Michigan Legislature Sues Gov. Whitmer Over Extension of Coronavirus Emergency

May 8, 2020 by Gaspard Le Dem
In this photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, May 7, 2020. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP, Pool)

Republican lawmakers in Michigan’s state legislature are suing Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer over her move to extend stay-at-home orders last week amid the coronavirus crisis.

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday by House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, alleges that Whitmer’s emergency orders are “improper and invalid as a matter of Michigan constitutional and statutory law.”

“The Legislature did not approve an extension of the state emergency declaration and as such we expected the declaration to end,” said Shirkey in a press release. “Instead, we saw the governor ignore the law, unilaterally extend the emergency, and write new executive orders.”

Last week, Whitmer issued three new executive orders that extended Michigan’s state of emergency through May 28 despite opposition from GOP lawmakers who claimed the governor did not have the authority to do so. The state of emergency allows Whitmer to keep issuing orders that place restrictions on people and businesses during the pandemic. 

On Thursday, Whitmer extended stay-at-home measures for an additional two weeks, but also announced that manufacturing workers, including auto workers, would be allowed to resume work next week as part of her “Safe Start Plan.” 

“This is good news for our state, our businesses, and our working families,” said Whitmer in a statement. “We’re not out of the woods yet, but this is an important step forward on our MI Safe Start plan to re-engage our economy safely and responsibly.”

The state legislature’s decision to sue the governor comes after several demonstrations in Lansing by protesters who accuse the governor of abusing her power and violating their constitutional rights. The protesters stormed the capitol last week while openly carrying guns as the state lawmakers were debating the extension of the state of emergency.

Whitmer initially declared a state of emergency in March as Michigan was reporting its first COVID-19 cases. As cases surged, she issued an order that temporarily closed down non-essential businesses and required that residents stay indoors.

The governor has since revised emergency orders to allow some businesses to reopen and lift restrictions on outdoor activities for residents. 

On Wednesday, Michigan’s construction and real-estate activities were allowed to resume operations with certain caveats for employers, such as enforcing social distancing rules and providing protective equipment for workers. Other low-risk businesses like plant nurseries, lawn care companies and bike repair shops have also been allowed to reopen.

Michigan has been battling one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country with more than 4,000 confirmed deaths and tens of thousands of cases. Urban areas have been particularly hard hit –– the city of Detroit has suffered more than 1,000 deaths alone.

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