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Wisconsin Attorney General: Power To Reopen Belongs To States

Kaul Weighs In On Coronavirus Crisis

Attorney General Josh Kaul speaks at the inauguration ceremony at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Jan. 7, 2019.
Coburn Dukehart/ Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (CC BY-ND 2.0)

President Donald Trump has riled officials from states across the country by saying the federal government has the authority to reopen the country.

Legal experts agree that the power to lift a state’s stay-at-home order belongs to that state’s officials. On WPR’s “The Morning Show,” state Attorney General Josh Kaul agreed.

“Each state has the authority to respond to this emergency as it deems best,” Kaul said. “What we have here in Wisconsin is a safer-at-home order that is in place, and ultimately that is a decision for the state to make about how long we keep that order in effect.”

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Wisconsin’s “safer-at-home” order is in effect until at least April 24, while the federal guidance on social distancing lasts through April 30.

Consumer Protection

Kaul also weighed in on consumer protection issues related to the pandemic. He said the state Department of Justice has put out guidance on consumer scams that people should be aware of, including people selling fake cures for COVID-19, price gouging of critical supplies and fraudulent charities.

“Scammers take advantage of situations where there’s significant uncertainty like the crisis that we’re in right now,” Kaul said, encouraging people to be careful when donating to charity.

The state Department of Financial Institution keeps a list of registered charitable organizations that Kaul recommends people check before making donations.

Racist Incidents

When asked about racist incidents related to the coronavirus pandemic, including racist chalking on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Kaul said it’s important for people to speak out.

“We don’t have a great sense of exactly how many of these incidents are going on or where they’re going on,” Kaul said, recommending that people contact local law enforcement if they become aware of incidents.

Committing crimes on the basis of someone’s race could result in enhanced penalties, Kaul said.