By Scott McClallen
(The Center Square) – The Michigan legislature adjourned Thursday without extending Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s state of emergency.
The House and Senate adopted House Resolution 250 via voice vote.
The resolution authorizes House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, to challenge legally Whitmer’s authority to continue the state of emergency without legislative authorization.
“The idea we want to put an abrupt end to the state of emergency and go back to normal immediately is a lazy political talking point,” Chatfield said in a statement. “We all agree Michigan must continue taking strong steps to fight the spread of this disease.”
Chatfield cited the 1.2 million out of work Michiganders in their decision.
He argued that “we can both protect the public health and protect the individual people who make up our great state.”
“We need to take decisive action to fight the spread of the coronavirus, but this governor’s unchecked and undemocratic approach is the wrong way to do it,” Chatfield said.
“The current status quo relies on one-size-fits-all edicts that unfairly punish millions of people across the state without giving them any recourse or voice in the process. The people deserve a better solution, and we can provide it.”
The GOP-led legislature and Whitmer disagree over the authorization required to extend the governor’s state of emergency.
Whitmer cites a 1945 law to support her claim she can act unilaterally.
Republicans point to a 1976 law to argue Whitmer’s powers expired overnight.
The legislature approved Senate Bill 858, which codifies some of Whitmer’s executive orders, including protections against so-called price gouging, easing certificate of need requirements for health care facilities, and extending the ban on evictions until June 30.
The bill doesn’t include Whitmer’s stay-home order lasting until May 15.
The legislation looks to allow bars and other places of public accommodations to open May 15 if they adopt social distancing guidelines, heightened cleaning standards, and provide personal protective equipment to employees.
“We can no longer allow one person to make decisions for 10 million people,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said.
Whitmer says she won’t sign a bill that limits her executive powers.
House Minority Leader Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills, called House Republican’s actions “political theater.”
“The Republican leadership is woefully out-of-touch with the fact that a majority of Michiganders overwhelmingly support the governor and Democrats handling of this unprecedented crisis,” Greig said in a statement.
“Impeding the governor’s ability to quickly respond to the present crisis is frighteningly disconnected from the reality facing Michigan families and communities coping with COVID-19. It is past time we got to work for the people of Michigan and delivered real solutions.”
Shirkey said the governor’s rule through executive order omitted Michiganders’ voices.
“Citizens count on a government structure of checks and balances,” he said. “The legislature is the voice of the people and we must have a seat at the table to ensure the concerns of our constituents are considered as part of the decision-making process.”