Local governments plan for all possible outcomes of Wis. Supreme Court ruling on Safer at Home order

Published: May. 6, 2020 at 6:53 PM CDT
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As of Wednesday evening, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has yet to make a decision in the case against the Department of Health Services. In the meantime, local governments around the state are planning for every possible outcome.

The court has to determine whether the secretary-designee violated the law with the Safer at Home order extension, and even if she did not, did the Department of Health Services go beyond its authority by closing all non-essential businesses, ordering people to stay home, and banning non-essential travel.

Should the court side with the legislature and agree the order was invalid, the legislature asked the court to keep the order in place for six days while it and DHS work on a new plan together.

"Why would we let an unlawful order continue in place," Justice Rebecca Bradley asked the attorney for the legislature, Ryan Walsh during the hearing Tuesday.

The primary reason would be so the state does not go without a pandemic plan in place during that period. Several local government leaders who talked with NewsChannel 7 said they do not believe the state will end up having no plan, but it is one of many possibilities they are planning to handle.

"If it is overturned, we would ask that people at least not jump out and start doing everything as normal because we're still in the middle of a pandemic," Mayor Mike Wiza of Stevens Point said. "We don't want to infringe upon anybody's rights, but of course, we want to make sure that our community is safe."

Wiza said in that scenario, they, as a city, would look at possible plans, but keep the Badger Bounce Back plan in place in the meantime until the state comes up with a new plan. The city's plan would be enforcible locally, though he said the police department has not issued citations or made arrests as part of the Safer at Home order, and it does not want to, he said.

If the court sides with DHS, the status quo remains and Wiza said the city will try to get resources to businesses and community members as best they can.

Associations for local health departments, municipalities, and counties

with the court stating their position on the case and arguments. It urged the court that a statewide plan implemented in the same way throughout the whole state not only will ensure everyone is on the same page, but that those who live in more restricted areas do not travel to those with fewer restriction and spread the virus.

Wiza agreed that the plan should be handled by the state and not individual counties and municipalities, but as a smaller city in a rural county, he said he is in favor of a more regional statewide plan like

suggested by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. Oneida County's board chair also agreed with a regional approach led by the state.