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Lawmakers claim final say in UW System’s COVID-19 policies

UW System spokesperson: “Today’s action feels like a political statement.”
(WEAU)
Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 1:09 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The University of Wisconsin System will now need legislative approval for any plans to combat the spread of coronavirus on its campus or from the universities into the surrounding communities.

On Tuesday, the legislature’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules voted 6-4 to rule that they have final oversight over any COVID-19 action by the universities by declaring it a rule making procedure. The vote by the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules came without a formal meeting or public comment.

Committee Co-Chair Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), who introduced the initiative, declared it was necessary by claiming, “[g]overnment issued Covid-19 mandates and lockdowns have failed miserably in dealing with this virus.”

He went on to add that by claiming final say in the UW System’s actions the committee would be able to restore Americans’ ability “to make voluntary informed decisions based on their individual health circumstances.” The motion only cited the COVID-19 vaccine and did not seem to extend to the other vaccines that students are required to get.

“Today’s action feels like a political statement,” UW System spokesperson Mark Pitsch said. “Our focus is to ensure we are doing what needs to be done to safely open for in-person teaching this fall.”

Last week, System President Tommy Thompson blasted the proposal, arguing it would strip the universities of the “tool (they) so successfully used to date to address the outbreaks and reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

The one-time Republican governor of Wisconsin went so far as to recount his position within the George W. Bush Administration when making his case, arguing that his former position as Health and Human Services Secretary gives him additional insight to combating the spread of the virus.

According to Nass, UW System must come up with an emergency rule for COVID-19 policies within 30 days or cease issuing them for students and campus visitors.

clarification: This story has been updated to include a statement from the UW System.

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