by Senator Howard Marklein
March 27, 2020
I am amazed by the use of technology as we work through the COVID-19 pandemic. Children are learning remotely, businesses are connecting via video conferences and our government is continuing to respond and function using conference calling, webinars and more! I spent more than four hours on the phone yesterday connecting with my colleagues and team! In fact, the State Senate is working to set up a way to hold a virtual session so that we can meet if necessary before the pandemic allows us to gather in person. We are blessed to have these tools.
Throughout the last week, several new Executive Orders were issued by Governor Tony Evers and Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm, including the Safer At Home order that has shaken many of our communities. To read all of the orders, please click on the following links:
Executive Order 1 - School Closings
Executive Order 2 - Department of Transportation (DOT) - Permits, Weights, Hours
Executive Order 3 - Department of Children & Families (DCF) - Rule Suspensions
Executive Order 4 - Mass Gatherings of 50 people
Executive Order 5 - Mass Gatherings of 10 people
Executive Order 6 - Child Care
Executive Order 7 - Department of Workforce Development (DWD) - Unemployment
Executive Order 8 – Updated Mass Gathering Ban
Executive Order 9 – Department of Corrections
Executive Order 10 – Dept of Public Instruction (DPI) Admin. Rule Suspension and Emergency Orders
Executive Order 11 – Public Service Commission (PSC) Administrative Rule Suspensions
Executive Order 12 – Safer at Home Order
I appreciate the difficult decisions being made by Governor Evers and his team in the Executive Branch of Wisconsin’s government. However, Executive Order #12, also known as the “Safer At Home” order has caused significant confusion and uncertainty for the people, communities and businesses I represent in the 17th Senate District.
Many of my constituents are worried and afraid. They are worried about their small businesses and the people they employ. They are worried about having and keeping a job and a paycheck coming in for their family. They are scared of the potential financial and personal losses they and their teams will suffer. They are confused by the myriad of Executive Orders, rumors and poor communication from the Governor’s office and state agencies.
The 16-page order said that all nonessential activity is prohibited, however the exemptions are broad and subjective. Furthermore, enforcement has been delegated to local law enforcement, which in our communities pits neighbor against neighbor.
I believe that the residents of the 17th Senate District are already taking great care to limit their interaction with each other, stop the spread of the virus and only do the things that are necessary to do. The “Safer At Home” order will not change many behaviors in the communities I represent because the people of the 17th Senate District are already diligent and focused on the essentials of daily living.
I am also very concerned about the timeframe enacted by this order. We are told that this order is in effect until April 24, 2020 – a full month from now. I have not been informed of any data that supports limited activities and interactions for more than a month of time. I have requested the exact modeling data that is being utilized to make these decisions. I believe our people will take precautions, but they must be assured that there is a reason for taking them
Legislative Action - The legislature is anxiously waiting for the Federal government to approve a stimulus package. We need to know what the Federal government is planning to do before the state legislature can take action. We are hearing about possible stimulus checks being sent to individuals, additions to unemployment, extending deadlines for taxes and payments and more. These details are essential before we do anything in Wisconsin. We are reviewing the administrations requests and discussing ideas among ourselves, but we need the full picture. Stay tuned.
Advice for Citizens - My best advice for individuals at this time is to take precautions to take care of your health and wellbeing. Practice good hygiene and maintain reasonable distance from others. Limit the number of people you regularly interact with and respect the order to keep your travel and exposure to essential activities. Now is not the time to host a party.
If you have been laid-off or are not working, please consider filing for unemployment compensation. If you are not comfortable with seeking unemployment compensation, consider checking with your local grocery store, convenience store or other businesses that continues to operate. There are many businesses that are desperate for workers because things have changed. These jobs may just be temporary, but they may keep a paycheck coming in.
Advice for Businesses - For businesses, if you are having difficulty or are uncertain about what to do next, please reach out to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). According to the Governor, WEDC will be providing support, information and connections to financial and other resources for businesses of all sizes. They will also be the conduit for Federal funds once the stimulus is approved.
April 7, 2020 Election - In the meantime, I encourage everyone to take proactive steps to limit exposure. I also encourage everyone to participate in the April 7, 2020 election by voting early at your clerk’s office or requesting an absentee ballot. If you have difficulty finding someone to witness your ballot, call my office and we will either witness it for you at your home or find someone in your community to witness the ballot for you. I have already voted via absentee ballot.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) decided to continue the election as planned because there are a lot of operational functions that depend on the election happening on this date. As of 7:30 a.m. on March 27, 2020, 767,196 absentee ballots have been requested in Wisconsin with 199,274 already returned, including mine. You can see daily tallies on the WEC website: https://elections.wi.gov
If we look at historical data, the last election that had one contested Presidential primary was in 2012. Statewide, 1,144,351 total votes were cast. Therefore, 67% of expected voters have already requested their absentee ballots!
The deadline to register to vote was extended to March 30, 2020. Learn more here: https://elections.wi.gov/node/6774 You can request an absentee ballot through April 2, 2020. Learn more here: https://elections.wi.gov/voters/absentee
Fill-In-The-Gaps - If you are healthy and at low-risk, I encourage you to fill-in-the-gaps in your community. Many of our older, retired citizens perform a lot of essential, important work such as Meals on Wheels, working the polls, donating blood, dropping off groceries for neighbors and more. These people are at higher-risk and have temporarily withdrawn from many of these volunteer jobs. Where can you fill in? Call your municipal clerk to volunteer at the polls. Check with the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) to see if they have any gaps. Call your church and ask your pastor when you can chip-in your time or talent. Call your active neighbor who always seems to be off doing something and see where you can help. These are rare times and we need to pull together. What will you do?
As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance. My team is working remotely but continues to be available to serve you. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 608-266-0703. Leave a message and a member of my team will follow-up with you.