Drive to repeal law Gov. Whitmer used for COVID-19 orders clears hurdle

Unlock Michigan has enough signatures to repeal the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act
Unlock Michigan's U.P. Regional Director, Jake Putala, stands with the nearly 540,000...
Unlock Michigan's U.P. Regional Director, Jake Putala, stands with the nearly 540,000 signatures collected across Michigan in less than 80 days. The signatures were submitted on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020.(Unlock Michigan/Jake Putala)
Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 4:55 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A group trying to repeal an emergency powers law that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used to issue coronavirus restrictions has cleared a key hurdle.

The Michigan Bureau of Elections said Unlock Michigan collected enough petitions. Staff said Monday that the group, which has ties to Republicans, submitted 460,000 valid signatures, more than the 340,000 needed.

If the Board of State Canvassers agrees to certify the initiative, the Republican-led Legislature will likely pass it. Whitmer couldn’t veto it because it came to the Legislature as a citizen-led initiative.

The Michigan Supreme Court declared the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act unconstitutional on Oct. 2, which is the same day Unlock Michigan turned in its petitions to the Secretary of State’s Office in Lansing. Whitmer used the law to issue dozens of COVID-19 orders over seven months.

After the law was invalidated, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reissued many of Whitmer’s orders using the 1978 Public Health code. The department continues issuing epidemic orders under that law, which was not affected by the Supreme Court ruling.

The Republican-led Legislature passed bills in 2020 that would have repealed the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act, but Whitmer vetoed them in December.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling that invalidate the law, Unlock Michigan organizers say the law should be permanently repealed because future justices could change the ruling later and make it valid again.

Republicans criticized Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson for the amount of time her office took to tabulate the petitions. They are considering legislation this year that would impose time limits on the Secretary of State’s Office to rule on citizen petitions.

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