Record cold forces closures of state offices

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

State offices will be closed today for the first time since 2012 after Gov. Tony Evers declared a state of emergency last night due to the “ongoing winter storm and potentially life-threatening temperatures.”

“It’s critically important that we’re ensuring the people of Wisconsin and our public employees are safe in these dangerous weather conditions,” Evers said. “I am urging people to prepare for this severe weather and to exercise caution when traveling or going outdoors.”

The order doesn’t impact the Capitol, which will remain open to the public.

Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has closed the Assembly for the day due to “life-threatening conditions.” A public hearing held by Joint Legislative Audit Committee that was slated for 10 a.m. has also been canceled.

Meanwhile, Senate Chief Clerk Jeff Renk sent an email to members last night that the Senate will remain open Wednesday, though he urged senators to use “discretion when advising their staffs on travelling to the Capitol during the period of inclement weather.”

Evers’ order, coming ahead of wind chills that are expected to hit minus-40 to minus-55 in the Madison area today, directs agencies to allow employees to use appropriate leave to miss work.

The order doesn’t apply to those whose duties include emergency response, along with public health and safety.

The Department of Corrections is cancelling all public visitations for the day, while the Department of Transportation will shutter DMV service centers and the Department of Health Service will close some government benefits call centers.

State offices were last closed on Dec. 19, 2012, when then-Gov. Scott Walked closed them to the public and allowed non-emergency employees to be excused from coming in by taking the appropriate leave.

He issued a similar order for Feb. 1, 2011, while then-Gov. Jim Doyle closed all state offices and the University of Wisconsin except for essential personnel on Dec. 9, 2009. Doyle’s order directed state agencies to inform most state workers to stay home.

Evers’ executive order leaves it up to the UW System to make its own determinations. UW-Madison had already announced it was canceling classes and activities starting at 5 p.m. yesterday and ending at noon Thursday.

This is the first time the university has closed for a full day since December 2012.

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