Local legislators weigh in on Wisconsin mask mandate

Published: Aug. 2, 2020 at 7:59 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - To mask or not to mask? The answer to that question is very different, depending on who you ask.

To mask or not to mask? The answer to that question is very different, depending on who you ask.
To mask or not to mask? The answer to that question is very different, depending on who you ask.(WEAU)

The newest order from Gov. Tony Evers is drawing praise and push-back from legislators, including our area’s two state senators.

“Citizens know when to wear the masks and when not to,” says Senator Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) “We don’t need Gov. Evers to tell us that.”

“It’s disappointing, quite honestly, that people seem to be focused on an order that actually is about safety over all the other issues that are happening around this period of time,” says Senator Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire).

Saturday, a statewide mask-mandate issued by Gov. Evers went into effect. On Sunday Bernier and Smith shared their thoughts about the governors latest order. Like many things, the issue of masking up is split along party lines.

“I think it is definitely the politics behind freedom and now being told what to do,” Smith says. “Unfortunately the leadership we have coming from the Republican Party, quite frankly, from the top on down has used this as another form of scare tactic about government taking over your lives.”

“There is a lot of people who believe it is there constitutional right to wear a mask or not wear a mask,” Bernier says. “That is not a scare tactic, that is a fact. People believe that when it comes to their health, safety and welfare, that they have some decision that they can make for themselves.”

Violations carry a $200 fine. However, several law enforcement agencies around the state have said they won't actively enforce the mandate.

GOP State Senate leader Scott Fitzgerald stopped short Friday of promising that his fellow lawmakers would vote to kill the order. Fellow republican Bernier says she's not sure if it will be challenged.

“I think we have the votes in the senate, I’m not sure where the assembly is,” she said. “I would rather not go in unless we have both houses in agreement that we will go ahead and override that order along with a direction.”

For now, answering the question "to mask or not to mask," will remain a hot topic across the Badger State.

“The mask is proven, scientifically, that it prevents what is coming from your mouth and nose into the air from spreading any disease you may be carrying,” Smith says.

“We aren’t going to be able to completely do away with this virus. The idea is to treat and to save as many lives as possible. I’m not sure masking up is doing that,” Bernier says. “California is still in trouble and they are the most restrictive state in the union.”

The mask mandate is set to run through September 28th. To read the full mandate, click here.

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