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State Senator asks legislative leaders to take UW System to court over COVID-19 pandemic regulations

UW-Madison

MADISON (WKOW) — State Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) is requesting legislative leadership take legal action against the UW System for refusing to comply with rules regarding COVID-19 mandates.

On August 3, the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) voted to require the UW System to present any new proposed pandemic restrictions to the legislative committee for lawmakers' approval. After this vote, the UW System had 30 days to declare an emergency rule to enforce policies like mandatory testing for unvaccinated students or mask requirements. Any newly-issued rules need to be approved by JCRAR.

On August 24, UW System President Tommy Thompson said he is prepared for the UW System to defend itself against any legal actions brought by either the legislature or conservative groups that have filed other lawsuits challenging pandemic-related restrictions.

Thompson has advised UW's 13 campuses to work with local health officials to determine if they should enact mask orders.

According to Nass' letter, UW System officials told co-chairmen of JCRAR on September 2 they had "no intention of complying with the directive issued by the joint committee or meeting their statutory responsibilities as contained in the Wisconsin Administrative Rules Law." Nass claims the UW System's COVID-19 policies are not covered by Wisconsin's exemptions to rulemaking that would relieve it, as a state agency, from procedures of administrative rules law.

Nass issued the following statement on his request to legislative leaders:

“The UW System is not merely refusing to follow state law, it is now an agency challenging the constitutional authority of the Legislature.  The UW System has offered ever changing spin in regard to their claim of having some mythical independent authority to do whatever they want to adult students and campus visitors.

If the UW System is allowed to act unlawfully simply because it’s temporarily under the leadership of a former Republican governor, then members of the majority party in the legislature are not committed to the rule of law.

When there are disputes between the legislature and state agencies over constitutional governance and the rule of law, we must seek resolution in the courts.  I have formally requested Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu commence legal action against the UW System to seek compliance with state law.”

You can read Nass' full letter below or by clicking here.

Nass-Letter-to-Leadership-Requesting-Legal-Action-Against-the-UW-System-September-7-2021

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Sierra Rehm

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