(The Center Square) – A hearing Monday on Gov. Tony Evers’ order to limit attendance at bars, restaurants and stores across Wisconsin broke down into two separate conversations.
Democrats used the hearing in front of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) to attack Republicans for the legislature’s lack of action this spring, blame President Donald Trump for not having a national plan for COVID-19, and accuse Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin of allowing people to die.
“You have blood on your hands by not taking any action to save our citizens from this horrible epidemic,” Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, said.
Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, accused Republicans of playing politics and frittering away the time instead of agreeing to Evers’ public health orders.
“Given that we are in an emergency, and given that this is an emergency order,” Larson said, “it seems asinine to have an academic discussion in an ivory tower whether the emergency rule is subject to oversight.”
Wisconsin law requires lawmakers have a say in the rulemaking process. Evers and his Department of Health Services have ignored lawmakers, which, according to Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, is breaking the law.
“This is not a debate on COVID,” Nass said. “This is a debate on whether DHS is following the law.”
The head of JCRAR said Monday DHS has not provided a copy of the emergency order that limits crowds "because there isn’t one," and pointed out DHS and DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm refused to participate in the hearing.
Nass said that is telling.
“The secretary-designee is running a rogue agency,” Nass said. “We’re not debating COVID. We’re debating whether government should go beyond the consent of the governed. And we are here to stop that.”
Nass said that is the job of the legislature.
The committee voted Monday to require Evers and DHS to formally submit the governor's crowd limit order for legislative review in the next 30 days. The governor’s order, however, is set to expire in 25 days, on Nov. 6, three days after the election.