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Lawmakers approve Unlock Michigan petitions to kill emergency powers law

Senate approves abolishing the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act; State House to act next
An "Unlock Michigan" sign is seen in Dickinson County, July 2020.
An "Unlock Michigan" sign is seen in Dickinson County, July 2020.(WLUC)
Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 1:48 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - The 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act is halfway to meeting its end.

The Michigan Senate approved legislation Thursday based on a citizen initiative from Unlock Michigan to abolish the law entirely. The measure now heads to the Michigan House, which can approve it and remove the law entirely or put the issue up for a statewide vote next year.

If the House votes to abolish the law, it will be removed and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer won’t have an opportunity to veto the move.

Whitmer used the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act to make COVID-19 orders from March through September 2020, including a face mask mandate and requirements for certain businesses to close for in-person customers.

“This is a great day for the people of Michigan,” said Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader Dan Lauwers of Brockway Township. “Never again should any governor be able to ignore the constitution and abuse the power of the office to effectively shut down the state in perpetuity and disrupt the lives and livelihoods of Michigan residents without their consent.”

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled the law constitutional on Oct. 2, 2020, which was the same day Unlock Michigan turned in its petitions to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office. Critics were concerned the Supreme Court could reverse its ruling and reinstate the law, so they moved forward with the initiative process.

Meanwhile, the Republican-led Legislature approved a bill to abolish the law last fall. However, Whitmer vetoed that bill in December, so the law remained on the books but invalid due to the Supreme Court ruling.

The Secretary of State’s Office recommended approval of the petitions in April, but the Board of State Canvassers deadlocked on partisan lines in June. Democrat members of the board wanted to investigate Unlock Michigan’s petition practices first.

However, the Supreme Court ruled twice that the board has a duty to approve the signatures. Canvassers approved the petitions earlier this week and sent them to the Legislature.

“I believe it took far too long to get to this point, but what matters is that we’ve finally reached it and we’re taking action on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Michiganders,” said Republican State Sen. Kevin Daley of Lapeer County. “A citizens’ initiative is an example of people having the chance to make their voices heard, and the people spoke up.”

Republicans long have complained that Whitmer kept them from key decisions during the coronavirus pandemic and acted autonomously with orders that had a broad economic impact.

“People deserve to know what decisions are being made along with why they are being made,” Dailey said. “Our founders created coequal branches to avoid the exact situation we found ourselves in during the pandemic and this initiative will ensure no future governor can violate the constitution like our current governor has.”

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