Evers gives up on virus restrictions amid GOP opposition
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said Monday that he’s given up trying to push through any more statewide restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus because he thinks rival Republicans emboldened by a state Supreme Court decision erasing his stay-at-home order would never allow any.
Minutes after his administration scrapped plans for a new emergency rule, Evers told reporters during a teleconference that drafting rules would be a waste of time given the GOP opposition. His stance leaves local health officials on their own as they wrestle with whether and how to maintain social distancing mandates.
“The Republicans made it very clear they don’t believe a statewide approach is the right way to go at this point in time,” Evers said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense spending a lot of time doing something we know isn’t going to be successful.”
Wisconsin is one of a number of states where governors have run into resistance from Republican legislators over coronavirus restrictions. Democratic governors in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Louisiana have faced a mix of legislation and lawsuits designed to curtail their power. Wisconsin’s conservative-leaning state Supreme Court didn’t hold back, completely erasing Evers’ stay-at-home order last week after Republican legislators alleged that the administration had exceeded its authority.
The decision threw the state into chaos. Some bars and restaurants opened immediately while a handful of county officials issued their own stay-at-home orders. Now, the state has a confusing patchwork of regulations that vary from county to county.
The DHS released plans for a new statewide emergency rule the day after the court ruling. The agency said the new rule may contain elements of the stay-at-home order and Evers’ phased business re-opening plan. Republicans pounced on the statement, saying Evers was trying to circumvent the court ruling and reinstate a stay-at-home order.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Thursday the two sides might not reach agreement and it will be up to the locals to implement their own restrictions. Republican state Sen. Steve Nass, co-chairman of the Legislature’s rules committee, demanded on Friday that the governor withdraw plans for a new rule. The DHS complied on Monday and scrapped them.
Vos called Evers’ position “disappointing” but said Republicans will keep working with local public health agencies to see if they need help addressing localized outbreaks in the future.
Alec Zimmerman, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, pointed to a statement Fitzgerald issued Friday saying that the scope statement was too focused on a phased re-opening and the state needs to move faster.
Nass said he has “great faith” that people will make the decisions necessary to fight COVID-19 on their own “without excessive government coercion.”
As of Monday, Wisconsin had recorded 12,687 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 459 deaths from the disease, according to DHS data.