- After Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D) extended the state’s stay-at-home order until May 26, the state legislature issued a legal challenge against that extension.
- On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with the legislature, ending the order immediately.
- Many businesses, such as bars, later reopened the same night and saw crowds of people packing into small spaces without masks.
- This is the second time the Republican-controlled state legislature has used the Supreme Court to strike down Evers’ coronavirus-related orders.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down Stay-At-Home Order
People in Wisconsin flocked to bars Wednesday night, many of them crowding into small spaces while leaving their masks at home.
The sudden pilgrimage to bars began almost immediately after the state’s Supreme Court struck down Governor Tony Evers’ (D) stay-at-home order.
Last month, Evers’ administration extended the state’s stay-at-home order from April 24 to May 26. Shortly after that, the state’s legislature brought forth a legal challenge against the state’s health secretary, Andrea Palm.
In that lawsuit, lawmakers argued that such long-term decisions on citizens’ lives should be decided by the legislature—not just Evers’ administration.
In court, an attorney for Evers’ administration argued that state law gives the Wisconsin health department the authority “to do whatever is necessary to combat a novel, deadly, communicable disease like the one we’re facing today.”
Right away, though, the situation wasn’t looking good for Evers’ or his administration. The seven-member Court is made up of five conservative and two liberal justices. On top of that, the legislature that brought the lawsuit is Republican-controlled.
In hearings last week, conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley compared Evers’ orders to Korematsu v. United States, a controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision during World War II to uphold Japanese internment camps.
“I’ll direct your attention to another time in history in the Korematsu decision, where the Court said the need for action was great, and time was short, and that justified—and I’m quoting ‘assembling together and placing under guard all those of Japanese ancestry in assembly centers during World War Two,” she said
Could the secretary, under this broad delegation of legislative power or legislative-like power order people out of their homes into centers where they are properly socially distanced in order to combat the pandemic?” she asked.
Even though the Court ultimately sided with the legislature, the decision was narrow with a 4-3 vote. That was because one of the court’s conservative judges broke to dissent with the majority opinion.
The Court’s justices wrote in the majority opinion that “in the case of a pandemic, which lasts month after month, the Governor cannot rely on emergency powers indefinitely.”
Still, the Court noted that it wasn’t challenging the governor’s power to actually declare emergencies.
In their dissent, Justice Rebecca Dallet said, “This decision will undoubtedly go down as one of the most blatant examples of judicial activism in this court’s history. And it will be Wisconsinites who pay the price.”
Notably, the Republican-controlled legislature asked the Court for a six-day hold on its decision so they could negotiate stay-at-home orders with Evers, but the court shot that request down, reopening the state immediately.
Bars Reopen to Crowds
To be clear, the Court’s decision only affects Evers’ executive order. Local municipalities can still issue their own stay-at-home orders.
In fact, at least five cities and counties have now announced they’ll be extending their stay-at-home orders, most of them until May 26th. That includes Brown, Dane, Racine, Milwaukee, and Kenosha counties.
Many more cities and counties, however, are now free of stay-at-home orders. Because of that, many businesses started to reopen almost immediately after the decision was announced.
Much of the coverage around reopened businesses seemed to culminate with bars, as many customers could be seen packing into small spaces. In these photos, masks are rarely or nowhere to be seen.
Bar owner Chad Ardnt told WISN that while he respects people’s decision if they don’t want to come back yet, he also said he decided to reopen because he hadn’t been able to pay his employees for two months.
In a separate interview, bar-goer Gary Bertram told WISN that it should be people’s choice where they want to wear a mask or socially distance.
“If people have an issue with social distancing, they should be able to be, you know, they can stay separate or stay home,” Bertram said.
That logic goes against warnings from the majority of health experts who have noted that the spread of the coronavirus isn’t really that simple. That’s because the people who are going out to bars are also likely going to the grocery store and seeing family. They can then unintentionally spread the virus to people at those places even if other people are social distancing and only going out when necessary.
Evers Blasts the Court’s Decision
As people flocked to those bars, Evers blasted the Supreme Court decision on MSNBC Wednesday night while speaking to Ali Velshi.
