Michigan’s Governor, Gretchen Whitmer (D), has used every tactic at her disposal to keep the State of Michigan in an almost terminal lockdown because of the COVID virus. But the Michigan State Legislature has started to unravel the convoluted web of her authority.
In an early vote Friday morning, the Michigan House of Representatives voted to repeal the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945; the legislation used by Whitmer to claim authority to use public health orders to close down her state.
The 1945 Emergency Powers law authorized the governor to declare a state of emergency but it also excluded an oversight role for the state legislature so that any decree might be rejected or that any extension might be denied. It also fails to establish a time limit on such an emergency declaration.
Whitmer has repeatedly bastardized the law to justify a broad range of draconian restrictions since March. Her COVID lockdown decrees have moved some in the Michigan legislature to call for her impeachment.
Michigan House passes bills aimed at limiting Whitmer's power https://t.co/UOOSeSKkD4
— Detroit Free Press (@freep) December 18, 2020
In a separate vote, the House passed a bill that would establish a 28-day limit on the length of a pandemic-related order issued by the State Health Department. This piece of legislation codified that any extensions of these declarations would require legislative approval.
The bill would also prohibit state health officials from limiting capacity at places of worship, and exempt businesses from state-imposed closures while complying with health and safety measures required of other businesses that are allowed to remain open.
This second bill passed by a margin of 59-44. A Senate version of the bill was passed earlier this month.
Whitmer’s office railed against the bill, insisting that the governor is “focused on doing everything in her power to protect the public’s health and save lives during this unprecedented pandemic.”
“The Legislature has spent the greater part of the year trying to tie the governor’s hands and hamper the ability to respond to a public health crisis that has killed more than 10,000 Michiganders,” spokesman Robert Leddy said last week. “All of our energy would be much better spent working together against the common enemy, COVID-19.”
But the overall issue being addressed by the Michigan State Legislature focused on unchecked unilateral power seemingly seized by Whitmer that created an imbalance in the “co-equal” symbiotic relationship outlined I Michigan’s State Constitution.
A May 2020 lawsuit filed by a group of legislative Republicans cited the 1945 Emergency Powers law in a complaint that argued law, as written, is meant for local situations, not the entire state. By using a law whose application was meant for local administration to affect control over the entirety of the state, they argued Whitmer’s unchecked emergency powers violated the state constitutions requirement of a separation of powers “among co-equal branches of government.”
The Michigan Supreme Court in October sided with the lawmakers 5-4.