- The Michigan House of Representatives on Friday voted to repeal a 1945 law that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used at the outset of the pandemic to force businesses to close to stem the spread of COVID-19, the Detroit Free Press reported.
- Whitmer, a Democrat in office since 2019, has been the target of numerous protests, including a foiled plot to kidnap her, from right-wing groups over her efforts to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.
- On Thursday, the House also voted to limit the power of the state department of health to impose emergency orders.
- It’s not likely that Whitmer will sign the bills, and the House and Senate do not have the votes to override her vetoes, according to the report.
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The Michigan House of Representatives this week voted to pass two bills aimed at limiting the governor and the state health department’s powers to issue regulations and restrictions during a crisis, a response to their actions to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the spring.
According to a report from the Detroit Free Press, the House of Representatives voted Friday 57-43 to repeal a 1945 emergency powers law and on Thursday 59-44 to limit the length of emergency orders from the state department of health to 28 days unless the orders were approved by the state legislature. The second bill would also prevent leaders from placing pandemic-related restrictions on religious services, according to the report.
The 1945 law, passed toward the end of World War II, affords the Michigan governor the opportunity to declare a state of emergency and make “reasonable orders, rules, and regulations as he or she considers necessary to protect life and property or to bring the emergency situation within the affected area under control.”
The Senate in April similarly voted to repeal the 1945 law, according to the report. While the Senate also previously passed a bill to limit the length of health department order, its version of the legislation had not included the provision to exempt religious services from the restrictions, according to the report.
In October, the Michigan Supreme Court sided with Republicans who challenged Whitmer’s authority to make such orders, ruling in a 4-3 decision that the 1945 law was unconstitutional because it shifted power too greatly from the state’s legislative branch to its executive branch. Whitmer and her allies have argued that the restrictions and regulations she implemented were necessary public health measures.
“If we, as a state, were willing to just mask up like every other civilized nation on this planet, perhaps the death count would be lower and perhaps we wouldn’t have needed as many executive orders. But unfortunately, that didn’t happen,” said Yousef Rabhi, the Democratic floor leader, in support of Whitmer’s use of the legislation.
Since the state Supreme Court ruling, Whitmer has taken similar measures through orders issued by the state health department, which was not affected by the court’s ruling in October, according to the report.
Whitmer and her orders have been at the subject of numerous protests from right-wing politicians and groups. Most notably, in April, hundreds of protesters descended on the Michigan State Capitol, some carrying rifles and other weapons, in protest of Whitmer extending her stay-at-home order into the middle of May.
Whitmer has also been targeted by President Donald Trump and his supporters, who in October chanted “lock her up” at her mention, just a week after the FBI announced it had foiled a right-wing militia group’s attempt to kidnap her.
As the Detroit Free Press reported, it’s not likely that Whitmer will sign either piece of legislation, and the House and Senate do not have enough votes to override a veto of either bill.