Sunday, July 21, 2024

Wisconsin Legislature Repeals Statewide Mask Mandate; Governor Issues New Order

'I know you want to make it about masks. It’s not. It’s about the rule of law...'

UPDATE VIA AP: Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a new statewide mask order on Thursday, an hour after the Republican-controlled Legislature voted to repeal his previous mandate.

The Democrat Evers said in a video message that his priority is keeping people safe and that wearing a mask was the most basic way to do that.

Republicans who voted to repeal the order said Evers was exceeding his authority by issuing new public health emergencies rather than having the Legislature approve extensions.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: (Headline USA) Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature on Thursday repealed Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’s mask mandate, brushing aside warnings from government health bureaucrats against making Wisconsin one of only 10 states without a statewide order.

The Assembly vote came a week after the Senate voted to kill the mandate.

Republicans, who control both chambers, argued that Evers exceeded his authority by repeatedly extending the mask mandate without legislative approval.

The repeal will take effect on Friday, after the Senate majority leader signs it.

Evers could defy the Legislature by issuing a new order putting a fresh mask mandate in place, a move that would force the Legislature to vote again to repeal.

The latest mask mandate had been in place since August.

Local mask ordinances, including one in Milwaukee and Dane County which includes Madison, remain in effect.

Evers did not immediately comment on the Legislature’s action.

The Supreme Court could end the legislative back and forth with a ruling in a pending case that says Evers must secure lawmakers’ approval every 60 days.

The court could also say he doesn’t need approval, thus forcing the Legislature to repeal every order Evers issues with which Republicans disagree.

Government health “experts” have flip-flopped repeatedly on the effectiveness of masks in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“We should be wearing masks,” said Democratic state Rep. Robyn Vining. “Masks save lives.”

Republicans say the issue isn’t about masks, but whether Evers can legally issue multiple emergency health orders during the pandemic.

The Legislature argues he can’t, and must secure their approval every 60 days. Evers contends the changing nature of the pandemic allowed him to issue multiple orders and mask mandates.

“I know you want to make it about masks. It’s not,” said Republican Majority Leader Jim Steineke. “It’s about the rule of law.”

The coronavirus has ebbed in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the U.S., but the health bureaucracy warns of a continuing danger, including the emergence of new and more contagious variants. All of Wisconsin’s neighboring states have some form of mask mandate, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy.

The repeal is the latest defeat for Evers, who has struggled to combat the pandemic.

Republican lawmakers last year persuaded the state Supreme Court to scrap his stay-at-home order.

And a bar in Amery and the group Pro-Life Wisconsin persuaded a state appeals court to kill limits he had placed on indoor gatherings.

Prior to Thursday’s vote, Assembly Republicans sent Evers a letter saying they would support a more limited mask mandate that applies to places “susceptible to transmission of the virus.”

Republicans said that includes health care facilities, nursing homes, mass transit, state government buildings, assisted living facilities, public schools, universities and prisons.

Republicans called on Evers to submit a rule proposal to enact such a mandate, promising such a request would be “reviewed fairly and judiciously.”

Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.

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