass a resolution, which does not require the governor’s signature. No Republican lawmaker has publicly expressed support for the governor’s health emergency orders or mask mandates.
Evers has declared new 60-day health emergencies, accompanied by mask mandates, beginning July 30, and subsequently on Sept. 22 and Nov. 20, and again with the Jan. 19 order.
Evers first issued an emergency executive order in response to the coronavirus pandemic on March 12, expiring on May 11. The law authorizing the governor to declare an emergency puts a 60-day time limit on each declaration, after which the emergency can only be extended with the consent of the Legislature.
The Senate joint resolution declares that all of the subsequent orders are effectively extensions of the March 12 order and therefore illegal without the Legislature’s approval.
The conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty has made the same argument in a lawsuit it first filed against Evers after the July 30 emergency declaration. That suit is now before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which heard arguments in November but has not yet announced when it will issue a ruling.
The only other time that the Legislature’s Republican leaders have taken steps to block actions of the Evers administration in response to the pandemic was in the spring, after the governor extended the Safer at Home order that the administration first issued March 25.
In that instance, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and the Senate majority leader at the time, Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), filed a lawsuit that argued that order could not be extended without the Legislature’s approval. The Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with the GOP lawmakers on a 4-3 vote, throwing out the Safer at Home extension on May 13. (Fitzgerald has since left the state Senate after he was elected to Congress Nov. 3.)
A spokesperson for the governor did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment about the Senate resolution.
Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner.
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