May 19, 2020 - League of Wisconsin Municipalities - COVID-19 Update #36
COVID-19 Coronavirus Update
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Updated League Legal Guidance on Local Authority
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League COVID-19 Virtual Roundtable Conference Calls
This call is for City/Village Officials,
including mgrs./adm. & Staff Only

Tuesday, May 19 - 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Assembly Speaker Vos and Assembly Majority Leader Steineke will join us at the beginning of today's call.

CDBG Funding
David J. Pawlisch | Bureau Director
Department of Administration
Division of Energy, Housing, and Community Resources

Join Zoom Meeting

Or Dial 312 626 6799

Meeting ID: 943 2945 2289
Password: 990365

Thursday, May 21 - 9:00-10 a.m.
WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson

Join Zoom Meeting

Or Dial 312 626 6799

Meeting ID: 919 6078 3036
Password: 990365

If you aren't able to connect or have a question after participating, please contact Jerry Deschane at email .

We will schedule additional calls as needed. Notice and call-in information will be provided on the League's website and in these Special Edition newsletters, which will also be sent as needed.
On Wednesday, May 20, at 1:00 PM CST , please join Secretary Alex Azar ( U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ), Commissioner Stephen Hahn ( U.S. Food & Drug Administration ), and Senior Administration Officials for a national COVID-19 briefing call. We appreciate your continued partnership and coordination in this whole-of-government, all-of-America response to COVID-19.
Briefing Call Registration
Date: Wednesday, May 20
Time: 1:00 PM CST
Call-In Registration : CLICK HERE

The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
William F. Crozer
Special Assistant to the President/Deputy Director
White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
Planning for the Future

In the absence of a county or local health department order, does a municipality have authority to impose restrictions similar to Safer at Home, such as prohibiting public gatherings of a certain size and imposing restrictions on businesses?  
Yes, municipalities may impose such restrictions pursuant to an emergency declaration under Wis. Stat. § 323.11, but any regulations should be narrowly tailored to the particular circumstances of the local emergency.   
Under Wis. Stat. § 323.14(4)(a), which governs local governments’ powers and duties during a declared emergency, local governments have the general authority to order, by ordinance or resolution, “ whatever is necessary and expedient for the health, safety, protection, and welfare of persons and property within the local unit of government in the emergency,”  including “the power to bar, restrict, or remove all unnecessary traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, from the highways...”  Although § 323.14(4)(a) doesn’t explicitly mention controlling communicable diseases – in contrast to Wis. Stat. § 252.03 which provides that local health departments may do whatever is reasonable and necessary to prevent and suppress disease, including forbidding public gatherings when deemed necessary to control outbreaks or epidemics – § 323.14(4)(a) is broadly written to grant local governments authority to enact measures to protect the public health and welfare in an emergency.  
Any restrictions declared pursuant to a local emergency should be narrowly tailored to address the particular circumstances of the municipality’s emergency ; those circumstances should be detailed in the emergency resolution or ordinance. Restrictions that may be justified in one municipality may not be justifiable in another. Additionally, a municipality should clearly articulate the rationale underlying the restrictions imposed to illustrate that the restrictions are based on facts rather than suppositions – e.g., capacity limits should be based on a defined formula derived to achieve compliance with the CDC’s social distancing recommendations in a given amount of square footage rather than setting a numerical capacity limit with no explanation for how it was reached. Municipalities should avoid imposing restrictions that appear arbitrarily defined. Moreover, some restrictions may impact individuals’ constitutional rights (e.g., right of assembly), so municipalities should strive to craft restrictions in a content-neutral manner and as narrowly as possible to address the emergency situation in their community .  
The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning DHS’s Safer at Home Order (see  Wisconsin Legislature v. Andrea Palm ) should not be read as precluding local governments from enacting similar restrictions; narrowly crafted municipal restrictions should withstand judicial scrutiny. First, the Court’s opinion was limited in scope and did not address local government authority. It only pertained to DHS’s authority under Wis. Stat. § 252.02 and largely found fault with an unelected official promulgating a rule without following the emergency rulemaking procedures outlined in Ch. 227 of the Wisconsin Statutes. Local governments, however, are not subject to those rulemaking procedures, and restrictions imposed under § 323.14(4)(a) are imposed by elected officials – e.g., elected members of governing bodies. Second, the Court was concerned about the ability to impose criminal liability for violations of DHS’s order. However, that should not be a concern here because Wisconsin municipalities cannot create crimes; therefore, they cannot impose either a fine or imprisonment as a sanction for violation of a municipal ordinance.  State v. Thierfelder , 174 Wis. 2d 213, 222, 495 N.W.2d 669 (1993). 

