UPDATE: Well, one hour after the death of his original COVID-19 public health emergency and mask mandate, Gov. Evers has issued a new COVID-19 public health emergency and mask mandate. What is even happening anymore. More info HERE.
Republicans in the Wisconsin State Assembly passed a joint resolution Thursday afternoon that terminates Gov. Tony Evers’ COVID-19 public health emergency and the state’s mask mandate. The resolution will go into effect on Friday. Now, like nearly 6,000 Wisconsinites, the state’s mask mandate is dead.
The Wisconsin State Senate first passed the joint resolution last week. Today’s 52-42 vote from the Assembly makes it official. Evers cannot veto it.
Any local mask mandates throughout the state—such as the City of Milwaukee’s mask mandate—will remain in effect.
“This joint resolution resolves 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,” the resolution reads. “The termination of the public health emergency applies to all actions of the governor and all emergency orders issued pursuant to the declaration of the public health emergency.”
Seven Assembly Republican lawmakers joined all Assembly Democrats in voting against the resolution: representatives Joel Kitchens, Jeffrey Mursau, Todd Novak, Loren Oldenburg, Jessie Rodriguez, David Steffen, and Ron Tusler.
At issue for Republicans, they have claimed, is not the lives of nearly 6,000 people dead in the state, or the lives of the half-million people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state. Instead, it’s Evers’ ability to extend a public health emergency past an initial 60-day period without the approval of the Legislature. Evers issued his original 60-day public health emergency—and with it, a mask mandate—on July 30, 2020. He extended it on September 22, citing “unprecedented, near exponential growth of the COVID-19 pandemic.” He extended it again on November 20 and January 19.
“I don’t know when legislators became comfortable with delegating their authority to the executive branch, creating an office where he can do whatever he wants,” Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) said on Thursday. “That’s not how this was set up.”
“If you pass this, you don’t save a single life,” Rep. Robyn Vining (D-Wauwatosa) said. “I’m incredibly distraught that we have reached a point in political discourse in Wisconsin that stares death in the face, shrugs, and says ‘But my political ideology.'”
The soon-to-be-dead mask mandate required Wisconsinites five years old or older to wear face coverings if they were in an enclosed space other than a private residence, and “if another person or persons who are not members of individual’s household or living unit are present in the same room or enclosed space.” Exceptions—like eating and drinking—were provided.
Thursday’s move follows last week’s comedy/tragedy of errors in which the Assembly, poised to pass the Senate’s previously passed mask-killing resolution, realized at the last minute that without an emergency order in place, Wisconsin would lose $49 million a month in federal food aid. An Assembly-approved amendment to a separate COVID-19 relief bill—a COVID-19 relief bill stuffed with items Evers may not support—aims to allow Wisconsin to continue receiving those funds. The amendment still needs approval from the Senate, which will address the issue on Friday.
Prior to Thursday’s move, 59 groups had registered their opposition to killing the mask mandate. The Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative, the Wisconsin Assisted Living Association, and the Wisconsin Council of Churches were among those groups.
“Studies show that wearing masks helps slow the spread of viruses like SARS-CoV-2 and that government requirements to wear masks correlates to reduced COVID-19 spread than in locations without such orders,” Wisconsin Medical Society CEO Bud Chumbley said in a press release. “We need to do all we can to prevent more deaths and help our economy return to normal.”
“The Governor’s mask mandate saves lives,” the Wisconsin Council of Churches said in a statement. “Ending it will cost lives.”
Here’s the text of the resolution:
This joint resolution resolves 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. The termination of the public health emergency applies to all actions of the governor and all emergency orders issued pursuant to the declaration of the public health emergency.
Whereas, under the United States Constitution and the Wisconsin State Constitution, the structural separation and limitation of governmental powers is foundational to our republican form of government, in that it ensures the government exercises only that authority to which the governed have consented; and
Whereas, under section 323.10 of the statutes the governor may issue an executive order declaring the existence of a public health emergency; and
Whereas, section 323.12 of the statutes grants the governor certain powers that may be used in responding to the specified public health emergency, as defined in section 323.02 (16) of the statutes; and
Whereas, the governor’s authority to use the powers granted under section 323.12 of the statutes automatically expires 60 days after the declaration of the emergency, unless the legislature extends the state of emergency by joint resolution, or at such time as the legislature rescinds the executive order declaring the emergency, whichever occurs first; and
Whereas, on March 12, 2020, Governor Tony Evers issued Executive Order #72 declaring a public health emergency for the COVID-19 coronavirus, which gave the governor access to the powers identified in section 323.12 of the statutes for the purpose of taking immediate action on the COVID-19 coronavirus emergency; and
Whereas, the legislature has not extended the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 coronavirus emergency identified in Executive Order #72, with the result that the governor’s authority to address the COVID-19 coronavirus using the emergency powers identified in section 323.12 of the statutes expired on May 11, 2020; and
Whereas, given that legislative oversight is vital to ensuring the governor’s proper exercise of the emergency powers granted by section 323.12 of the statutes, legislative oversight is rendered useless if the governor ignores the temporal limitations on the emergency powers by continuously reissuing emergency declarations for the same emergency; and
Whereas, under section 323.10 of the statutes, any extension of the declaration of emergency caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus requires a joint resolution of the legislature; and
Whereas, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has already reaffirmed the legislature’s constitutionally mandated participation in any further response to the COVID-19 coronavirus in Wisconsin Legislature v. Palm; and
Whereas, Executive Order #82 was unlawfully issued on July 30, 2020, to address the very same COVID-19 public health emergency that expired with Executive Order #72 on May 11, 2020; and
Whereas, Executive Order #90 was unlawfully issued on September 22, 2020, to address the very same COVID-19 public health emergency that expired with Executive Order #72 on May 11, 2020; and
Whereas, Executive Order #95 was unlawfully issued on November 20, 2020, to address the very same COVID-19 public health emergency that expired with Executive Order #72 on May 11, 2020; and
Whereas, it is incumbent upon the three branches of government to act as checks on one another’s power in order to vigorously protect and defend the principle of structurally separated and limited power, so as to protect the governed from abusive government; and
Whereas, the legislature can and must take immediate action to protect the integrity of the legislative powers authorized under the Wisconsin Constitution and the integrity of this republican form of government; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the senate, the assembly concurring, That the governor had no authority to issue Executive Order #104 on January 19, 2021, and it was therefore void from the date of its issuance, as were any and all of the governor’s actions or orders related to the declared public health emergency to the extent the authority for those orders or actions depended on Executive Order #104, or sections 323.10 or 323.12 of the statutes; and
Be it further resolved, That regardless of whether Executive Order #104 should ever be construed as having conferred on the governor any authority to exercise the powers granted by section 323.10 of the statutes, Executive Order #104 is hereby terminated and revoked. The revocation of Executive Order #104 terminates any and all of the governor’s actions or orders related to the declared public health emergency to the extent the authority for those orders or actions depend on Executive Order #104, or sections 323.10 or 323.12 of the statutes.
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