Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is not expected to sign the bill.
The Michigan Senate has passed a bill seeking to limit the validity of public health emergency orders to 28 days.
The month-long timeline, says MLive.com, mirrors similar restrictions that the state senate has put upon Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s own executive powers.
According to the text of Senate Bill 1253, the proposal—if passed—would amend the state’s Public Health Code to make emergency orders issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or its director, valid for a maximum of 28 days.
In the event that the department wanted an extension, it would have to request authorization from the Michigan Legislature.
MLive.com reports that the bill cleared the Senate with 22 votes against 16. It is expected to move to the House next week.
However, Gov. Whitmer—a Democrat—is not expected to sign the bill into law, even if the House approves it. Not only would SB 1253 diminish her administration’s ability to contain the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, but it would retroactively invalidate all of DHHS Director Robert Gordon’s emergency orders.
Gordon’s orders, notes MLive.com, closely mirror those dictated by Whitmer earlier this year.
From mid-March until October, Gov. Whitmer issued a series of executive orders geared towards combating COVID-19. With the state’s Republican-dominated legislature unwilling to close businesses or pass mask mandates, Whitmer made many such decisions herself.
However, a lawsuit—which went all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court—challenged Gov. Whitmer’s gubernatorial authority. The state supreme court later found that the law Gov. Whitmer was using to repeatedly issue emergency orders was, in and of itself, unconstitutional.
Since then, Gov. Whitmer has relied extensively upon Gordon and other members of her administration to exercise their own authority in creating coronavirus-containment policies similar to her own.
Several of Michigan’s Democratic lawmakers offered challenges to the bill, claiming that congressional conservatives were trying to usurp powers intended for the executive branch of government.
“Our Constitution is clear,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, a Flint Democrat. “All legislation must be by bill. It must be presented to the governor to be signed into law.
“Instead,” Ananich said, “this bill would allow legislators to exercise authority reserved for the executive branch.”
Sen. Winnie Brisks, a Grand Rapids Democrat, had also proposed an amendment that would codify Michigan’s current mask mandate.
“It would require face masks indoors, outdoors [sic] distancing is impossible, while using public transit or rideshare services,” Brisks said. “This change will ensure we listen to our best scientists and better protect Michiganders.”
However, Brisks’ proposal was rejected by the Senate’s conservative majority.
Other Democrats, including Sen. Mallory McMorrow of Royal Oak, asserted that SB 1253 would essentially require public health officials to ask a highly politicized Congress “for permission” to do their jobs.