Gov. Whitmer vetoes bill that would limit MDHHS emergency orders

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a bill that would limit the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ (MDHHS) ability to issue emergency orders on Wednesday. The bill comes as part of a long effort by Michigan Republicans to limit the executive powers of the governor and her appointees.

Senate Bill 1 was filed by Sen. Lana Theis on Jan. 13. The bill would limit the maximum length of an epidemic-related state of emergency declared by the MDHHS to 28 days. The department would need legislative approval to extend emergency powers beyond that time period. If passed, the bill would also retroactively apply to the currently ongoing state of emergency that the MDHHS declared in November.

The bill received wide support from Republicans in the legislature, though Whitmer and Democrats largely rejected it as a political ploy. The bill passed the Senate by a 20-15 vote on March 2. It passed the House by a 59-50 vote on March 9.

 

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Governor Whitmer’s use of executive powers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a point of contention in Michigan. The governor set strict lockdown restrictions early on in the pandemic to the chagrin of many Republicans. Opposition to her lockdown orders even led to armed protests at the state capitol in Lansing last year. Some members of the protest would later be arrested by the FBI for an alleged plot to kidnap the governor.

In October, Michigan’s Supreme Court struck down Whitmer’s emergency orders. The MDHHS reinstated the orders with an emergency declaration.

The legislative bodies can override Whitmer’s veto with a two-thirds vote in each house.

Michigan was largely seen as a story of success early in the pandemic. After an initial surge of cases in March, the state saw their case rate significantly decrease compared to their neighboring peers. On June 15, the state only recorded 56 cases and the running 7-day case average fell below 200.

The state avoided a summer surge of cases but faced a second wave of the pandemic when cases began to pile up in the fall.