Michigan Republicans STRIP Whitmer of COVID-19 emergency powers

Michigan Republicans STRIP Whitmer of COVID-19 emergency powers
Michigan Republicans STRIP Whitmer of COVID-19 emergency powers

Republican lawmakers in Michigan on Wednesday killed a law that underpinned coronavirus restrictions issued by Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020, wiping it from the books after the state Supreme Court declared the measure unconstitutional.

The Democrat is powerless to veto the citizen-initiated bill, which will now limit her ability to impose business closures and capacity restrictions on restaurants and other establishments. 

The move to strip powers from Whitmer comes as state health officials report a doubling of the coronavirus case count in the last two weeks - fueled by the Indian Delta variant.

A conservative group that organized the ballot drive next plans to target a public health law that enabled Whitmer's administration to keep intact capacity restrictions and mask requirements for eight additional months until voluntarily lifting them in June after infections subsided amid vaccinations.

The GOP-led House voted 60-48 to repeal the 1945 law, with four Democrats joining all Republicans in support.

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It gave governors broad powers to declare an emergency and promulgate rules to 'protect life and property or to bring the emergency situation within the affected area under control.'

Republicans in Michigan's state legislature moved to kill emergency powers used by Governor Gretchen Whitmer (pictured above in April) to impose lockdown measures during the coronavirus pandemic

Republicans in Michigan's state legislature moved to kill emergency powers used by Governor Gretchen Whitmer (pictured above in April) to impose lockdown measures during the coronavirus pandemic

Unlock Michigan, a ballot committee with ties to Republicans, spent millions of dollars to collect hundreds of thousands of voter signatures to bring the bill to the Legislature. From left to right: Garrett Soldano, Ron Armstrong and Meshawn Maddock, co-chairs of Unlock Michigan, are seen above in Lansing in October

Unlock Michigan, a ballot committee with ties to Republicans, spent millions of dollars to collect hundreds of thousands of voter signatures to bring the bill to the Legislature. From left to right: Garrett Soldano, Ron Armstrong and Meshawn Maddock, co-chairs of Unlock Michigan, are seen above in Lansing in October

The move comes as Michigan public health officials are reporting an increase in the number of coronavirus cases. The image above shows Deonjay Sailor, 15, receiving his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccination clinic in Detroit on Wednesday

The move comes as Michigan public health officials are reporting an increase in the number of coronavirus cases. The image above shows Deonjay Sailor, 15, receiving his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccination clinic in Detroit on Wednesday

The legislation cleared the Senate last week.

Whitmer had used the law to indefinitely issue COVID-19 rules until the court ruled against her last October.

Rep. Andrew Fink, a Republican from Hillsdale County's Adams Township, said the 'idea that we need the governor to do our job for us once into the outbreak of a new virus ... is disturbing in its distrust of the citizens of this state.

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'I think that idea is depressing in its view of the Legislature's capacity to conduct its work in difficult circumstances.

The 'American Patriot Rally', organized by Michigan United for Liberty, was staged last year in contempt for Whitmer¿s statewide stay-at-home orders put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus

The 'American Patriot Rally', organized by Michigan United for Liberty, was staged last year in contempt for Whitmer’s statewide stay-at-home orders put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus

Protesters were demanding an end to the state's stay-at-home order which barred bars, gyms, casinos and cinemas from opening while limiting services at restaurants to takeout and delivery only (pictured, armed demonstrators inside the capitol in Lansing)

Protesters were demanding an end to the state's stay-at-home order which barred bars, gyms, casinos and cinemas from opening while limiting services at restaurants to takeout and delivery only (pictured, armed demonstrators inside the capitol in Lansing) 

Rifle-wielding protesters pictured inside Michigan's capitol building demanding and end to the shut-down - hours before the state's Democrat governor issued three new orders extending it. The image above was taken in Lansing on April 30, 2020

Rifle-wielding protesters pictured inside Michigan's capitol building demanding and end to the shut-down - hours before the state's Democrat governor issued three new orders extending it. The image above was taken in Lansing on April 30, 2020

Demonstrators were seen arguing with officers from the Michigan State Police as they tried to enter the capitol building on April 30, 2020

Demonstrators were seen arguing with officers from the Michigan State Police as they tried to enter the capitol building on April 30, 2020 

'And I think that idea is discordant with the principles of American government, which are designed to prevent a single part of the government from acting unilaterally.'

But Democratic Rep. Mari Manoogian, of Birmingham, said GOP legislators should have let the initiative go to the 2022 ballot.

She said while 460,000 people signing the petitions is 'not a small number,' the state has 10 million residents.

'They will not have the opportunity to have their voice heard,' she said.

