The Republican-controlled Legislature in Wisconsin on Thursday repealed a mask mandate and emergency order issued by the state’s Democratic governor – only to see him declare new orders an hour later, according to reports.
State lawmakers had taken action after deciding Gov. Tony Evers lacked authority to issue his coronavirus-related decrees, FOX 6 of Milwaukee reported.
But Evers countered that protecting Wisconsin residents from the coronavirus was his top priority – and he defended mask-wearing as a key step to achieve that goal.
In a video statement, he accused Republicans of “playing politics” in the middle of the pandemic.
“If the Legislature keeps playing politics and we don’t keep wearing masks, we’re going to see more preventable deaths, and it’s going to take even longer to get our state and our economy back on track,” Evers said.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is seen at the Statehouse in Madison on Dec. 14, 2020 (Getty Images)
Many municipalities and counties enacted or extended their own rules in response to the Legislature’s repeal, The Associated Press reported.
Before Thursday’s vote, Assembly Republicans said they would support a limited mask mandate that would apply to risky public settings, FOX 6 reported. They listed such places as health care facilities, public transit, public schools and prisons.
Republican state Sen. Steve Nass accused Evers of being a “lawless governor” who was overstepping his authority by calling for more restrictive rules, according to the AP.
Meanwhile, medical personnel, educators, churches and many other groups in the state have been siding with Evers in calling for more caution, The Associated Press reported.
Some Republicans responded by saying the governor’s use of authority was the primary issue they wanted to address.
“I know you want to make it about masks. It’s not,” Republican Majority Leader Jim Steineke told the AP. “It’s about the rule of law.”
Thursday’s Assembly vote was 52-42 to repeal the mandate, coming a week after the state Senate voted to do the same.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.