The announcement late Wednesday afternoon, May 13, that the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against the state’s extended Safer at Home order set off a flurry of reactions locally and nationally.
Within hours of the ruling — and despite initial confusion over a comment about a six-day hold on enforcing the court’s order by Chief Justice Patience Roggensack — some bars in the Badger State reopened for business.
The Tavern League of Wisconsin, a trade organization representing bars in the state, was quick to tell its members about the Supreme Court’s decision and that it was OK to open up — while following published safety precautions.
The organization posted this message on Twitter shortly after 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
In a 4-3 ruling the State Supreme Court found the Emergency Orders issued by Secretary Palm as unlawful, invalid and unenforceable. The result of this decision is business can open immediately. Please follow the WEDC guidelines you can find on the TLW website.
In a 4-3 ruling the State Supreme Court found the Emergency Orders issued by Secretary Palm as unlawful, invalid and unenforceable. The result of this decision is business can open immediately. Please follow the WEDC guidelines you can find on the TLW website.— Tavern League of Wisconsin (@tavernleaguewi) May 13, 2020
Some bars to the north in Superior opened up Wednesday night, as did JJ’s Outpost Bar and Grill in New Richmond.
“Party is just starting. Thank you for all your support the past few weeks. Now we are open to serve you!” the bar posted on Facebook.
Nearby Huey’s Bar announced it would open Thursday, May 14, to allow time for staff to prepare and take safety precautions.
Mel's Mid-Towner Sports Bar and Patio in River Falls stayed closed awaiting further information from state and city officials.
Russ Korpela, executive director of River Falls Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, said the chamber would monitor the situation in Madison and at home.
“Please be aware that local governments and public health authorities can issue their own orders and several had already done so across the State,” he wrote in a statement Thursday morning. “We will keep you advised should there be any developments.”
Several labor unions and other organizations had previously filed an official comment with the state’s high court supporting the extended Safer at Home order. On Wednesday, Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Stephanie Bloomingdale had this to say about the decision:
“This cynical lawsuit brought by Wisconsin legislative Republican leadership was never about policy responses to a pandemic. It was all about taking away authority from our duly elected Governor Evers. What a shame, again, for our great state to have politicians playing partisan games at the expense of regular people.
“The reopening of Wisconsin’s economy must be grounded and centered on protecting worker health and safety. If workers aren’t safe, the public isn’t safe. Right now, far too many essential workers are working without adequate personal protective equipment; their workplaces are not sufficiently cleaned and sanitized; and recommended social distancing is not universally practiced. We’ve seen the result—many workers have contracted the virus while at work and a growing number have died. Workers are not expendable.”
Read the rest of her statement here.
The Republican-controlled Legislature filed the lawsuit against Gov. Tony Evers’ administration, specifically naming Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm, who signed the extended order last month.
Reactions from lawmakers to the state Supreme Court’s decision fell along party lines.
Evers, a Democrat, expressed disappointment in the ruling while also calling on lawmakers to come up with a replacement plan to Safer at Home.
Up to now, we were in a pretty good place in our battle against #COVID19. We had reached almost all our gating criteria. We had opened up small businesses across the state, putting folks back to work, and that was because of the good work of Wisconsinites across our state.— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) May 14, 2020
The area’s two state senators, both Democrats, responded to the ruling Wednesday night.
Sen. Patty Schachtner, D-Somerset, who represents parts of St. Croix and Pierce counties, including New Richmond, Hudson and River Falls, called on legislative leaders to present a replacement for Safer at Home.
“Safer at Home was working and because this order was in place we were able to keep our rate of positive cases and deaths lower than they would have been.
"I look forward to hearing the plan from Legislative leadership to implement a new policy as soon as possible. We can’t risk undoing all the effort that Wisconsinites have put in for weeks to keep their communities safe. I am also hopeful that any votes we take will include the programs that we have been urging action on for weeks: like providing emergency support to food banks and local governments, and expanding programs to keep small businesses and farmers afloat.
"We have a responsibility to our communities to take this virus seriously and ensure that we do our part as elected leaders to reduce the risk of a more severe outbreak in the coming weeks.”
Sen. Jeff Smith, D-Brunswick, who represents a small portion of St. Croix County and parts of Pierce County including Prescott and Ellsworth, in a statement Wednesday said the court’s decision could undo work to curb the pandemic.
“I’m incredibly disappointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision to lift the Safer at Home order prematurely, despite the opposing demands from medical professionals and public health experts. This Supreme Court’s decision jeopardizes all the progress we’ve made to stop COVID-19 in Wisconsin.
“It’s unfortunate that Republicans brought this lawsuit to the Supreme Court, hoping for the Safer at Home order to be dismantled, despite not having a legitimate plan in place to keep Wisconsinites safe. Lifting the Safer at Home order, before meeting the metrics established by the Governor and the President, risks more long-term and severe economic impacts and more lives lost. Republicans are gambling with people’s lives purely for political purposes.
“We must listen to the medical professionals, not the politicians, to get through this safely with less people unemployed and less families coping with the loss of life from COVID-19. Although the order was struck down today, I’m confident if we all work together, we can find a way to progress forward again.”
Rep. Warren Petryk, R-Town of Washington, who represents parts of Pierce County including Ellsworth and Prescott, issued this statement Wednesday:
“All of us agree that everyone of us wants safety and good health for themselves, their loved ones, their friends, and their communities. Wisconsin's people must be able to have opportunities to become and stay healthy, not only physically, but also financially, mentally, and spiritually as well. This cannot happen if people feel their voice isn't being heard through their elected representatives.
“Today's Wisconsin Supreme Court decision confirms what is enshrined in our constitution and in our laws, that the people must have representation in these life and culture changing decisions. Our battle against COVID-19 requires an all-hands-on-deck approach of public input, expert testimony, and proven data-gathering methodology. I look forward to working with everyone, including our medical, business, and local government stakeholders on our next steps.”
State legislative leaders Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, in a joint statement Wednesday said Wisconsinites are ready to resume activities while continuing to practice social distancing and good hygiene.
“Wisconsin now joins multiple states that don't have extensive ‘stay at home orders’ but can continue to follow good practices of social distancing, hand washing, hand sanitizer usage and telecommuting. This order does not promote people to act in a way that they believe endangers their health.
“We would urge the Evers administration to work with us to begin promulgating rules that would provide clear guidance in case COVID-19 reoccurs in a more aggressive way."
President Donald Trump took to Twitter to call the court’s ruling “another win” for Wisconsin, coming on the heels of Republican Tom Tiffany winning a special election Tuesday night in the 7th Congressional District.
The Great State of Wisconsin, home to Tom Tiffany’s big Congressional Victory on Tuesday, was just given another win. Its Democrat Governor was forced by the courts to let the State Open. The people want to get on with their lives. The place is bustling!
The Great State of Wisconsin, home to Tom Tiffany’s big Congressional Victory on Tuesday, was just given another win. Its Democrat Governor was forced by the courts to let the State Open. The people want to get on with their lives. The place is bustling!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2020