WISCONSIN. (WFRV) – Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers released a statement Wednesday evening in response to the state Supreme Court’s decision to end Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order, effective immediately.
“Up until now, Wisconsin was in a pretty good place in our battle against COVID-19. We had reached almost all our gating criteria. We had opened up 14,000 small businesses across the state, putting 90,000 folks back to work, and that was because of the good work of Wisconsinites across our state who banded together, stayed home, and stayed safe,” said Gov. Evers. “Despite that good work, Republican legislators have convinced 4 justices to throw our state into chaos.
“We cannot let today’s ruling undo all the work we have done and all the sacrifices Wisconsinites have made over these past few months. We need everyone to continue doing their part to keep our families, our neighbors, and our communities safe by continuing to stay safer at home, practice social distancing, and limit travel, because folks, deadly viruses don’t wait around for politicians and bureaucrats to settle their differences or promulgate rules.
“This virus has killed more than 400 of our family members, friends, and neighbors and thousands more across our state are sick. I am disappointed in the decision today, but our top priority has been and will remain doing what we can and what we have to do to protect the health and safety of the people of our state. After months of unproductive posturing, I hope the folks in the Legislature are ready to do the same.”
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul shared Governor Evers’ tone.
“Wisconsinites’ actions have saved many lives, and we’ve made meaningful progress in the fight against the coronavirus. At the legislature’s urging, however, the plan that’s been working has largely been struck down,” Kaul said.
“For decades, Wisconsin law has given the State’s chief health official the authority to ‘close schools and forbid public gatherings in schools, churches, and other places to control outbreaks and epidemics’; to ‘issue orders … for the control and suppression of communicable diseases’; and to ‘authorize and implement all emergency measures necessary to control communicable diseases.’ Wis. Stat. § 252.02(3), (4), (6). These broad grants of authority show that prior generations of lawmakers recognized that addressing a public health crisis like the one we face now can require urgent and extraordinary actions. But today’s decision means that this authority is subject to a legislative committee’s veto and that there will be a delay of more than 10 days before decisions made pursuant to this authority can go into effect.
“Over a week ago, I called on the legislature to act immediately. Unfortunately, it failed to do so, and Republicans in the legislature still have offered no plan to address the coronavirus. They can’t keep waiting to do so. In the middle of the fight against this virus, we need reasonable rules in place that protect Wisconsinites’ health. In the meantime, I ask all Wisconsinites to continue helping to fight the coronavirus by socially distancing and following other recommendations from public health experts.”
And while both the Governor and the Attorney General expressed their disappointment, some state legislators celebrated the ruling.
5th Assembly District Representative Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) told Local 5 he is pleased with the ruling.
“We think the people have the right to have their say through the people that they elect and that’s what the Supreme Court decided on, and we are glad that they did.
“Here’s what we hope going forward,” Steineke continued. “We hope that businesses like the ones that are open now will take the precautions so the employees that work for them are safe and that the patrons that come into their business are safe as well.
“The whole idea of the safer at home order was to ensure that hospitals weren’t overrun and weren’t operating at crisis levels. Hospitals aren’t being overrun, in fact, they are laying off people. (It’s) time that we start cracking the door open and getting people back to work and back to business as long as we can do it in a safe manner.”
Senator Dan Feyen (R- Fond du Lac) of the 18th district echoed Steineke’s sentiment in a statement.
“Even during times of crisis, we must follow the law. We all want to protect the health and safety of Wisconsinites, but we must continue to respect the rule of law and our constituent’s constitutional rights.
“I am looking forward to quickly implementing the bipartisan plan for reopening our state and getting Wisconsin safely back to work,” Senator Feyen said. “In the meantime, nothing beats good old fashioned common sense and personal responsibility. If you don’t feel safe or are sick, stay home. Cover your coughs and sneezes, wash your hands, and continue to socially distance. Testing is available, so if you have symptoms, contact your local health department and get tested.”
Assembly District 56 State Representative Dave Murphy (R–Greenville) also released a statement in favor of the ruling.
“Today, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in favor of shared powers among the branches of government, something every student learns about in school. The Court confirmed that the governor’s administration overstepped its powers when it failed to cooperate with the legislature to address this public health emergency,” Murphy said. “We’ve all learned a great deal about how to be safe and protect ourselves during a pandemic. Effective public health action requires cooperation, reliance on hard data, and involvement of people on the front lines. Going forward, I’m reassured that our governor now knows that he must involve those outside his inner circle in the decisions that have serious repercussions for every Wisconsinite.
“Folks still need to take personal responsibility for their safety,” Murphy continued. “I’m confident people can make the right decisions about the health and safety of themselves, their loved ones, and their place of work. This decision is a huge step in taking us back to where we were before the economic shutdown. Instead of forcing us into a “new normal,” this ruling allows us to return to the freedoms and individual responsibility that Americans normally enjoy.
However, District 30 Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) spoke out against the decision with a warning to workers who may feel unsafe returning to the workplace.
“Congratulations workers! Thanks to the corporate controlled State Supreme Court you’re going back to work whether you feel safe or not,” Hansen said. “Because now that they have repealed the Safer at Home order if your employer calls you back to work and you don’t feel safe you will lose your unemployment.
“In a decision that comes as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with the Republican, corporate controlled State Supreme Court a majority has decided to put profits over the lives of workers, customers, and their families,” Hansen continued. “Also in a move that is as no surprise, they abandoned their own values to do the bidding of their corporate donors. Judicial activism is alive and well on the state’s highest court when it comes to doing the bidding of their corporate overlords.
“Perhaps those who believe people’s lives are more important than corporate profits should begin the process of recalling those justices who, once again, did the bidding of their corporate benefactors at the expense (of) the people.”