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 April 17, 2020


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Before I forget: if you haven't lately been to the Sheboygan County website where our local authorities are compiling resources, you ought to check out the new dashboard tool (pictured above).  Policymakers at all levels are starving for reliable data; our local health officials and providers are doing a fantastic job doing their part to deliver it.


My phone has been ringing off the hook.  My inbox is overflowing.  You're beyond frustrated with the Evers' administration's latest orders.  You're worried that, although your jobs and businesses could maybe almost sorta survive the past few weeks, they're not going to survive another month or more.  I hear you.  I'm listening.  I am receiving every one of your e-mails and phone messages (hundreds of them).  And I'm hustling to deliver the answers you are demanding and get us on a path to recovery instead of a path to irreparable economic harm.


COVID-19 is a serious and dangerous illness.  It disproportionately affects our most vulnerable family members and neighbors.  For weeks now, the people of Wisconsin have endured the most unusual and difficult government orders and have patiently done their part to help "flatten the curve," which has worked.  And, just as your doctor instructs you to keep taking your medicine for a while longer after you begin to feel better, I acknowledge that some difficult government orders may have to continue at some level for a while longer.


But we never agreed to let the medicine's side effects devastate our families.  We're getting better, but instead of prescribing that we'll be able to stop taking the medicine once we observe a certain level of improvement, the governor has said only that more medicine is required for at least another month, maybe more.  The governor has provided no metrics, no measurable goals and no path for reopening.  In fact, the date he set is a lot farther away than in any of our neighboring states.


We can't just keep repeatedly extending the date in the hopes that some new knowledge may appear.  Assembly Republicans published our first response late yesterday, which you may read in its entirety here.  As it stated, we are discussing legal and legislative options aimed not at pointing fingers but rather at charting a wiser path forward that acknowledges both the seriousness of a no-kiddin' global pandemic but also the no-kiddin' economic catastrophe at our doorstep.


This is a more complicated conversation even than it appears.  According to our nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau, the Evers administration has pointed to two different state laws as the source of their authority to issue the emergency orders.  The report explains that some of the orders have been issued under the governor's authority found in Wis. Stat. Ch. 323; this subset of orders can last for only 60 days at a time.  However, a different state law, Ch. 252, gives the Department of Health Services the authority to "implement all emergency measures necessary" to control communicable disease.  Unlike Ch. 323, this law does not clearly specify a time limit or whether there must be a declared emergency as a precondition.  The "Safer at Home" order cites this second law, not Ch. 323, as the authority under which it is issued.  And so it is not immediately obvious whether the administration's statutory authority to close schools and churches and businesses will expire in mid-May or not.  Nor is it obvious how the third branch of government, the judicial branch, would balance your Constitutional rights to assemble, to worship, to earn a living, etc. against the government's temporary orders aimed at controlling an outbreak of disease.  I promise: we're carefully considering the health factors and the economic factors and the legal factors as we contemplate what actions the legislature could take that will most likely set our state on a path to recovery.


Regardless of what the law permits the administration to do, the administration has prescribed that you go home, get plenty of rest and they'll see you again in five weeks.  I am concerned that this prescription is a pound of cure in search of an ounce of prevention, so to speak.  People are understandably afraid not only of the virus but also of losing their livelihood.  We have to begin the recovery process before the economic damage is too great to be undone. 


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Office of Representative Terry Katsma
State Capitol, Room 306 East
P.O. Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708

(608) 266-0656
Rep.Katsma@legis.wisconsin.gov |