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Why local mask ordinance is legal despite WI Supreme Court ruling

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EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) - Now that Governor Evers' mask mandate has been deemed unconstitutional by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, it may leave you wondering: What gives Eau Claire County and the City of Eau Claire the right to institute a mask ordinance on a local level?

The answer, according to City Attorney Stephen Nick, is about executive authority, and the way the mandates were issued, not the mask mandates themselves.

The state mandate was issued via an emergency order by the Governor, meanwhile the local ordinance was voted on and approved by the city council and county board.

"At the local level, our legislative branch did create the mask ordinance," said Nick. "At the state level, the state legislature has decided to not act on this yet, and has left it to the Governor. The court is holding [Evers] to the separation of power concept, that it's the legislative branch that needs to create the laws."

Will the switch from state order to local ordinance change enforcement practices? Nick said no.

To date, he is not aware of any citations that have been issued locally as a result of the state order.

"We have a number of ordinances on the books that are for all of our collective health, safety and welfare," Nick said. "In none of those, is it our objective to be issuing citations."

Citations are still allowed under the local ordinance, but Nick emphasizes the vast majority of people comply without issue, and expects that to continue.

Jess Langlois

Jess Langlois is the weekend meteorologist and weekday multi-media journalist for News 18. She joined us in July of 2019.

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