Key Republican rejects Evers' proposal for new pandemic rule

MADISON — A key Senate Republican demanded Friday that Gov. Tony Evers withdraw his outline for a new emergency rule to manage the coronavirus pandemic in Wisconsin.

Sen. Steve Nass, co-chairman of the Legislature's joint rules committee, said Evers' scope statement indicates the administration wants to restore elements of a statewide stay-at-home order that the state Supreme Court struck down Wednesday. He accused Evers and state Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm of trying to circumvent the ruling and seize control of people's daily lives again.

“Most rational public servants would get the message that the rule of law and the constitutional limitations on government are not optional or mere suggestions,” Nass said.

Nass' committee has final say on whether any emergency rules can take effect. The Republican's stance underscores how difficult it will be for Evers, a Democrat, to get any coronavirus rules through the GOP lawmakers, who are still complaining that the stay-at-home went too far.

Evers' spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff, didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Evers issued an order requiring people to stay home and shuttering nonessential businesses in March. The order was set to expire in April but Palm extended it to May 26 at Evers' direction.

Republican legislators concerned about the economic fallout asked the state Supreme Court to strike the order down. The court on Wednesday ruled 4-3 that Palm exceeded her authority and should have worked with the Legislature to promulgate the order as an administrative rule.

Evers began the process of writing an emergency rule on Thursday. The first step was crafting a scope statement, which is a summary of what the rule would do. The statement said the rule could “re-articulate” parts of Evers' business re-opening criteria and “balance them against the goals in the Safer-at-Home Extension.”