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Michigan Senate bill would reduce length of epidemic orders

A Republican bill would limit orders to 28 days before legislative approval would be required
 Michigan Senate votes to extend State of Emergency through April 30. (Source: WILX)
Michigan Senate votes to extend State of Emergency through April 30. (Source: WILX) (WILX)
Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 4:34 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - The Michigan Senate is considering a bill that would limit the length of epidemic orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses is advocating for Senate Bill 1253, which was introduced by Republican State Sen. Lana Theis of Sturgis. The bill would limit epidemic orders to 28 days unless the Legislature votes to grant approval.

Charlie Owens, who is the Michigan director for the business group, likened the legislation to Republicans’ attempts to end the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945. The Michigan Supreme Court invalidated the law with a ruling that says it improperly delegates legislative authority the executive branch.

“Unfortunately, the governor has continued to usurp the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches by continuing to issue orders through state agencies under her direct control,” Owens said.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued statewide coronavirus orders under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act from late April until Oct. 2, when the Supreme Court invalidated the law. Republicans criticized Whitmer for working independently without their input on the state’s COVID-19 response.

After the Supreme Court ruling threw out most of Whitmer’s orders, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reinstated many of them as epidemic orders under the Public Health Code of 1978. That law was not affected by the court ruling.

Owens said the Senate bill under consideration would restore a proper balance of power between the executive branch and the Legislature in dealing with a public health crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic.

“No state agency should have the authority to shut down entire segments of the state’s economy without legislative oversight and approval,” said Owens.

Senate Bill 1253 has passed a committee and could receive a vote in the full Senate this week. It would have to pass there and in the full Michigan House before Whitmer could sign it into law.

However, Whitmer has said she will veto any legislation that limits emergency powers for her administration or any future Michigan governor.

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