Just what’s going on over the borders?
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has been discouraging his constituents from traveling across the Indiana border, where the rules limiting public and business behavior are much more loose than in locked-down Illinois.
He’s clearly concerned about what visitors to Hoosierland might find, in the same sense that farm families 150 years ago worried about how they were going to keep the boys down on the farm once they had been to the big city. In other words, if Indiana’s looser rules prove to be as or more effective than Pritzker’s approach, how’s that going to go down with respect to public-health policy and politics here?The governor, doubtless, will be making similar recommendations (don’t go!) to Illinoisans about driving to Wisconsin, where that state’s highest court Wednesday struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order.
People who travel to Indiana or Wisconsin will have to make up their own minds about their experience. But the rest of Illinois also has much to learn about the public-health fallout there, because whatever transpires in Wisconsin and Indiana will represent either success or failure of the lockdown approach.
If it’s a public-health failure, Pritzer’s lockdown will be buoyed. If not, he’ll have to re-evaluate, something he clearly does not want to do.
The Wisconsin court set aside Evers’ stay-at-home order by a 4-3 vote, holding that the governor has broad but not unlimited authority to declare a public emergency and shut down the state.
“If a forest fire breaks out, there is no time for debate. Action is needed. The governor could declare an emergency and respond accordingly. But in the case of a pandemic, which lasts month after month, the governor cannot rely on emergency powers indefinitely,” Justice Patience Roggensack wrote in the majority opinion.
The court said that new restrictions can be put in place, but they must be the product of agreement among the state’s elected officials — the governor and members of the legislature.
Despite all the hand-wringing over the court’s decision, that’s hardly an earth-shattering requirement. Governors and legislatures are policy-making partners in the states, so let them make policy. That approach is preferable to open-ended one-man rule, as was the case in Wisconsin and is the case in Illinois.
The court’s decision opens Wisconsin up for business, though public schools will remain closed. Some counties adopted rules similar to those Evers put in place while others did not because they decided they are not necessary. That would be akin to Illinois keeping Chicago and the collar counties under a lockdown while easing restrictions in areas of this state less hard hit by the coronavirus.
The ruling came in the face of apocalyptic warnings. Evers’ lawyers warned that abandoning Wisconsin’s one-size-fits-all policy will lead to lethal disaster.
“Everyone understands such an order would be absolutely devastating and extraordinarily unwise,” Assistant Attorney General Colin Roth told the court, predicting that if “people pour out into the streets, then the disease will spread like wildfire.”
Actually, everyone doesn’t agree with that assessment. Opinions vary among experts about the wisdom of the economy-destroying lockdown order. Dissenters assert that the benefits of the lockdown are limited while the economic destruction is incalculable, potentially setting the stage for an economic depression.
Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who knows?
Why not find out? Indiana and Wisconsin and other states like Georgia and Florida can teach the country a lot about the best way to go.
One thing is for sure. Many Wisconsin residents were delighted by the court’s decision, rushing to bars and restaurants. That was their choice, just like it’s the choice of residents and business owners across Wisconsin to remain home and/or keep their businesses closed or go out to play and/or back to work.
The rightness or wrongness of the court’s decision is open to debate among legal experts. The public-health fallout is yet to be determined and will be instructive to all — one way or another.