“Unfortunately, in this one fell swoop, four judges who didn’t really care what the statues talk about have thrown our state into chaos,” Evers said.
“We’re in the wild West, Ali,” he later added.
Taking a different tone, Wisconsin’s Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) said in a joint statement that they urged the Evers administration to begin working with Republicans to begin drafting guidance in case the state sees a surge of COVID-19 cases.
“Wisconsin now joins multiple states that don’t have extensive ‘stay at home orders’ but can continue to follow good practices of social distancing, hand washing, hand sanitizer usage and telecommuting,” they added. “This order does not promote people to act in a way that they believe endangers their health.
President Donald Trump backed the Court’s decision Thursday morning, saying on Twitter that Wisconsin “was just given another win.”
“Its Democrat Governor was forced by the courts to let the State Open,” he said. “The people want to get on with their lives. The place is bustling!”
The Court’s decision highlights the current relationship between Evers’ administration and the legislature, which has been described as “bitterly divided.”
The legislature previously sued Evers for trying to delay the state’s April 13 primary, and like the decision being seen now, the Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with the legislature.
Before Evers took office in 2019, the legislature voted to strip power from the governor’s seat following his election win.
See what others are saying: (WISN) (The Washington Post) (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
After Uvalde, Politicians, Public Figures, Gun Violence Survivors, and More Call For Change
“When are we going to do something?” Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr asked during an emotional plea at a press conference.
Uvalde Shooting Kills 21 People
Democratic politicians, activists, and many others are calling for gun reform in the United States after 19 children and two teachers were killed in a Tuesday shooting at Robb Hill Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
The 18-year-old suspected gunman was reportedly killed by officers. The massacre marks the 27th school shooting of 2022, according to Education Week.
It also comes just a week and a half after 10 people were killed in a shooting in Buffalo, New York, and another shooting in a Southern California church left one person dead and several others injured.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Ct.) spoke fervently on the Senate floor Tuesday, slamming his colleagues for refusing to pass gun control legislation that could prevent future shootings.
“What are we doing?” he asked of his fellow lawmakers. “Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate? Why do you through all the hassle of getting this job, of putting yourself in a position of authority, if your answer is, as the slaughter increases, as kids run for their lives, we do nothing? What are we doing?
“Why are you here if not to solve a problem as existential as this?” he continued. “This isn’t inevitable. These kids weren’t unlucky. This only happens in this country.”
“And it is a choice. It is our choice.”
President Joe Biden likewise urged action by supporting the now-expired assault weapons ban.
“We can do more. We must do more,” he added.
Public Figures And Shooting Survivors Speak Out
The demands for change spread far past political figures. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr took time out of a pre-game press conference to passionately plead for common-sense gun control. He specifically called on Senators to vote on H.R. 8, a background check bill previously passed in the House.
“When are we going to do something?” Kerr asked while slamming his hands on the table.
“I ask you, Mitch McConnell, I ask all of you senators who refuse to do anything about the violence and school shootings and supermarket shootings. I ask you: Are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of our children and our elderly and our churchgoers?” Kerr continued. “Because that’s what it looks like.”
He went on to say that Americans, who largely support background checks, are “being held hostage by 50 Senators who refuse to even put it to a vote.”
Grammy Award-winning musician Taylor Swift shared his message, adding that she is filled with “rage and grief” not just from the shootings, but by “the ways in which we, as a nation, have become conditioned to unfathomable and unbearable heartbreak.”
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” tweeted David Hogg, an activist and survivor of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. “The way we will make this time different is by Americans on both sides of the aisle collaborating on what we can agree on to get something done even if small. Kids are dying we have to do something.”
Manuel Oliver, the father of one of the children lost in the Parkland shooting, slammed the inaction of politicians in an interview on CBS News.
“The families don’t need your freaking hearts,” Oliver said. “They need their kids, and the kids are not there anymore. So I feel very angry and offended and I just don’t understand how come a whole society doesn’t wake up.”
People impacted by the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting also spoke out, including Mary Ann Jacob, who worked as a librarian at the school during the shooting.
“I’m so sorry those deaths did not change our world,” Jacob wrote.
