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Michigan Congress, Governor Set for Showdown on Coronavirus Emergency Powers

— May 2, 2020

Michigan’s Republican House suggested Gov. Whitmer has mischaracterized their stance on re-opening the economy.

Michigan’s House of Representatives adjourned its Thursday session without discussing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s extension of a weeks-long state of emergency.

According to, Michigan’s state of emergency was set to expire at the end of April. An active declaration of emergency allows the governor to, among other things, issue executive orders necessary to protect health and well-being.

To date, Gov. Whitmer has ordered Michiganders to stay at home since the end of March. Her shelter-in-place directive has since been extended several times; it’s currently expected to lift in mid-May, although Whitmer maintains that she has the power to delay the date further.

However, shelter-in-place has taken a toll on some Michiganders’ mental health. Right-wing protesters have staged a series of protests around the capitol building in Lansing; in late April, armed protesters attempted to storm the building’s ground floor.

While polling indicates that more Michigan residents approve of Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus than not, Republican legislators have insisted the state needs to move past shelter-in-place. Some conservative lawmakers have suggested a challenge to the governor’s executive authority, noting that a 1976 law might require Whitmer to seek Congress’s approval to extend a state of emergency past its initial 28 days.

But Whitmer has yet to relent to Michigan’s Republican-controlled Congress. In April, she asked the House to extend the emergency order by another 28 days. Although new coronavirus cases in Michigan appear to have passed their peak, Whitmer fears opening the state prematurely could encourage the virus to rebound rapidly.

Current Michigan Gov. and former Ford School faculty Gretchen Whitmer delivering a speech in 2015. Image via Flickr/user:FordSchool. (CCA-BY-2.0).

In response to Whitmer’s request, though, the Michigan House amended a Senate bill that seeks to limit how many days a governor can declare a state of emergency without legislative approval. The House-amended version, says, would codify many of Whitmer’s recently-issued executive orders, which prohibit price-gouging and extend tax deadlines.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield said the modified bill aims to replace “the current controversial state of emergency and unilateral executive orders with similar legislation that protects the emergency measures put into place over the last two months.”

Chatfield also tried to hit back against accusations that congressional Republicans are eager to re-open the state with consideration for public health consequences.

“The idea [that] 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. But we can both protect the public health and protect the individual people who make up our great state.”

Nevertheless, it appears Whitmer is set to continue Michigan’s state of emergency. At the end of the day Thursday, with hours left on her executive order, the governor issued another round of directives—one of which extends the state of emergency until the end of May.

“No one should be rushing the gun and playing fast and loose,” Whitmer said, justifying her decision with reference to a 1945 law that grants Michigan’s governor vast powers in times of crisis.

“It was an intentional decision to keep both of these sources of authority for the chief executive of the state of Michigan,” Whitmer said. “It is for times like these that authority is really important.”


Michigan House adjourns without extending coronavirus state of emergency

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