Wisconsin lawmakers in the State Senate voted this week to overturn an executive order
by Governor Evers declaring a public health emergency for COVID-19 and cause a statewide face covering mandate that would have otherwise lasted through March 20, 2021 to be nullified.
Assembly Republicans, who were scheduled to act on the resolution on Jan. 28, delayed action on the resolution following news from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau that the resolution may jeopardize additional federal funding and benefits for the state’s FoodShare program. Under Wisconsin law, the Legislature can overturn any declared public health emergency by a Governor through a joint resolution passed in both the Senate and Assembly.
A coalition of health care provider organizations - the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Health Care Association, LeadingAge Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Assisted Living Association and the Disability Service Provider Network - released on Jan. 26 expressed opposition to the Legislature’s action and support for the Governor’s masking order. These organizations joined a total of 42 Wisconsin lobbying organizations registered against the joint resolution.
“[We] agree that masking is an important tool to help Wisconsin resume pre-COVID-19 activities. Our organizations urge lawmakers to reconsider this effort to end the Governor’s masking order, as the use of face coverings is a valuable method to decrease the likelihood of transmission of COVID-19,” wrote the organizations in their Jan. 26 memo. “We all share the same goal of getting back to healthy, thriving communities by overcoming this pandemic. But, we are not at the finish line yet.”
The resolution was approved in the Senate with vote of 18-13, with two Republican Senators voting with the Democrats in opposition. "I stand with opening our schools, and I stand with the health care providers in my district," said Sen. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) according to reporting from WisPolitics.com.
Similarly, Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Allouez) expressed his concerns with the impact lifting masking requirements will have on the health care community. According to the same WisPolitics.com report, Sen. Cowles said, “the health care community has suffered through this entire ordeal, and I wasn't about to make it worse.”
The Assembly recessed session on Jan. 28, with plans to return to the floor during the week of Feb. 1 to consider further action.