Jeramey Jannene

Republicans End Mask Mandate, Evers Puts It Back In Place

Governor issues new health order after Republicans end his prior one.

By - Feb 4th, 2021 03:13 pm
Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo by Dave Reid.

Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo by Dave Reid.

The battle between Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, and the Republican-controlled Legislature shows no end in sight.

Early Thursday afternoon the Wisconsin State Assembly passed a joint resolution striking down Evers’ latest emergency health order on a 52-42 vote that largely fell on party lines. The measure passed the Wisconsin State Senate last week. Both houses passing the measure would eliminate the statewide mask mandate.

The Legislature used a joint resolution to bypass Evers’ ability to veto the measure. Procedural requirements would have resulted in the mask mandate being terminated Friday. But Evers had his next move ready to go.

Less than an hour after the Assembly vote, Evers announced a new emergency order. With it comes a new mask mandate.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I promised you three things,” said Evers in a video message. “The first, that I would never play politics with your health. Second, that I trust and follow public health experts to guide our decision making. And finally, that I would never stop doing everything in my power to keep Wisconsinites healthy and safe.”

The governor accused the Legislature of repeatedly interfering with efforts to keep Wisconsin residents safe.

Most notably, it brought a case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court that resulted in a May 2020 ruling that struck down the ability of the Department of Health Services to levy health orders. The ruling didn’t impact Evers’ powers and, as a result, he’s issued multiple 60-day health orders one after another.

“So here’s the bottom line. I haven’t broken those promises and I won’t start today,” said Evers.

More than 50 organizations registered their position on the joint resolution, with all supporting maintaining the mandate.

“Masks have been shown to be one of the most effective tools that we have to slow the spread of COVID-19, and we need consistent messaging and policies that increase mask use and other protective measures so that we can preserve the health and well-being of our people, and the vitality of our community and economy,” said Dr. John R. Raymond, Sr., Medical College of Wisconsin president in support of the mandate.

Assembly Republicans voting against striking down Evers’ emergency order included Joel Kitchens, Todd Novak, Loren Oldenburg, Jessie Rodriguez, Ron Tusler and Jeffrey Mursau. All Democrats voted to uphold Evers’ order. In the senate, Republicans Dale Kooyenga and Rob Cowles voted with Democrats to uphold the mandate.

The issue came to be about more than a mask mandate and a proxy war between Republicans and Democrats. Last week, a memo from the Legislature’s budget office revealed that the state would lose approximately $50 million per month in federal food aid that supports over 200,000 residents if it eliminated the emergency health order.

The revelation initially stalled the assembly’s plan to vote last week. But Thursday, Republicans introduced a plan to allow Evers to issue an order solely to access the aid and attached it, via amendment, to a COVID-19 response bill that Evers is expected to veto. The bill would prohibit employers from requiring a COVID-19 vaccine and transferring control of federal COVID-19 aid to the state budget committee. The senate must approve the revised bill.

Assembly Republicans also say they have a framework for Evers to have a mask mandate.

Majority Leader Robin Vos said he wants Evers to go through the state rulemaking process to enact a much more limited mask mandate, but the co-chair of the rulemaking committee, Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), said he doesn’t support the idea.

A lawsuit challenging Evers’ latest move is likely.

Regardless of what the current state of affairs is in Madison, Milwaukee’s locally-approved mask mandate and health order remain in place.

More about the Coronavirus Pandemic

Read more about Coronavirus Pandemic here

More about the Statewide Mask Mandate

Read more about Statewide Mask Mandate here

Categories: Health, Politics, Weekly

3 thoughts on “Republicans End Mask Mandate, Evers Puts It Back In Place”

  1. GodzillakingMKE says:

    The Quanonlicans have lost a major PR battle. They cut federal funds for food support for people struggling, then Evers goes back to keep the funds going.

    Next the WI scotus will bend to Voss groveling for help. Will they do want Vos wants this time?

  2. tornado75 says:

    i like evers backbone here. i think he needs to show it more often. i am sick of vos and his arrogant egotistical moves. yes, let him run for gov. so we can squish him.

  3. mkwagner says:

    I get tired of Vos playing politics with the health and well being of Wisconsinites. Why should people in western and northern Wisconsin be forced to wear masks? It is not for the pleasure or even the needs of Milwaukee and Dane county residents. It is for those living in Chippewa, Florence, Dodge, Menominee, Sheboygan, Barron, Oconto and many other rural Republican strongholds that are suffering more from COVID than either Milwaukee or Dane.

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