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State Supreme Court Overturns The Stay-At-Home Order In Wisconsin

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Wisconsin's Supreme Court has overturned that state's stay-at-home order. Justices ruled the administration of Governor Tony Evers exceeded its authority when it tried to extend the order. With more on this, we're joined now by Shawn Johnson at Wisconsin Public Radio. Welcome.

SHAWN JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi.

CHANG: Hi. So first remind us - when was Wisconsin's stay-at-home order first issued, and does this ruling mean it's no longer in effect?

JOHNSON: Yeah. It means it is done. The order was issued in mid-March. Another order was issued about a month after that. It was scheduled to run until May 26. But even at that point, our governor, Tony Evers, who's a Democrat, had said that, you know, life wasn't going to just return to normal. It was going to be a gradual reopening when the state did reopen. What we have now is not that. The state Supreme Court has struck down our safer-at-home order, as it's called here. And so there is no statewide restriction in Wisconsin right now to combat the spread of COVID-19.

CHANG: Wow. OK. And I understand that today's decision came after a legal challenge to an extension of the original order, correct?

JOHNSON: That is correct, yeah. It was not identical but very close to the original order.

CHANG: OK.

JOHNSON: The governor's administration used powers they felt were granted to them under state law to deal with communicable diseases. The legislature, which is controlled by strong Republican majorities here and has regularly tussled with our governor, disagreed and said that they needed to have kind of an up or down vote on these rules before they go out to the public. And our court, which is officially nonpartisan but is controlled by a Republican - a conservative majority, sided with Republicans in this case in a 4-3 decision. And so that is kind of the law of the land in the state of Wisconsin right now in which you're already seeing our local counties starting to issue their own orders to deal with this.

CHANG: Interesting. Well, when the stay-at-home order first came down, how much did people in Wisconsin actually comply with it? Like, how popular was this order?

JOHNSON: There were a lot of exceptions to Wisconsin's order. I mean, you could go to a big box store to, you know, buy home goods. Grocery stores were open, as were many places in a lot of categories. And public support for the order was high. It's still high, although it has slipped among Republicans. And they control essentially two branches of our state government.

CHANG: All right. That is Shawn Johnson from Wisconsin Public Radio. Thank you, Sean.

JOHNSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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