Finally, an interim opinion issued by Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul on May 15, 2020 (“ opinion ”) supports the conclusion that the Supreme Court’s decision did not impact local authority to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The AG opinion concludes that the Supreme Court’s decision is limited in scope and does not constrain local health departments’ authority to issue similar orders under Wis. Stat. § 252.03. The opinion notes local government authority under Ch. 323 as an additional source of local powers but does not specifically address those powers.  

In conclusion, it is the League’s opinion that municipalities’ broad emergency powers enable them to enact restrictions addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in the absence of local health department orders.   

This guidance and additional FAQs are available on the League's website here .
We appreciate your patience!
The League’s attorneys are fielding an unusually large number of inquiries while, at the same time, needing to dedicate a substantial amount of our time to meetings and participating in training sessions for local officials. Consequently, you may experience a delay in response to legal inquiries. We appreciate your patience and will respond to your inquiry as soon as we can. Claire Silverman and Maria Davis
NEW - DHSWI Interim Guidance on Large Gatherings

Interim guidance has been posted to the DHS COVID-19 Avoid Illness page  regarding large gatherings under "Can I hold or should I go to a large gathering?" This includes any event in which large gatherings of people are in sustained, close contact, including, but not limited to, fairs, festivals, parades, and conferences.

At this time, DHS does not advise large gatherings, and there is no projected time frame available as to when this advisory would change.
Reminder - Wisconsin Park and Recreation Association Monitoring Pool Closures
WPRA has created an  online document  to monitor pool closures across the state, as of Monday, May 11th, 65 agencies have provided data. Pool closures are based on many factors including government restrictions, financial projections, public perception and above all the health and safety of Wisconsin communities. On a poll of 42 agencies conducted May 1st, half had not yet decided whether or not they will be opening at all this Summer, approximately 25% intend to make that decision this month (in May). 
NEW - Plan for Re-Opening of City Facilities and Resumption of Non-Essential Services (PDF) by the City of Sterling Heights, Michigan
Comprehensive 73 page plan with signage. Shared with permission.
Disclaimer - Please note, this document is a sample and has not been reviewed for legal sufficiency. Michigan law may differ and we encourage members to consult with their municipal attorney regarding questions of law. 

Rock County Press Conference on Rock Rebound Plan
Is posted to the League's Facebook page from the Channel 3000 Facebook page here...

Implementation of the City of River Falls “Crushing COVID-19: A guide to recovery” will follow guidance and direction from the State of Wisconsin and public health officials throughout its response and recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state’s Badger Bounce Back plan serves as a framework for this guide.  Review the plan... (Please note that the state portion of the plan is being updated.)

As states begin to transition from shelter in place to open for business, we’re about to embark on yet another COVID-19 learning curve: How will we accommodate health and safety guidelines in our facilities and office buildings? How will colleges and universities safely welcome students back to campus? What will the "new normal" look like in terms of space planning and facility management? Read the list of top 7 concerns by Cartegraph here...
"We're All In" Initiative and grant program announced
Governor Tony Evers announced $75 million in assistance for small businesses as part of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s We’re All In initiative, a comprehensive effort to celebrate and help Wisconsin’s small businesses get back on their feet and support best practices to keep businesses, consumers, employees and communities safe.

Funded largely by federal dollars received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, this initiative will provide direct assistance to small businesses most impacted by the duration and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. These $2,500 cash grants will assist with the costs of business interruption or for health and safety improvements, wages and salaries, rent, mortgages, and inventory. Businesses will be able to apply for grant assistance in early June.

Learn more on the WEDC website here... Click here to share this program from the League's Facebook page to your own or your municipality's page.

Grant Program for Ethnically Diverse Micro-Businesses
Gov. Tony Evers announced today that one thousand ethnically diverse micro-businesses that have suffered losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible to receive grants of $2,000 each under a new state program. Learn more on the WEDC website here...

REOPEN GUIDELINES by industry or type of business from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC)
"With input from national and state health and industry experts and in partnership with the  Wisconsin Department of Health Services , the  Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) , the  Wisconsin Department of Tourism  and our regional economic development partners, WEDC has compiled a series of industry-specific documents to help you get back to business while taking the necessary precautions to maximize safety. Following these guidelines will help us all get Wisconsin’s economy back on track.

You are encouraged to bookmark this page and check back regularly for updates to guidelines and the addition of new industry documents."

