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Court orders Michigan Board of Canvassers to certify bill to repeal emergency law

Republicans now to remove the law entirely without a threat of veto from Gov. Whitmer
An "Unlock Michigan" sign is seen in Dickinson County, July 2020.
An "Unlock Michigan" sign is seen in Dickinson County, July 2020.(WLUC)
Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 2:18 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court has unanimously ordered the state elections board to certify an initiative to repeal the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act.

Once certified, the measure would let Republican legislators to approve wiping the law from the books entirely without a threat of a veto from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer or place the item on the ballot for a statewide vote.

Friday’s Supreme Court decision came after two Democrats on the Board of State Canvassers opposed ratifying the ballot measure in April, despite a finding from the elections bureau that enough signatures had been collected. The justices said the four-member panel “has a clear legal duty to certify the petition.”

The canvassers are expected to meet soon to certify the petition. House Speaker Jason Wentworth said lawmakers will act quickly after receiving the certified petitions to “get this done and uphold the will of the people we serve.”

“The Michigan Supreme Court got this ruling right,” said Republican State Rep. Ann Bollin of Brighton. “Hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents used their grassroots lawmaking power to take a strong stand against a too-powerful governor. It’s shameful that their voices have been stifled for this long by a handful of slanted bureaucrats.”

Unlock Michigan circulated petitions across the state last year to obtain enough signatures to repeal the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act passed in 1945. Whitmer used the law to issue COVID-19 restrictions and orders beginning in March 2020.

The group turned in 539,000 signatures to the Michigan Bureau of Elections on Oct. 2, which far exceeded the minimum of 340,000 signatures necessary to move the issue forward. That same day, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional.

However, the law remains on the books, so some Republicans worry that the Supreme Court could reverse the Oct. 2 ruling and reinstate the law later. The Republican-led Legislature passed a bill last fall to repeal the 1945 law, but Whitmer vetoed it.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson blamed the coronavirus pandemic and worker restrictions for taking about six months to tabulate the petitions. The Bureau of Elections ruled in April that Unlock Michigan’s petitions had enough valid signatures and recommended the State Board of Canvassers certify them.

However, the board deadlocked and the issue went to the Michigan Supreme Court.

“The partisan members of the Board of Canvassers who refused to certify were wrong,” Bollin said. “As the court ruled, the law must be followed. The petition to repeal the unconstitutional law Gov. Whitmer abused to issue unilateral orders last year will finally come before the Legislature for consideration. This is a victory for the people of Michigan.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.