After keeping businesses across the state biting their nails for over a week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court today (May 13) issued its 4-3 decision striking down Governor Evers’ stay at home order.  

The ruling concerned DHS Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm’s order, not Governor Evers’ original Safer-At-Home order. The majority opinion explains that Palm did not have the constitutional authority to execute that order nor the authority to assign civil and criminal penalties for violating the order. 

However, the state’s high court invalidating the order doesn’t mean every business can immediately return to normal. Businesses operating in counties or local municipalities with ongoing “at home” orders must remain closed. Madison and Dane County each have one currently in effect, and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has said his “Stay at Home” order remains in place. Other counties are expected to issue their own declarations, with some occurring tonight such as Vilas County, which permits all businesses to open tomorrow, May 14, if they choose. 

Additionally, the Court denied the Legislature’s request that the order remain in place for six days following the decision, saying the lawmakers have had time to produce replacement rules. 

It is important to note that since the Court did not strike down the portion of the order closing public and private K-12 schools for the remainder of the school year, many workers may have difficulties returning to work because of childcare constraints. 

What now? 

As described above, County officials could take matters into their own hands, creating a very localized response to addressing concerns presented by the novel coronavirus. WBA is working on a chart to keep members aware of each county’s local order as they are issued and will make the chart available starting tomorrow. It is also possible that the Democratic governor and Republican legislature could work together to formulate a replacement plan for the longer term; however, that will take several days, if not weeks to work through that process.  

Banks with branches in counties where businesses are permitted to open may consider opening those branch locations following the guidance issued by the local municipality. Of course, as essential businesses, banks always could have had their lobbies open; however, most chose to close them to keep staff and customers safe. It is important to remember that no business is mandated to open in these regions; however, many will want to start to return to “normal.” WBA encourages bankers to refer their business customers to re-opening guidelines posted by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), described below. WBA also has provided bankers with re-opening guidance for their own institutions on our website at https://www.wisbank.com/articles/2020/04/reopening-resource-center/ 

WEDC Guidelines for Reopening Your Business 

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) recently released guidelines for reopening your business safely. The documents, categorized by industry, may be of assistance to you and your clients in the upcoming days. The following categories are available: 

  • General 
  • Agriculture 
  • Construction  
  • Entertainment/Amusement 
  • Gyms and Fitness Centers 
  • Hair and Nail Salons 
  • Hospitality/Lodging 
  • Manufacturing 
  • Outdoor Gatherings 
  • Outdoor Recreation 
  • Professional Services 
  • Public Facilities 
  • Restaurants 
  • Retail 
  • Transportation 
  • Warehouse/Wholesale Trade 

To access the guides, visit https://wedc.org/reopen-guidelines/ 

Read the full order: https://www.wicourts.gov/sc/opinion/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqNo=260868