Republicans End Mask Mandate, Evers Puts It Back In Place
Governor issues new health order after Republicans end his prior one.
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.
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.
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.
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- Rep. Bowen Statement on Senate Joint Resolution 3 and Executive Order #105 - State Rep. David Bowen - Feb 4th, 2021
- Republicans End Mask Mandate, Evers Puts It Back In Place - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 4th, 2021
- Rep. Robyn Vining Responds to Assembly Republicans’ Actions to Disregard the Lives and Livelihoods of Wisconsinites - State Rep. Robyn Vining - Feb 4th, 2021
- Gov. Evers Puts Public Health Before Politics, Signs New Public Health Emergency - Gov. Tony Evers - Feb 4th, 2021
Read more about Statewide Mask Mandate here