Michigan lawmakers announce landmark deal with Gov. Whitmer for role in pandemic orders

Whitmer agreed to firm ends dates on restrictions and a role for lawmakers while her administration will get a larger voice in budget talks
The Michigan Capitol and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The Michigan Capitol and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.(WLUC)
Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 5:54 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - One of Michigan’s top lawmakers announced a landmark deal on Thursday that he said will give the Legislature a larger role in setting future pandemic emergency measures.

Republican House Speaker Jason Wentworth said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer agreed to work with Michigan House and Senate leadership on a plan that would create a permanent role for the Legislature in all future emergency orders.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey also took part in reaching the agreement, Wentworth said.

He said Whitmer also agreed to withdraw permanent COVID-19 measures in workplaces. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed a number of COVID-19 measures that would remain in place after the pandemic, but Wentworth said Whitmer has agreed to withdraw them.

Whitmer said a May 26 public hearing on the draft MIOSHA rules for COVID-19 will be canceled as part of the agreement reached Thursday. Other emergency rules aimed at preventing COVID-19 will be rolled back on Monday.

Those two agreements go along with Whitmer’s announcement on Thursday that Michigan’s COVID-19 restrictions will be relaxed in two phases on June 1 and July 1 regardless of vaccination rates, Wentworth said. Republicans who control the Legislature long have requested firm end dates for COVID-19 measures and a voice in setting future measures.

“These three changes are major priorities for House Republicans, because those are three major priorities for the people we represent,” said Wentworth. “We listened to the people and fought every day for their ability to go to work, send their kids to school and live their lives. Today, the governor was finally willing to work with us and make significant changes. Together, we can finally put a stop to these mistakes.”

Republican legislative leaders now are offering the Whitmer administration a larger role in setting a new state budget, which is under way this spring. Whitmer will be part of the conversation between House and Senate leadership as the budget process moves forward, Wentworth said.

“I’ve consistently said I believe the budget process is better with the governor involved, and the state’s pandemic management is better with the Legislature involved,” he said.

Whitmer said her administration is eager to work more closely with lawmakers on setting a state budget and negotiating plans for spending Michigan’s share of CARES Act and American Rescue Plan money. Michigan still has $2 billion from the CARES Act to spend, along with over $20 billion from the American Rescue Plan.

“Today’s bipartisan framework shows how we can unite around investing in our schools, small businesses, and communities to help them thrive,” Whitmer said. “I look forward to working with the legislature to invest the billions in federal resources sent to us by both the Trump and Biden administrations and pass a budget that makes lasting investments in our shared priorities.”

Republicans have started passing bills for a $66.4 billion budget in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, without much negotiation from Whitmer. Whitmer proposed her own $67.1 billion budget plan in February.

Whitmer said a Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference scheduled for Friday is likely to show a big boost in tax revenue for the state, as well.

Wentworth believes now is past time to put aside partisan rancor between the Republican-led Legislature and the Democrat governor’s administration.

“The critical issues facing our state are simply too big and are hurting too many people for us to waste any more time,” he said. “The people we represent are tired of disagreement and just want results. This agreement is a good first step in getting us to that point.”

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