GOP-led legislative committee forces indoor gathering order to be submitted to legislature as a rule

MADISON, Wis. — Republican legislators are forcing Gov. Tony Evers’ administration to submit their emergency order limiting businesses to 25% indoor capacity to go through the rule-making process.

On a party-lines 6-4 vote Monday afternoon, a legislative committee gave the administration 30 days to submit the order as a rule, which opens it up to legislative approval. That would give state GOP lawmakers the chance to overturn it as a rule by Nov. 11; currently, the emergency order expires Nov. 6.

Emergency Order 3 was issued under the state’s Department of Health Service’s emergency powers. Speaker Robin Vos argued last week in a statement that the order violated the decision from the state Supreme Court in May, which overturned the safer-at-home order based on a rule-making technicality.

A memo from the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau to minority leader Sen. Janet Bewley’s office found that the order was enforceable unless the state Supreme Court enjoined the DHS to stop enforcing it, or the order expired.

“With cases once again rising, it’s clear the governor’s go-it-alone, grab bag approach to responding to the coronavirus has been a failure,” Vos said in the statement. “We must work together in order to keep our businesses open and our citizens safe.”

But the Wisconsin legislature hasn’t passed a bill since its initial COVID-response legislation in April. And while it’s not abnormal for the legislative body to be absent for extended periods during an election year, the legislature falls near the bottom of rankings of legislatures around the country in their response to the pandemic. According to a USA Today fact check, state legislatures have passed 810 COVID-related bills. And in a recent review of full-time state legislatures, Wisconsin received the worst rating of the country’s ten full-time state legislative bodies.

This article will be updated.