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MI Senate approves Unlock Michigan petition, making way for repeal of governor's emergency power


The Republican-controlled Michigan Senate has approved a petition initiative to repeal the emergency powers law used by Governor Gretchen Whitmer in the earliest months of the COVID-19 crisis.

The initiative cannot be vetoed by Whitmer. The initiative now goes to the state House, which is expected to approve it next week. 

Gongwer News reported that the vote was along strict party lines, 20-15, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats present voting no.

The petition aims to repeal the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945, which Whitmer used to keep Michigan under a state of emergency when the state was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. 

Republican Senator Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) said that law allowed the governor to ignore the wishes of the legislative branch as she enacted COVID restrictions.

“We weren’t involved, so all of these ridiculous crash-and-burn policies that the governor crafted during this pandemic did not involve the Legislature so that we would have an opportunity to weigh in,” he said.

If repealed, the governor would have to get the Legislature’s permission after 28 days to extend emergency orders.

Democratic Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) said the initiative is simply a political jab at Whitmer and would be too restrictive on a governor’s ability to manage a crisis.

“And by removing these powers, we would be telling the people of Michigan: You have to wait. I know there’s an emergency, but you have to wait,” she said. “I can’t in good conscience put the lives of Michiganders at risk.”

In the unlikely event it is not adopted by the House, it would go to the ballot for voter approval. In the meantime, a follow-up petition campaign is getting ready to challenge the power to issue public health orders like the ones the Whitmer administration relied on in the later days of the COVID-19 crisis.