In some cases, presidents like Donald Trump and governors like Wisconsin’s Tony Evers have the ability to use executive orders to create policy – particularly in emergency situations like the coronavirus pandemic. Governor Evers has used that twice, including the current extension of the Safer-at Home executive order until May 26.
Wisconsin law allows a state legislature to negate such executive orders, either via legislative vote about the law itself or through legal action, such as what Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos and his Republican-majority colleagues in the state legislature are using to halt that extension.
“That one person forever can unilaterally make decisions…is opposite of the ways the statues (state),” Vos told WTMJ’s Steve Scaffidi.
“It just says that like every other proposal in a democracy, the legislative branch and executive branch…have a give and take.”
The suit is a legal move over what the suit calls an “abuse of power,” in order to have the Republicans gain power over at least part of the future process of responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
Initially, Vos said he and the legislature could have used the ability to use a vote to negate both Evers’ first “Safer-at-Home” executive order in late March, and his recent extension until May 26.
“Remember, we really tried to give him a wide berth for 60 days. The 60 days expire May 12,” Vos said.
(For clarification: Governor Evers issued a coronavirus-related public health emergency back on March 13, but the Safer-at-Home executive order was placed on March 25. The lawsuit Vos and his Republican colleagues filed is meant to specifically halt “Emergency Order 28” which is about Safer-at-Home, and not appear to be about the public health emergency itself. The 60 day mark of the Safer-at-Home order comes May 24, not May 12.)
Vos tried to make the case that Governor Evers has not been in contact with Republican leaders about the situation.
“The first thing he did was to talk about the election. That was really the last time he consulted the legislature on any decision he was making,” said Vos.
“Winning the lawsuit means we win the ability to negotiate and develop a plan…it is a separation of powers case that requires the branches to cooperate.”
Vos wants Evers to bring in experts whom Republican legislators have talked to about the pandemic’s effect.
“This is again where I want to bring in the experts. I listen to the restaurant association and tavern league. They have very good ideas to put on the table. The Governor hasn’t talked with them,” said Vos.
“(Lincoln) brought together a team of rivals. He took his political opponents and brought them into a war cabinet because the goal is to win the war, not to beat each other…that is not happening in our current system.”
Slightly more than two weeks ago, Evers says he tried to negotiate an agreement on changing the methods of voting for the April presidential primary and local general election to a mostly mail-oriented vote, but was unsuccessful – leading to the Governor trying an executive order to delay the election. A lawsuit led by Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald led to a near-immediate Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that struck down the order.
That led to thousands of voters, some who were suddenly unable to submit absentee ballots, having to vote in-person while attempting to safeguard themselves from the spread of coronavirus.