(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s governor says he is looking at all of his options to continue the state’s face mask requirement.
Gov. Tony Evers told reporters on Tuesday he will extend his mask order beyond the 28th of the month, if he can.
“There may be opportunities for us to do something different,” Evers said.
In early July, Evers issued a public health order that among other things, required people to wear face masks in stores, shops, restaurants, and bars.
Wisconsin law limits the governor’s emergency order powers to just 60 days. Anything beyond that, the governor would have to involve the legislature.
Gov. Evers has not gone to the Republican-controlled legislature, he says, because they opposed his Safer at Home order issued earlier in the spring.
“Our ability to act and react was limited by the Republicans and their allies on the Supreme Court back in May,” Evers explained Tuesday. “As a result of that we are severely limited as to what we can do. And now we’re seeing what counties are severely limited as to what they can do.”
That’s a reference to last week’s preliminary ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court that struck down an order from Dane county’s public health office that closed schools to in-person classes. The justices say county-level officials do not have that power.
Gov. Evers is facing a lawsuit from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty over his current mask order. WILL is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to clarify whether the governor can issue two emergency orders for the same emergency, and asking the justices to check the governor’s powers.
“This lawsuit is not about whether masks are good or bad, or whether Wisconsin ought to do more, or less, to address COVID-19. It isn’t even about whether the state should have a mask mandate," WILL President and General Counsel Rick Esenberg said when his group filed the lawsuit last month. "This lawsuit is about our system of government and the rule of law. Governor Evers cannot seize these time-limited emergency powers more than once without legislative approval,” Esenberg said.
“To put it bluntly,” Gov Evers said Tuesday. “We’re going to continue to do what we can do. And masking is one of those things. And we have that until the 28th of this month.”