(The Center Square) – It could be a lawsuit, not a piece of legislation, that challenges Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ order to keep the state closed until May 26.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, on Friday told News Talk 1130 WISN host Jay Weber that Republican lawmakers are planning to fight the governor’s ordered extension.
“We are trying to find the most appropriate way to push back,” Vos said. “Nothing in the Constitution or state statute gives one person unlimited power to shutter our economy and cost people their jobs.”
Evers on Thursday ordered his Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to use her power to extend the stay-at-home for another month. Evers’ initial order was set to expire April 24.
Vos said Republicans likely will go to court because passing a resolution or a new piece of legislation won’t work.
“The legislature is 100 percent on top of this. We’re doing everything that we can,” Vos added. “But sometimes it’s not as simple as just passing a bill and having something actually occur.”
Vos said there are legal questions about whether Palm, as a bureaucrat, has the power to close some businesses, but not others.
Rick Esenberg with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty said Palm doesn’t.
“Declarations of an emergency have a shelf life,” Esenberg wrote in an open letter Friday. “They may continue for 60 days unless they are revoked by a joint resolution of the Legislature. They may be extended beyond those 60 days only by a joint resolution of the legislature.”
Esenberg went on to note that Palm has the power to close schools and ban public gatherings, but it’s much less clear if that power extends to closing businesses.
“Closing schools is relatively straightforward but what is a ‘public gathering?’ The statute doesn’t tell us and the term has not been considered by the courts,” Esenberg stated. “At minimum, it cannot apply to small groups of friends and family. Nor does it seem likely to apply to the operation of many businesses.”
Vos said a court will also have to look at the one size fits all response to a virus that is mostly centered in Wisconsin’s larger communities.
“We are putting the same restrictions on a couple who live in rural Wisconsin who goes to one grocery store and one gas station as someone who lives in downtown Milwaukee,” Vos said.
Vos added that most people in Wisconsin are handling the coronavirus outbreak and the order to stay-at-home well, though he does sense some frustrations. Vos said people need to express that frustration to the governor.
As for the legal challenge, Vos said he hopes to have a plan ready to present sometime next week.
Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.