Manoogian said the law could be clarified to better define 'reasonable' or 'necessary' regulations, but should not be voided outright.

A separate emergency powers law, from 1976, remains in place.

It lets a governor declare an emergency but it and related orders cannot last for longer than 28 days without legislative approval.

Unlock Michigan, a ballot committee with ties to Republicans, spent millions of dollars to collect hundreds of thousands of voter signatures to bring the bill to the Legislature.

Spokesman Fred Wszolek said it ends Whitmer's 'rule by decree.'

The group will soon begin circulating petitions to revise a 1978 law - whose origins date to the 1918 flu pandemic - to make state epidemic orders unenforceable after 28 days unless the Legislature OKs an extension.

Local health officers who impose restrictions would need the blessing of their governing body to go longer than 28 days.

Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 20,000 Michiganders have died after contracting coronavirus, according to state health data

Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 20,000 Michiganders have died after contracting coronavirus, according to state health data

On Friday, the state reported a 732 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 - the highest number of positive tests since May 26

On Friday, the state reported a 732 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 - the highest number of positive tests since May 26

Michigan on Friday reported an average of 431 new daily COVID-19 infections over three days, up 47 percent from the same period a week earlier

Michigan on Friday reported an average of 431 new daily COVID-19 infections over three days, up 47 percent from the same period a week earlier

Michigan¿s seven-day average, 332, is double what it was two weeks ago. The test positivity rate, which also has been rising, was 4.7 percent on Thursday

Michigan’s seven-day average, 332, is double what it was two weeks ago. The test positivity rate, which also has been rising, was 4.7 percent on Thursday

The state has also seen an uptick in the number of hospitalizations. Just 256 adults were hospitalized with confirmed infections, a fraction of the peak of more than 4,000 in April, when Michigan had a third surge

The state has also seen an uptick in the number of hospitalizations. Just 256 adults were hospitalized with confirmed infections, a fraction of the peak of more than 4,000 in April, when Michigan had a third surge

She has twice vetoed regular bills that would have added the 28-day provision.

Wszolek said Whitmer 'abused' the law 'to destroy lives, businesses and futures.'

She has defended the rules as necessary to save lives in a state with more than 21,000 confirmed or probable deaths linked to the virus.

She also has said the executive branch must be able to act quickly and nimbly during a pandemic.

Public Health Over Politicians, a ballot committee of public health officials, doctors and nurses, was recently created to oppose the new initiative.

'This ill-conceived plan would radically shift decision-making authority from public health experts to Lansing politicians and political appointees, resulting in needless illness, suffering and death,' said the group’s treasurer, Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail.

On Friday, the state reported a 732 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 - the highest number of positive tests since May 26.

Michigan on Friday reported an average of 431 new daily COVID-19 infections over three days, up 47 percent from the same period a week earlier.

Cases have gone up in all but one state over the past two weeks, which health officials nationally have attributed to the fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus. 

Michigan’s seven-day average, 332, is double what it was two weeks ago.   

The test positivity rate, which also has been rising, was 4.7 percent on Thursday.

The state's two-week case rate, however, is lower than in all but four states. 

The image above shows Michigan's vaccination drive as broken down by counties

The image above shows Michigan's vaccination drive as broken down by counties

Michigan, like most other states, has seen a substantial decrease in the number of residents being vaccinated in recent weeks

Michigan, like most other states, has seen a substantial decrease in the number of residents being vaccinated in recent weeks

The chart above shows the number of Michigan residents who have received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccination

The chart above shows the number of Michiganders who have received both doses

The chart above on the left shows the number of Michigan residents who have received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccination. The chart on the right shows the number of Michiganders who have received both doses

Just 256 adults were hospitalized with confirmed infections, a fraction of the peak of more than 4,000 in April, when Michigan had a third surge.

About 63 percent of residents ages 16 and older have gotten at least one vaccine dose, which ranks middle of the pack among states. 

A new, multimillion-dollar state sweepstakes program has not led to much of a boost in vaccinations this month.

Oakland County in metro Detroit, the state's second-largest county, reported getting to 70 percent vaccine coverage - meeting state and national goals. The rate remains below 50 percent in roughly a quarter of 83 counties.

'While reaching this vaccination goal is an important moment to acknowledge, we're not done fighting this pandemic. ... With 30 percent of our population still unvaccinated, we can't fully get back to normal,' Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said.

The county's officials will next turn their attention to immunizing college students for the fall semester.

Michigan, where Whitmer lifted capacity restrictions and mask requirements in June, has reported more than 21,000 confirmed or probable COVID-19 deaths and 1 million cases. 

About 871,000 people had recovered as of a week ago, meaning they were alive 30 days after the onset of their symptoms. 

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