Wisconsin Senate passes resolution to repeal state mask mandate

The joint resolution is cosponsored by 29 Republicans.
Published: Jan. 26, 2021 at 9:06 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2021 at 10:15 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Senate passed a resolution Tuesday on repealing Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate.

The state Senate voted 18-13 with all Democrats for and two Republicans against. Republican State Sens. Dale Kooyenga and Rob Cowles voted against the resolution.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LaMahieu (R-Oostburg) said the Senate’s decision “restore(d) our constituents’ voice in the legislative process.”

“Today, the Senate took a stand for liberty and the rule of law,” LaMahieu said. “Governor Evers has abused his limited authority for far too long by repeatedly issuing unlawful orders beyond his 60-day emergency powers.”

The joint resolution is cosponsored by 29 Republicans in the Legislature.

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During the debate on the Senate floor, Republican State Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), who introduced the resolution, said this was not a debate about whether masks work. Nass argued the resolution was about the law.

“This is about repeatedly issuing emergency orders,” Nass said, adding, “It’s about exceeding the powers granted to the governor by the people, through the constitution and our statutes.”

However, Senate Democrats said the mask mandate was necessary to keep schools and businesses open and save lives.

“If the Senate votes in favor of overturning the mask mandate, we are going to see increased death and illness in Wisconsin, and we are going to see this pandemic getting worse,” said State Sen. Kelda Roys (D-Madison).

Supporters of the resolution argued the legislature must have a seat at the table.

“Chapter 323 specifically limits emergencies to 60 days unless we in the legislature endorse an exception,” said State Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville).

Opponents accused republicans of putting politics before the health of their constituents.

“The first thing that this Senate chamber is going to pass that’s actually going to be implemented cannot be, it should not be something that is going to literally kill our neighbors,” said State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee).

Dane Co. Executive Joe Parisi denounced the decision, saying that “Wisconsin needs more science and less politics.”

“Science and medicine unanimously agreed long ago—masks are one of the most effective tools we have to slow the virus,” Parisi said. “Today’s vote will sow confusion, perpetuate illness, and result in more needless suffering.”

He did note that regardless of what the Wisconsin State Legislature does with the state’s public health emergency order in relation to masks, Dane County’s mask mandate will remain in effect.

“If you eliminate the statewide mask mandate, that just creates greater spread of the virus,” Parisi said. “This is something that everyone on the planet literally agrees upon. The only thing that will be accomplished if the Assembly also votes to repeal the mask mandate is they will extend the life and the duration of the pandemic.”

Assembly Republican leaders have not yet said whether the resolution repealing the mask order will get a vote in that chamber.

It must pass both the Senate and Assembly in order to repeal Evers’ public health emergency and the mask mandate which is slated to run until March 20. The Assembly scheduled it for a vote Thursday.

The Assembly on Tuesday passed an expanded COVID-19 response bill that may face a veto by Evers. The bill would prohibit the closure of churches during the pandemic and bar employers from requiring workers to get vaccinated for the disease.

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