Conservatives cheer Wisconsin Supreme Court’s limits of Tony Evers’ power

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Conservatives inside and outside the Wisconsin Capitol say the state’s Supreme Court ruling against Gov. Tony Evers and his coronavirus emergencies orders restores a balance to state government.

“Today’s ruling vindicates the legislature as a co-equal branch of government,” Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said Wednesday. “[This] ruling upholds the separation of powers and the rule of law – core principles since the founding of our state and nation. The Governor’s repeated abuse of emergency powers and pervasive violation of state statute created a state of chaos and had to be stopped.”

The court ruled 4-3 that Evers overstepped his constitutional powers by issuing an extended emergency order under which he placed limits on crowds and required people in the state to wear facemasks.

“The question in this case is not whether the Governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully,” Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote for the majority. “The plain language of the statute explains that the governor may, for 60 days, act with expanded powers to address a particular emergency. Beyond 60 days, however, the legislature reserves for itself the power to determine the policies that govern the state’s response to an ongoing problem.”

The court’s liberal justices echoed the governor’s argument, that the coronavirus outbreak is different, and should have given the governor different powers.

“This is no run-of-the-mill case,” Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote in her dissent. “With the stakes so high, the majority not only arrives at erroneous conclusions, but it also obscures the consequence of its decision.”

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which has challenged the governor’s use of his emergency powers, said Wisconsin law is clear, and it’s been clear for months that Gov. Evers has been breaking the law.

“Gov. Evers abused the law and the constitutional separation of powers by declaring multiple, consecutive emergencies,” WILL President Rick Esenberg said. “This decision ensures that Wisconsin’s constitutional order cannot be suspended for unlimited periods of time as long as the executive branch can justify an emergency declaration.”

In a statement, Gov. Evers’ noted his policies were based on his trusting science and public health experts.

“Despite today’s victory for civil liberties, I have no doubt that Evers and his minions are not done yet,” Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said Wednesday. “They will now focus their energies on organizing further infringements on civil liberties through excessive actions by liberal-leaning local governments and public health officials.”

In fact, coronavirus restrictions and mask requirements will continue for many people in Wisconsin. The court’s ruling only impacts the governor’s statewide order. The ruling does nothing about local orders imposed by cities or counties.

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