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Is Wisconsin GOP lawsuit over May 26 “stay-home” order about businesses reopening or political power?



FILE - Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, center, watches as Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers addresses a joint session of the Legislature in the Assembly chambers during the Governor's State of the State speech at the state Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, in Madison, Wis. Behind Evers is Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler August, left, R-Lake Geneva, and Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

The state Supreme Court has given Department of Health Services secretary Andrea Palm until today to answer to a lawsuit by Wisconsin Republicans over the “stay-home” order that lasts through May 26.

But, are Republicans genuine in their notion to want to re-open the state or is it more a fight over political power by taking the easiest of stances?

The lawsuit filed last week was the second this month where Republicans have gone straight to the state’s Supreme Court, skipping the lower courts, asking for a decision.


“Is this just more about process, than the substance of the order?” UW-La Crosse political science professor Anthony Chergosky asked recently on La Crosse Talk PM. “Is it the case that (Assembly) Speaker (Robin) Vos opposes the order on a substantive level, or does he just oppose the process, the path by which we got there?

“They seem to be making more of a process argument, but I’d like to have some clarity on that.”

Unlike the April 7 election lawsuit, where the state Supreme Court overruled Gov. Tony Evers’ order to postpone, a day before voters took to the polls, this time Justices gave Palm a week to respond to the lawsuit. Subsequently, Republicans will have until Thursday to answer to Palm’s decision.

While time is, apparently, somewhat of the essence over the lawsuit, the GOP skipped going to lower courts, possibly because the Supreme Court is currently a 5-2 majority — though it won’t be in August, when Jill Karofsky takes Dan Kelly’s seat, having won that April 7 election.

“The fancy political science term for this is ‘venue shopping,’” Chergosky said. “You want to take your battle to the venue where you are most likely to win. That’s exactly what the Republican leaders are trying to do here.”

While Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald argued the May 26 extension “goes beyond the executive branch’s statutory powers,” Gov. Tony Evers called the move a power play, saying Republicans are overlooking the fact that actual lives are at stake.

“Let’s just get real here, this is about power,” he said, adding: “And if they win, they get it and it’s going to take a long time for our state to recover.”

With the state — the country, really — so divided down the aisle between Democrats and Republicans, the easiest place to make a stand is to reopen business, as if that’s not the goal for everyone. But Republicans can latch on to that banner as cover, then run it straight to the Supreme Court level to try and take more power from the governor’s hands.

“In an age of intense polarization, how can the Republicans score points with their base?” Chergosky asked. “By just taking on Tony Evers.”

This seems to play similar to the lame-duck lawsuits that came right after Evers beat Republican Scott Walker — but before Evers took office. The GOP-led legislature went into that special session to curtail the powers of the governor’s office, when it could have done the same at any time while Walker was in office.

Chergosky wonders if that’s what’s going with the “stay-home” lawsuit, as well.

“Is this just about them wanting a seat at the table, is this about them substantively disagreeing with the plan that Evers has, or is this just politics?” he asked. “They seem to kind of be making more of a process-based argument, and backing off of the argument that they’re against what Tony Evers did, because the polls show broad support for the government’s measures.”

Regardless, the stay-at-home orders that last through May 26 aren’t set in stone. It’s not like nothing can open until that date, because plenty of changes have been made in the last few days, alone.

Friday, golf courses were allowed to reopen with restrictions. Libraries could do curbside pickup. Craft stores could, as well. And lawn care services done by just one person were permitted.

Monday, Evers loosened restrictions some more, allowing dog groomers, upholsterers, lawnmower repair shops and other nonessential businesses to open, as long as they could with contactless services.

Wednesday, outdoor recreational rental businesses — like canoe and kayak rentals — can also reopen.

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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  1. ron riley

    April 28, 2020 at 9:29 am

    It’s time to open up the state economy and stop this business of keeping everything locked up

  2. Holly Mathews

    April 28, 2020 at 11:48 am

    The approximately 40,000 people that have sent in complaints to the senators about Evers unlawful order, cuz I can guarantee you there are at least 40,000 that I know of if not more by now.this report seems a little bias to me,and I’m neither Democrat or Republican..hmm

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