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Whitmer vetoes bills seeking to limit emergency authority

Emergency Powers of the Governor Act remains in place and no limits will be added to the Public Health Code
Governor Gretchen Whitmer spoke to ABC 12 about some of the major events in Michigan this year.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer spoke to ABC 12 about some of the major events in Michigan this year.
Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 3:54 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer followed through on her repeated threats to veto any legislation aiming to limit emergency powers for the governor’s office.

Whitmer vetoed two bills on Wednesday that would require legislative approval of an ongoing state of emergency and repeal the law she used to make coronavirus orders for several months in 2020.

Senate Bill 1253 would amending Michigan’s Public Health Code of 1978 by adding a requirement for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to obtain legislative approval for any emergency orders extending beyond 28 days.

That is the law state health officials have been using for the past three months to issue epidemic orders closing restaurant dining rooms, closing a variety of other businesses, imposing gathering limits, requiring everyone to wear face coverings in public and more.

In a letter to the Michigan Senate, Whitmer said she objects to the 28-day limitation on emergency orders.

“Unfortunately, epidemics are not limited to 28 days. We should not so limit our ability to respond to them,” she wrote.

“This bill would recklessly undermine the ability of the Department of Health and Human Services to stop the spread of this pandemic, putting the lives of countless Michiganders at risk,” Whitmer’s letter says.

Whitmer also vetoed Senate Bill 857, which sought to repeal the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945. She used that law as the basis for dozens of coronavirus orders issued from April to October after the Legislature declined to continue a State of Emergency.

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional on Oct. 2, meaning it and Whitmer’s orders issued before that date no longer have legal effect. Whitmer’s veto means the law will remain on the books, but it currently carries no legal authority.

Unlock Michigan submitted petitions with well over 500,000 signatures seeking to repeal the law. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office currently is reviewing the petitions to determine whether they contain 340,000 valid signatures from registered voters as required.

If the petitions are approved, the Legislature could vote to repeal the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act without a signature from Whitmer.

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