After forcing the public to vote during a pandemic on April 7, Republican lawmakers are again putting lives in danger by seeking to have the state Supreme Court block the order extending Wisconsin’s “Safer at Home” restrictions.
GOP leaders in control the state Legislature filed the complaint just before the second stay-at-home order was scheduled to take effect. Governor Tony Evers sharply condemned the partisan effort, charging Republicans with putting their own quest for political power ahead the public’s health.
Republicans are exploiting a global pandemic to further their attempts to undermine the will of the people. But what’s at stake goes far beyond political power – lives are on the line. Republicans in the Legislature filed a lawsuit to effectively strike down our #SaferAtHome order and cripple our ability to respond to a pandemic that has already taken the lives of 242 people in our state,” said Governor Evers. “This isn’t a game. This isn’t funny. People die every day because of this virus – often times painful and lonely deaths – and the more we delay or play political games the more people die. We’ve seen what happens in communities that don’t contain this virus through isolation measures like we have with #SaferAtHome.”
The public health emergency was declared on March 12 by Governor Evers, under a state law that empowers governors to address emergencies resulting from a disaster or the imminent threat of a disaster. Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm then extended the order until May 26, under the authority given to her by a different set of laws designed to manage communicable diseases. Those statutes does not require the Governor’s approval and they do not have a time limit for the order to expire.
“The action by legislative Republicans during a crisis is a shameful response by people elected to protect and serve the people of our state. It is a disservice to those we represent, those who are struggling in this crisis, and the economy we will need to rebuild together,” said Governor Evers. “Apparently, instead of having us act quickly and decisively to respond to a crisis, Republicans would rather have us jump through hoop after hoop and ask for their permission to save lives. Folks, we don’t have time. COVID-19 will not wait.”
If Wisconsin had not acted quickly to flatten the curve – which was far earlier than many other states, it is estimated that an additional 300 to 1,400 Wisconsin lives could have been lost. Governor Evers said that Republican lawsuit did not mention saving lives, or protecting nurses, doctors, first responders, or critical workers. Instead, it was 80 pages of a lawsuit focused entirely on how to get legislative Republicans more power.
“Today legislative Republicans told the 4,600+ people in the state of Wisconsin who have contracted COVID-19 and the families of the 242 people who have died, we don’t care about you – we care about our political power,” Governor Evers added.
The lawsuit asks the Supreme Court to immediately hear the case and to block Palm’s stay-at-home extension that is set to take effect on April 24. It also asks justices to order DHS to submit a new plan through the administrative rulemaking process, where lawmakers have what amounts to veto power over the final product.
It is also believed that the effort to re-open the Wisconsin economy is an effort by state Republican benefactors to ensure that people cannot file for unemployment. By ending the business closures, GOP lawmakers will guarantee that workers can no longer claim they are involuntarily unemployed, and so cannot claim unemployment benefits. Low wage workers will have to choose between working and their health.
The Wisconsin Unemployment Insurance program is financed by employers quarterly, and Conservative interests are worried that the state will not have enough money to pay out unemployment claims without raising taxes on employers.
Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, slammed Republicans for wasting taxpayer dollars on the private attorneys representing them in the middle of a health crisis, urging her GOP colleagues to “come to grips with the severity of this virus.”
“During a pandemic, the last thing we need is Republican retaliation that could jeopardize Wisconsin’s most vulnerable citizens,” said state Senator Shilling.