(The Center Square) – No one should be surprised at how Gov. Tony Evers' statewide mask requirement has split Wisconsin lawmakers evenly down partisan lines.
Democrats at the State Capitol are almost universally on-board, while nearly all Republicans oppose it.
The most powerful Republican in the Wisconsin Assembly, Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, on Thursday said there is no need for every small town in Wisconsin to require people wear masks simply because the coronavirus numbers in Milwaukee continue to increase.
"Wisconsin shouldn’t have a one-size-fits-all mandate. It doesn’t build public support when there are questions surrounding the metrics and the constitutionality of this mandate," Vos said in a statement.
He then criticized the governor for issuing another order without checking with lawmakers first.
“It’s disappointing that yet again Governor Evers has chosen to not communicate or work with the legislature," Vos added. "There are certainly constitutional questions here; I would expect legal challenges from citizen groups.”
Republican Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said lawmakers need to return to Madison to put the governor's order in check.
"The Legislature is empowered to end any emergency declaration issued by a Governor through the simple passage of a joint resolution that doesn’t require the Governor’s approval," Nass said. "Gov. Evers actions today are nothing more than a political stunt to create a partisan fight with the Legislature. This is not about improving public health. Today’s emergency declaration is all about the November election and the weak performance of Democrats in this state."
But Democrats at the statehouse say it's about time that Gov. Evers acted to mandate facemasks.
“I appreciate Gov. Evers taking proactive action to help keep people safe and keep our economy open," Democratic Assembly Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh said. "While there is so much we still don’t know about COVID-19, we do know that wearing a mask indoors can help reduce the spread of the virus."
Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, said Gov. Evers is doing what many local health department managers have asked him to do.
"Governor Evers has shown courage in stepping into what has become a highly politicized debate that others have refused to address for fear doing so might hurt their political prospects," Hansen added.
There is already talk of a legal challenge.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which has seen a wave of success in taking the Evers Administration to court, said the governor once again appears to have overstepped his bounds.
"Wearing a mask is courteous and smart. But the presence of a pandemic does not negate the rule of law. Governor Evers, quite simply, lacks the legal authority to declare a second public health emergency and require every citizen to wear a mask," WILL President Rick Esenberg said Thursday.
The governor's mask requirement goes into effect Saturday, the same day the Wisconsin Supreme Court adds its newest justice, Jill Karofsky, who is commonly acknowledged as liberal-leaning.