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UPDATE: Wisconsin businesses can reopen now, Supreme Court says

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story inaccurately stated the Supreme Court had issued a six-day stay, lifting the extension on May 20. We regret the error and have corrected the information. 

By Brandi Makuski

Wisconsin can reopen for business effective immediately.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday announced it had ruled that Dept. of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm exceeded her authority by extending Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order for another month.

Evers’ order, which was issued in March, closed schools and nonessential businesses and kept many residents at home, arguing it was a necessary move to slow the spread of COVID-19. The order was scheduled to lift on April 24, until Palm, an unconfirmed Evers appointee, extended it to May 26.

The state Legislature filed the lawsuit in April, arguing the order would cause economic fallout. Palm’s rule was an administrative one, GOP Legislators argued, which required legislative approval prior to implementation.

The Supreme Court agreed, voting 4-3 in favor of striking down the order. Following a failed vote on a proposed six-day stay, the extension has been lifted immediately, according to the ruling.

“Isn’t it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to be imprisoned for going to work among other ordinarily lawful activities?” asked Justice Rebecca Bradley during oral arguments last week.

Assistant Attorney General Colin Roth said he understood why Bradley had concerns about that, but added, “For over a century courts have recognized in the context of infectious diseases, it is practically impossible for the Legislature to predict exactly what is necessary.”

State Senator Patrick Testin, who lives in Hull, said Wednesday night he’s still going through the 161-page ruling, but said, “From what I understand, the court ruling makes the say extension null and void,” adding Palm’s extension didn’t follow the state’s procedural and judicial safeguards.

Testin said he would have a more thorough statement on Thursday.

Sheriff Mike Lukas Wednesday night said he’s been “bombarded” with phone calls from various entities seeking guidance on the ruling, but he was awaiting clarification from state government on Thursday.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes took to social media shortly after the 4-3 decision on May 13, saying he was “disappointed but not surprised.”