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Brown Co. Human Services Committee passes motion to draft face covering ordinances

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Posted at 11:01 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 00:22:48-04

BROWN CO., Wis. (NBC 26) -- Brown County Human Services Committee passed a motion to refer to Corporation Counsel and the health department to draft three different ordinances and a resolution regarding face covering requirements in the county.

The motion was made by Supervisor Tom Sieber and seconded by Supervisor and Human Services Committee Chair Joan Brusky.

The motion includes three different ordinances.

The first ordinance requires face coverings be worn outside the home and at mass gatherings at a home. The second ordinance requires face coverings for all workers and customers at "essential businesses" as defined under the Safer at Home order in March. The third ordinance requires the public to wear face coverings on county owned property. The motion states each ordinance should have an exceptions clause.

As for enforcement of the ordinances, the first offense would be educational. The second offense would be a written warning. All offenses following that would be a citation issued by law enforcement or public health. According to the motion, fines could range from $5 to $500. The amount would be determined by the person issuing the citation. Violations would be referred to the District Attorney or Corporation Counsel's Office.

A resolution encouraging essential businesses to require face coverings be worn was also added to the motion.

Some supervisors said they felt the three different ordinances could offer the county board options and lead to more discussion.

NBC 26 spoke with Chair Brusky after the meeting about what's next. She said she could call a special meeting to discuss the ordinances once they're drafted and make a recommendation to the county board. As for when the board might vote on it, she said she anticipated it could happen at a special meeting of the county board in the near future. She said she was not sure of the exact date of that meeting.

Public comment during the meeting took place in person at the Neville Public Museum. Nearly 20 people came forward to share their thoughts on the possibility of a face covering requirement in the city. Supervisors said they received hundreds of emails from community members as well.

Supervisor Randy Schultz was among those who took the floor during public comment. He questioned the legality of an ordinance, adding that some people have expressed they are planning lawsuits.

After public comment, supervisors began discussing the motion. Some showed support while others shared their opposition.

"I don't believe we as a county government should have the right to take away other people's rights. What's the Tenth Amendment about?" said Supervisor Patrick Evans. "It regulates the power to the people. So the people get it. We're just going to do what is right. Wear a mask when you can. But you don't have to be forced to do it."

Supervisor Kathy Lefebvre showed support for the ordinance. She also voted in favor of the Green Bay face covering ordinance on Tuesday.

"I think people that have mentioned that it's unconstitutional to mandate this is not true. I don't know anything in our Constitution that says that we cannot put in a mandate for something for public health. Public health is a very important part of our duties to protect people," Lefebvre said.

Green Bay passed an ordinance Tuesday night that requires people over the age of 5 wear face coverings at indoor public areas unless exempt. The ordinance goes into effect on Monday, July 27. At the city council meeting, it was determined that if Brown County put a face covering ordinance in place, the city would rescind its ordinance.