Click here to share the Guidelines from the League's Facebook page to your own or your municipalities page.
In the News
National League of Cities Lauds House COVID-19 Relief Bill
WASHINGTON – The National League of Cities is calling on the Senate and White House to embrace a new coronavirus relief bill introduced in the House on Tuesday that allocates $375 billion for the nation’s smaller cities, towns, counties and villages.

Clarence Anthony, CEO and executive director of the league said Tuesday that the proposal is recognition that these communities “need funding to help stabilize and restart their economies.” Read the story here...


Wisconsin elections: Lawmakers say bill would make voting easier during a health emergency
Note: This story has been updated to correct that the proposed bill would require the state to mail absentee ballot applications to voters, who would need to send them to local municipal clerks to receive the actual ballots.

GREEN BAY - Two northeast Wisconsin lawmakers plan to introduce a bill they say will prevent state residents from getting squeezed out of a chance to vote during a public health emergency, like the coronavirus pandemic that affected the spring primary.

The proposal by Reps. Staush Gruszynski, D-Green Bay, and Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, is designed to avoid a repeat of a scene that played out in April in Green Bay and parts of Milwaukee. Read the story in the Marshfield Herald here...

Hotel industry 'decimated' by COVID-19
Trish Pugal, interim CEO of the Wisconsin Hotel and Lodging Association said at the start of the pandemic, 18,000 hotel and lodging employees were furloughed. She said that number likely has increased significantly.

"Approximately 40% to 45% of the lodging properties around the state have actually closed, even though we are designated an essential business," Pugal said. "Those that have stayed open, for example, for other essential business workers, for first responders, if they get double digit occupancy, they're doing better than most." Read the story on WISN12 here...

Child care centers in line for $51 million bailout, or far less than what's needed, advocates say
The state Department of Children and Families announced Monday the rollout of a federally funded program to provide some $51 million in assistance to a child care industry deemed essential during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic but struggling with additional costs, low pay for frontline workers and declining enrollment. Read the story in the Wisconsin State Journal here...
Frequently Asked Questions f rom the League's past COVID-19 Newsletters have been updated and c an be accessed here .
If you don't find what you need or if you have resources to contribute,
please email Jerry Deschane.
Reminder - Now might be the time to access Additional Resources through UniverCity

"The state of local government is up in the air with all the uncertainty of COVID-19. Wouldn't it be nice to have a partner helping you think through how your locality will bounce back? It could mean a revised economic development plan, or an improved mechanism for communicating with citizens or localities, or rethinking how county services will be offered, or how to think differently about tourism in this uncertain time. 
UniverCity Year is a flexible three-year partnership where local governments pitch ideas to UW-Madison, and they match you with courses and resources on campus that help you think through your approach to those issues. It could be COVID-19 response, or affordable housing, or water quality/nutrient management, or parks/recreation. We are willing to be flexible to adapt to this new reality, so your projects don't have to be fully formed. If you'd like to talk more about your options or questions, reach out to Gavin Luter, , Managing Director of the Program. 

To see deliverables for projects in places like Monona, Brodhead, Durand, Monroe, and Stockholm, see
The application is HERE ."
Reminder - Wondering what municipalities across the United States are doing?

Mayor's Innovation Project Live City Response Feed

"Our live city response feed provides you with a curated list from around the country, making it quick and easy to access the most relevant ideas for city leaders. Submit your own innovative policies here ." To see the city responses so far: 
The University of Wisconsin-Madison Communication Collaborative for COVID-19 Response has developed 10 essential steps to limit the spread of COVID-19. They reflect the overall need for maintaining a physical distance from each other, washing you hands and staying home: Read the article...
Webinars and Training
League’s Local Government 101 program now offered as webinars

The League’s 1-day workshop provides a basic framework for governing to both new city and village officials and those who want to brush up on their knowledge of local governance. 
You’ll learn about city and village powers including municipal home rule, hear about how to recognize and avoid conflicts of interest, go home with a quick tutorial on municipal budgeting as well as how to run a meeting and finish with an overview on managing public works projects. In addition, you’ll have that age-old question answered: “what is a walking quorum anyway?”

