Last May, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the governor’s lockdown restrictions because he had exceeded his authority. They ordered him to go through the legislature to fashion pandemic policies.
But Evers decided he didn’t have to obey.
The Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules on Monday voted 6-4 on party lines to require the Evers administration to submit such rules within 30 days. The Republicans could then block the rules, getting rid of the limits as soon as Nov. 11.
But Evers said Tuesday in a media briefing he would not do so because he contends the order is legal as it stands. His chief legal counsel said the committee vote was a “pointless exercise to make a political point.”
The latest controversy erupted when Evers issued draconian limits for bars and restaurants to reopen. If followed, thousands of small establishments would likely go under.
So the Wisconsin Tavern Association sued the governor for not getting the approval of the rules committee to make such a drastic requirement.
The order requires bars and restaurants to operate at 25 percent capacity. Small tavern owners who have no official seating capacity are limited to allowing 10 people at a time into their businesses. Clearly, everyone would be losing money and many would go under.
The suit includes Flambeau Forest Inn as a plaintiff:
“If Flambeau were forced to operate at a 10-person capacity, it could only include five customers onsite with the five staff normally required to operate the bar and restaurant,” according to the lawsuit.
“This would be approximately 5% of Flambeau’s normal seating capacity. Flambeau could not operate profitably under these conditions and would be forced to discontinue its business operations.”
First, Evers should follow the law. Worrying about the partisan nature of the rules committee is immaterial to what the Supreme Court of Wisconsin has ruled.
Secondly, at what point does “protecting” people actually do more damage than the coronavirus? We are six months into Lockdown America and despite trillions of dollars given by Congress to individuals and businesses, the lockdowns continue and are even made more severe.
No one knows how permanent the damage done by these policies will be. It’s a certainty that small businesses in America will never be the same. For political party that decries Darwinian capitalism as inhumane, that’s what they’re forcing on us with these policies. It’s “survival of the fittest” and the rest can go hang.
Kristine Hellmer, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, said last week the order could lead to half of the state’s restaurants to close.
“Before this order, 37% of restaurants were indicating they would be going out of business without any further federal dollars – and those restaurants were, for the most part at 50% or more capacity,” she said. “Dropping their capacity to 25% is devastating and they cannot hold on much longer.”
Evers believes that the legislature should legalize drinks to-go as a way that tavern owners can survive. That would defeat the entire purpose of these tiny neighborhood watering holes, which is to create a comfortable space for friends to gather.
There’s no evidence that Wisconsin’s current spike in infections and deaths is due to people going to bars and restaurants. Some are pointing to the reopening of colleges for the increase. Regardless, it’s not likely that limiting capacity in a way that will cripple the tavern industry will help bring down the infection rate.