Texas-based figures felt especially compelled to stand up as the tragedy hit so close to home. Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, whose hometown is Uvalde, wrote a message on social media asking Americans to “take a longer and deeper look in the mirror and ask ourselves, ‘What is it that we truly value?’”
“We have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us,” McConaughey wrote.
“Action must be taken so that no parent has to experience what the parents in Uvalde and the others before them have endured.”
Fellow Texas native Selena Gomez also took to social media to argue for action.
“If children aren’t safe at school where are they safe? It’s so frustrating and I’m not sure what to say anymore,” the “Only Murders in the Building” star wrote on her Instagram story. “Those in power need to stop giving lip service and actually change the laws to prevent these shootings in the future.”
We make it a point to not include the names and pictures of those who may have been seeking attention or infamy and will not link out to websites that might contain such information.
Lawmakers Call For Action as Oil Companies Post Record Profits Amid Rising Gas Prices
A recent analysis from the Center for American Progress found that the top five oil companies earned over 300% more in profits during the first quarter of 2022 than the same period last year.
As Consumer Prices Climb, Big Oil Profits
American oil companies are facing increased scrutiny over profiteering practices as gas prices continue to surpass record highs driven by Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
Last week, costs surged to above $4 per gallon in all 50 states for the first time ever, according to the auto club AAA. Prices are currently averaging over $4.59 per gallon nationwide, which is 50% higher than they were this time last year.
In addition to consumers hurting at the pump, there are also rising concerns for industries that rely on fuel and oil like trucking, freight, airlines, and plastic manufacturers.
To account for high prices, some in sectors have responded by ramping up prices further down the supply chain to account for costs, putting even more of a burden on consumers to pay for everyday items.
But as Americans struggle with sky-high gas prices at a time of record inflation, recently released earnings reports show that many of the world’s largest oil companies thrived in the first quarter of 2022.
ExxonMobil more than doubled its earnings from the same period last year, reporting a net profit of $5.5 billion. Meanwhile, Chevron logged its best quarterly earnings in almost a decade, and Shell had its highest earnings ever.
According to a new analysis conducted by the Center for American Progress, the top five oil companies — including the three mentioned above — earned over 300% more in profits this quarter than during the same time last year.
“In fact, these five companies’ first-quarter profits alone are equivalent to almost 28 percent of what Americans spent to fill up their gas tanks in the same time period,” the report noted.
Per Insider, for at least four of those companies, that growth marks a tremendous increase in profits from even before the pandemic.
Lawmakers Ramp-Up Efforts to Reduce Prices
To address these startling disparities, federal lawmakers have moved in recent weeks to increase pressure on oil companies and take steps to lower prices.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill proposed by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Ca.) that aims to reduce gas prices. The legislation, called The Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, would give the president the authority to issue an Energy Emergency Declaration that would be effective for up to 30 days with the possibility of being renewed.
In that emergency period, it would be illegal for anyone to increase gas or home energy fuel prices to a level that is exploitative or “unconscionably excessive.”
The proposal would also give the Federal Trade Commission the power to investigate and manage instances of price gouging from larger companies and give state authorities the ability to enforce price-gouging violations in civil courts.
The bill, which has already seen widespread opposition from Republicans and extensive lobbying from pro-oil interest groups, faces an uphill battle in the 50-50 split Senate.
During debate on the act Thursday, Rep. Porter delivered an impassioned speech accusing oil companies of driving their record profits by using their market power to unfairly increase prices.
“The oil and gas industry currently has more than 9,000 permits to drill for oil on federal land, but they are deliberately keeping production low to please their investors and increase their short-term profits,” she said. “Even when the price of crude oil falls, oil and gas companies have refused to pass those savings on to consumers.”
“Let me be clear: price gouging is anti-capitalist,” Porter continued. “It exploits a lack of competition, which is a hallmark of capitalism. It is an effort to juice corporate profits at the expense of customers. Energy markets are reeling because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Big oil companies, however, are using this temporary chaos to cover up their abuse.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Vox) (NPR)
Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.
One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down
After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.
The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.
Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.
A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.
The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.
In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.
The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.
A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.
Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye
“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.
Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.
Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.
“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.
When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.
“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”
On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.
On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.