We're adapting and have converted four of the one-day workshops into webinars - with more dates possible. Participants who opt for the online webinar version have the option to take the course all in one day or mix and match the four different modules during any of our offered webinar dates over a 12 month period following their registration. In addition to the online training, participants will have the option of receiving a hard copy workbook or a USB version. The cost of the program is $70 per person. Details and Registration
Question & Answer Town Hall webinar on Local Redistricting
Wednesday, May 20 th 1:00pm – 2:00pm
Legislative Technology Services Bureau, the Legislative Reference Bureau, and the UW Applied Population Lab

The town hall will conclude the 2020 Local Redistricting Training Webinar Series, and will be followed by a Local Redistricting Pilot that will begin on June 1 s t . We encourage any and all interested counties and municipalities to register and participate in the pilot to prepare for actual redistricting in 2021.

For more information on the training webinar series, or to register for the Q&A Town Hall or the Pilot, please visit:
Local Government Essentials
Programs brought to you by the Local Government Center at UW-Madison Extension

Alcohol Beverage Regulation and Licensing – Part 1
Wednesday, May 20, 2020, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Under state law, Wisconsin municipalities issue and renew alcohol licenses. New municipal clerks and others looking for a refresher on the basics of alcohol licensing will benefit most from this session. Learn about the different types of licenses, license qualifications, notice requirements, and other statutory requirements as your municipality prepares for the upcoming license renewal period.
Presented by Attorney Carol Nawrocki of the Wisconsin Towns Association and Attorney Claire Silverman of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

Alcohol Beverage Regulation and Licensing – Part 2
Wednesday, June 3, 2020, 1:00-2:00 p.m.
Part 2 is intended for both new and continuing officials who want to stay up-to-date with recent changes in the law, current issues, and Wisconsin Department of Revenue resources related to alcohol licensing. In addition to providing these updates, Mr. Quam will be available to answer any questions you submit ahead of time, and if time, those questions posed during the presentation. To submit questions, please email them by Wednesday, May 1, 2020 to .
Presented by Tyler Quam Special Agent-in-Charge at Wisconsin Department of Revenue, Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Unit.


When Revenues Fall Short – Weathering the COVID-19 Recession
UW Madison Extension’s Local Government Center
June 9, 2020, from 10:00 am to 11:30

Wisconsin municipal governments are already feeling the COVID 19 recession’s impact, and it is likely to get worse before it gets better. Further, Retail and Main Street have taken an economic hit in our current environment. Non-essential businesses have lost sales and workers, and community leaders and economic development professionals are concerned about the future of local business districts. Room taxes and other revenues are significantly off across all sectors. This webinar will provide data and practical information on the potential revenue loss impacts on municipalities and how to anticipate and mitigate those impacts.

We bring together experts from Ehlers, KerberRose, the Wisconsin Policy Forum, and UW Madison Extension’s Community and Economic Development program, each of whom will provide data, practical advice, and potential solutions for local governments to consider as they deal with revenue shortfalls for 2020 and beyond.

Agenda details here .

Upcoming League Conferences and Workshops
Our priority is your safety and well-being. Decisions on whether to hold, cancel or postpone League events will be made with that priority as our number-one concern. 

League's Local Gov 101 Workshops - All spring and summer Local Gov 101 programs are being provided as webinars. Details here .

League's Clerks, Treasurers and Finance Officers - POSTPONED TO 2021! Please mark your calendar for June 9-11, 2021 (yes, that is next year !) at the Tundra Lodge in Green Bay.  

League's Municipal Attorneys Institute has been Rescheduled to September 2-4 at Stone Harbor in Sturgeon Bay! Registration will open in June.

Decisions about the other upcoming programs will also be made with health and safety in mind. We will provide notice in our newsletters and on our website regarding those and future workshops. Details on cancellation policies and more... 
League Handbooks

The following Handbooks are now available as a PDF at a reduced price for email delivery.

  • Handbook for Wisconsin Municipal Officials - PDF Available!
  • Handbook for Wisconsin Police and Fire Commissioners - Completely updated in Jan. 2019.  PDF Available!
  • Municipal Licensing and Regulation of Alcohol Beverages - Completely updated in Sept. 2019. PDF Available!

Physical PRINT copies of ALL Handbooks are also still available but on a delayed weekly shipping basis.    You can order Handbooks online here .
General Resources
COVID-19 is a virus that has not previously infected humans and information about its rate of spread and its effects is still largely unknown, which makes it incredibly important to be highly cautious in dealing with the current situation. 

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services will continue to provide the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19. You are encouraged to monitor the site for updated guidance as the situation continues to evolve.

Want to share relevant and credible information to your Social Media?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Facebook & on Twitter (Scroll down to see more recent posts.)

The Wisconsin Dept of Health Services (DHS) on Facebook & on Twitter.

And the League's social media: