MADISON, Wisconsin — For the second time this year, Democrat Gov. Tony Evers has vetoed a ban on closing churches due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a prohibition on mandatory COVID vaccines. Both measures had been approved twice by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature.
Assembly Bill 24, which passed the Assembly and Senate in March and mid-April, would have banned the state Department of Health Services from closing churches or preventing religious gatherings in an effort to control the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Evers vetoed a similar provision in late January.
Evers told legislators the bill would limit tools available to fight COVID. “…Our response to this pandemic should be about following the science and public health experts, not finding ways to make it harder to fight it,” he said. “It should be about working together to save as many lives as we can.”
The governor also vetoed Assembly Bill 23, which would have banned governments and employers from requiring individuals receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Evers used the identical language in his veto message as that used for AB-24. He vetoed a similar measure in January.
“Assembly Bills 23 and 24 were advanced by two legislative committees and passed two houses of the Legislature with bipartisan support,” said Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, a Republican from Fond du Lac who was primary author of both measures. “These bills stand up for individual freedoms and choice. It is alarming that Governor Evers has chosen to place constitutional freedoms behind his own authority.”
“Government exists to protect your individual liberties,” Thiesfeldt said. “With his vetoes of these bipartisan bills today, Governor Evers has again made it clear that he has no interest in working with the Legislature, and that his judgments on your healthcare, and worship practices supersede yours. I am quite certain history will be on the side of liberty.”
Wisconsin Republicans have been at war with Evers over what they consider to be his heavy-handed approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. In January, the Legislature voted to end Evers emergency declaration on COVID, but the governor simply issued another order hours later. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has since issued two rulings against the governor, killing his statewide mask mandate, eliminating his repeated use of emergency declarations and ruling he exceeded his authority by issuing regulations to control the size of public gatherings and declare which businesses are considered “essential” during the pandemic.
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