Wisconsin Republicans repeal state mask mandate, emergency order

A resolution passed Thursday by Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled General Assembly repealed the state’s mask mandate aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

The vote, which overturned Gov. Tony Evers‘ (D) latest public health emergency order, went against the warnings of public health experts, and now makes Wisconsin one of only 10 states without a mask requirement. 

The order is expected to officially take effect on Friday, when it is signed by GOP leaders.

State GOP lawmakers argued that the issue was not about masks, but about executive authority.

In a joint statement, Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) said Evers “has abused his limited authority for far too long by repeatedly issuing unlawful orders beyond his 60-day emergency powers. The Assembly and Senate voted to end the executive overreach and restore our constituents’ voice in the legislative process.” 

Vos said he supports mask requirements in certain “appropriate” areas like hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and public schools, but not statewide.

“The idea that we are going to say somebody has to wear a mask inside a private business if the private business doesn’t want to require it, I don’t support that,” Vos said in a news conference prior to the vote. 

“We are not anti-mask. It is about the governor exerting unlawful powers that he does not have.” Vos said.

Vos and other Republicans urged Evers to use the rulemaking process, which requires the approval of a GOP-controlled committee.

The vote in the Assembly came a week after the Senate passed a similar measure. But the vote in the Assembly was delayed, after lawmakers learned the move could cost state residents tens of millions of dollars in food assistance.

As a workaround, the Assembly on Thursday passed a separate bill that contains a provision designed to ensure the state doesn’t lose the funding. Federal law requires there to be a pandemic health emergency  in place to receive the money.

The latest mask mandate had been in place since August. Local mask ordinances will remain in effect.

State law says the governor does not have the authority to veto joint resolutions, though Evers could try to pass another mandate.

Evers has lost other battles to Republicans during the pandemic. Last year, the state Supreme Court ended his stay-at-home order, and an appeals court ruled limits on indoor dining were not enforceable. Via – The Hill

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