By Brian Fraley and Dan Adams
Well, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has decided. Now what?
First of all – the court’s decision is no cause for unbridled celebration. Nor is this a time for public tantrums. It is time for Governor Tony Evers and the leaders of the legislature to develop, pass and implement bipartisan plans to:
- Continue to mitigate the risk of the Coronavirus;
- Safely and briskly resume economic and social activities with new social distancing guidelines;
- Address the budgetary shortfalls at the State and Local levels that have resulted from the current Safer at Home orders and whatever soon-to-be-imposed regulations and laws.
We were encouraged that the governor and legislative leaders met last week after almost two months of talking past each other. It is in the best interest of everyone in Wisconsin that they now meet, every day, until the three areas listed above have been adequately addressed.
It is not time to lift all restrictions. On this point the vast majority of Wisconsinites agree. We remain in the middle of a pandemic. But it is time to move forward.
Yet, even as restrictions are removed and revised, a heightened level of personal vigilance will be needed for years. Indeed, the key to fighting this pandemic is personal responsibility – our culture has adapted to this long term fight. And it is the voluntary actions of citizens that will defeat the virus.
But as government officials ask us to be responsible and empathetic, we ask the same of our government officials.
It’s time to move forward, together, and create a steady recovery plan that is so widely-accepted and praised that the November elections will be about who gets the most credit for the achievement, not who gets the blame for failing to act.
When the Republicans and Democrats meet, we hope they bring medical professionals and researchers into the discussion (scientists, not merely advocates for the various components of our health care system). We have a deep and devoted cadre of them in the public and private sector here in Wisconsin.
We would prefer to have these meetings be public, broadcast and live-streamed. New public health policies will be more broadly embraced and adhered to if they are borne of a process that was transparent. Ultimately, our government’s actions will be more apt to be followed if they are draped in the legitimacy that open meetings would provide.
In the event that these meetings are not public, we would hope to see bipartisan daily briefings that summarize the days accomplishments and forecast the work ahead.
One likely scenario is the Department of Health Services will promulgate an emergency rule, which would immediately be subjected to legislative review by the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules. So, JCRAR could be the forum where the bipartisan compromise is forged. In theory, the full legislature could convene to pass their own plan in bill form but the subsequent veto battles would have politicians fighting and place the economic and physical health of Wisconsinites in the crossfire.
It is time to put partisanship aside. Ignore the vitriol from the extreme ends of the political spectrum and instead focus on the possible, not the ideologically pure. It is time to meet and work together, to protect public health, preserve our healthcare system, and get Wisconsin’s economy and society working again.
For what it’s worth, we drafted the bulk of this piece BEFORE we knew the outcome of the court case. Because the task before our leaders would be the same whether Evers’ Administration had unlimited authority or not.
It’s time to come together to open Wisconsin and fight the Coronavirus at the same time. For the sake of jump-starting the discussions, here’s an opening offer our leaders could consider.
- Tomorrow morning, all businesses, whether they provide goods or services, could (if they so choose) open at 20% of their fire code capacity.
- In counties where the positive test result percentages and hospitalization rates are less than 50% of the Statewide average, that restriction could be 40% of the occupancy limit.
- Social distancing, hygiene and mask use should continue to be promoted.
- All employees who can reasonably perform their duties remotely should be allowed to do so.
- Houses of worship could also open, subject to their respective county’s occupancy limits.
- Continue to expand the occupancy limits by 20% of fire code capacity per week, as long as case and testing numbers remain steady or in decline.
- In areas where the positive test percentage remains at or above 10%, cap the occupancy at 60% of the fire code limit.
- Impose tighter restrictions where caseloads spike
This is not a perfect plan. But it’s a starting point. They need to start somewhere. All or nothing gets us nothing.
Now is the time for heroes. We believe that together our leaders can become heroes. Let’s see if they believe the same.
There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. - Julius Caesar, Act 4, scene 3.
Dan Adams, a Democrat, is an attorney in private practice in Milwaukee County. Brian Fraley is a Republican who owns Edge Messaging, a consulting firm in Waukesha County.