Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s decision to extend the state’s lockdown is being described as a “stunning power grab” in an editorial penned by The Detroit News.
Whitmer’s power to shut the state down was granted under an emergency order that has since expired. Unable to reach an agreement with lawmakers to keep the order in effect, she made the sole decision to keep the shutdown in place.
“Whitmer is declaring she can run the state as she pleases, for as long as she pleases, with no oversight or checks on her power,” the editorial states. “This affront to democracy must be undone by the courts.”
Michigan’s emergency powers act of 1976 allows the governor to declare a state of emergency and assume extraordinary powers over citizens for 28 days in the face of natural or man-made disasters. An extension can be granted, but only with approval of both chambers of the legislature. Whitmer already received one 23-day extension.
The editorial board said Whitmer relied on an earlier iteration of the act adopted in 1945 and “executed a series of questionable maneuvers late Thursday to justify her bypass of the Legislature.”
Whitmer says she needs to continue her emergency powers to protect health care workers from being sued by COVID-19 patients. But lawmakers passed a bill on Thursday to prevent that from happening.
The legislature had offered to grant her another short-term extension of her powers, with oversight. But she refused to accept any conditions that forced her to work with lawmakers.
“From the beginning of her tenure, Whitmer has shown disdain for both the law and regular-order governing, looking for every loophole to avoid dealing with the Legislature,” the editorial states. “This time, she’s taken the state to a very dangerous place. There's no reasonable defense, in a representative democracy, for a governor to strip the legislative branch of its constitutional authority and assume dictatorial powers in perpetuity.”
The Republican-controlled Legislature Thursday also passed resolutions permitting the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader to sue the governor.
"That lawsuit should be filed ASAP," the editorial said.
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