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Lawsuit challenges Gov. Evers COVID-19 order, mask mandate

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Gov. Tony Evers wears a mask during a media briefing.

MADISON (WKOW) -- A conservative law firm is challenging Gov. Tony Evers emergency declaration issued in July requiring Wisconsinites to wear masks indoors, stating the governor overstepped his emergency powers.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed a lawsuit on behalf of Wisconsin residents and taxpayers claiming Evers violated state law by declaring a second public health emergency on July 30.

WILL's challenge claims state law "forbids a governor from unilaterally extending a public health emergency beyond 60 days or skirting the law by declaring multiple 60-day emergencies for the same crisis."

Rick Esenberg, president of WILL, said this action is not about people being required to wear masks or debating if they are good policy but said instead about "the rule of law."

"Governor Evers cannot seize these time-limited emergency powers more than once without legislative approval," said Esenberg.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty says if the governor wanted to issue a mask order, he should have done so through the legislature. Evers declared a second public health emergency in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19 after his first one expired in May.

The lawsuit argues the governor doesn't have the power to issue another health emergency to address the same concept, the pandemic, without lawmakers’ approval.

"Republicans and their allies have tried at every turn to prevent the governor from keeping Wisconsinites healthy and safe," a spokesperson for the governor said. "From safer at home to the April election and now masks, they’ve filed more lawsuits than they have passed bills during this pandemic."

This challenge comes after multiple calls by Republicans in the State Senate to convene to vote down Evers order. In order to do that, Assembly Republicans would also need to be on board, but after gaging their caucus it seemed they didn't have enough votes to pass a resolution to revoke the order.

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Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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