Wisconsin Republicans file lawsuit challenging coronavirus shutdown order

FILE PHOTO: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers speaks at an election eve rally in Madison, Wisconsin, U.S. November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

(Reuters) – Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Democratic Governor Tony Evers, challenging his stay-at-home order to contain the coronavirus outbreak as states’ decisions on when to re-open their economies have become increasingly political.

The lawsuit asks the Wisconsin Supreme Court to issue a temporary injunction on the state’s order that was extended until May 26 by the secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services last week at the direction of the governor.

“There’s immense frustration regarding the extension, as it goes beyond the executive branch’s statutory powers. Wisconsinites are forced to sit by with no voice in the process,” State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a joint statement.

There have been 4,600 cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin and 242 deaths, state officials reported on Tuesday.

In the lawsuit, Republicans accuse the department’s secretary-designee, Andrea Palm, of overstepping her legal authority by issuing the extension, saying she “has laid claim to a suite of czar-like powers.”

Evers’ office and Palm’s office both did not respond to requests for comment.

The court challenge in Wisconsin comes a week after Democratic lawmakers in New Hampshire filed a lawsuit against the state’s Republican governor, Chris Sununu, hoping to force him to involve the legislature in deciding how to spend federal stimulus money, according to local media.

The reopening of state economies has become a political hot-button issue as the shutdowns hammer the U.S. economy. Protesters in Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere have demanded a rollback on orders that have closed businesses and other activities to fight the pandemic.

Governors in Georgia, South Carolina and other states are pushing ahead with plans to begin a partial restart of their economies despite warnings that loosening restrictions prematurely could lead to a fresh surge of coronavirus infections.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; editing by Grant McCool and Leslie Adler

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