Michigan’s Republican senators, who hold a majority in the state Senate, used a procedural method this week to support the repeal of a decades-old emergency powers law with a petition that cannot be vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Michigan senators voted along party lines, 20-15, backing the petition to repeal the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945, which was brought by the group Unlock Michigan and various people critical of Whitmer’s use of emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It’s been a very long road, — we had a pandemic somewhere in the middle there — and now we’re going to get this done in the Legislature in the next couple weeks," said Unlock Michigan spokesperson Fred Wszolek, according to Bridge Michigan.
According to Michigan law, if a petition gets enough signatures and receives certification from the Board of State Canvassers, the state legislature can vote to support the content of the petition or put it to the voters as a ballot question. If the House votes the same as the Senate, then the law would be repealed without Whitmer having an opportunity to veto the measure.
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said that this petition "doesn’t take power away" but "reassesses where the power belongs."
He added that Whitmer should have taken a more hands-off approach during the pandemic, saying, "what was really needed and true leadership was somebody who simply would do this: Inform citizens, inspire them, encourage them, and then trust them."
Sen. Rosemary Bayer, a Democrat, said that "this is about our ability to react to pandemics and disasters in the future. It will handcuff our future leaders, duly elected by the people of Michigan, who must act quickly in times of crisis and do so responsibly and decisively."
Sen. Tom Barrett, a Republican, described the petition as the "people's veto," and said that "no matter what challenges we face, no matter how hard the task is, it is not an appropriate excuse or substitute to say that one person can continuously govern and make rules that have the force of law over the rest of us, and completely bypass the other branches of government."
State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, a Democrat, contended that the state legislature is "a deliberatively slow moving body. But when an emergency faces our state, we don’t have the luxury of time. That is what this legislature of the past put into place. And I could not in good conscience support or measure to remove those powers and put future residents at risk if the executive of the state does not have the ability to act quickly."
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