Michigan’s GOP-controlled legislature took steps to reign in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers in times of crisis on Friday.
Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield announced on Thursday that the state legislature would reconvene to review Whitmer’s actions. Michigan has enacted some of the harshest emergency regulations in response to the pathogen and slow its spread through Detroit, a hotspot for the virus.
During Friday’s special session, the Senate passed a bill that would repeal the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act under which Whitmer has issued her heavy-handed mandates. The legislature approved a committee to provide oversight on Whitmer’s actions during the coronavirus pandemic, according to The Detroit News.
“The state’s response must be transparent, and we all have to work together to hold state government to higher standards for its actions and choices,” Chatfield said. “The House is taking action today to deliver that transparency and help guide the way for better results.”
Whitmer has pledged to veto any bills that “limit the executive power” that she has used to direct Michigan’s coronavirus response.
“Of course, I will veto bills that they send over to limit the executive power. I’ve been very clear about that from day one,” Whitmer said in a briefing Thursday. “Those blatant power grabs are bad in good times and dangerous in times of crisis.”
On Friday, Whitmer extended her lockdown order through May 15, but relaxed orders banning boating on lakes and lawn maintenance. The new order also cuts a restriction that forbid Michiganders from traveling between two residences, according to The Detroit News.
Whitmer said that the legislature has a “role to play” in the pandemic but dismissed the attempt to reign her in emergency powers as posturing.
“Certainly, [the legislature has] a role to play. We have really bent over backwards to make sure that we’re sharing information with them. And I think it’s worked pretty well,” Whitmer said. “It’s not perfect and we don’t agree on everything to be sure. But we have gone out of our way to try to keep them included so that they knew what and why the actions that I was taking were necessary.”
Whitmer’s orders have incensed hundreds of residents who protested in the state’s capital last week, calling for Whitmer to loosen her stay-at-home that has barred many in the state from working. The governor responded to the protesters in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and threatened to extend the lockdown because the protesters had violated social distancing rules.
“When you see a, you know, a political rally — that’s what it was yesterday — a political rally like that, where people aren’t wearing masks, and they’re in close quarters, and they’re touching one another, you know that that’s precisely what makes this kind of a disease drag out and expose more people,” Whitmer said.
“We might have to actually think about extending stay-at-home orders, which is supposedly what they were protesting,” she said.
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