Friday in Lansing: Michigan Legislature Meeting, Gov. Whitmer Executive Order

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Michigan Legislature Meets for Special Convening

The Michigan Legislature met today for a special convening to create an oversight committee. The Chamber broke down why the met and what happened below.

Does the Legislature often meet on Friday?

This was the second time since 2012 that the Legislature has met on Friday, other than continuing a late-night Thursday session that extended past midnight.

Why did they meet?

The Michigan Legislature met to create a special select committee to provide oversight of the governor’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and begin reeling in her emergency powers.

What is the difference between “emergency powers” and the “stay at home” order?

The governor’s emergency powers under state law are the broad powers that allow her to issue orders including limiting gatherings, closing schools, extending unemployment benefits, limiting liability for health care workers, and the stay at home order.  Without extending the governor’s emergency powers, not only does the stay at home order fall, but all of the orders issued during the emergency are potentially at risk as well.

How are they trying to “reel in her emergency powers?”

This is where it gets a little complicated. The governor’s emergency powers come from two separate laws, a 1945 law and a 1976 law.

  • Under the 1945 law, the governor has a narrower set of powers that have no specific end date,.
  • Under the 1976 law, the governor has broader powers that must be extended by the legislature after 28 days.
  • The legislature already extended the governor’s powers under the 1976 law until April 30th.
  • The Michigan Senate passed legislation to repeal the 1945 law and limit powers of the 1976 law to 14 days.

Wouldn’t these new bills require the governor’s signature?

Yes, or a 2/3 vote to override her veto.  If either happened it would be a shock.

So, what happens next?

There are a couple of possible scenarios.  The Governor’s powers under the broadest 1976 act expire on Thursday, April 30.  She could continue to exercise emergency authority under the 1945 act.  There is also a legal argument that the legislature’s power in 1976 is unenforceable.  This could set up a legal showdown between the two branches of government.  Obviously, this is not the desired outcome at this time.

A better outcome is one where the governor’s powers are extended and the legislature feels heard and a respected part of the process.


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed executive order 2020-59, extending her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order through May 15

The revisions to the new Executive Order include:

  1. Allow some workers who perform previously suspended activities to go back on the job.
    • Landscapers, lawn-service companies, and nurseries can return to work, subject to strict social distancing.
    • Retailers that do not sell necessary supplies may reopen for curbside pick-up and for delivery.
    • Big box stores can reopen “closed areas,” like garden centers and paint areas.
    • Bike repair and maintenance can come back online.
  2. Requires people to wear homemade, non-medical grade face coverings when they enter enclosed public spaces. It will also require employers to provide at least cloth face coverings to their employees.​​​​​​
  3. Eases up on some restrictions on members of the public.
    • It will, for example, allow motorized boating and golf (but no golf carts), consistent with sound social distancing.
    • It will also permit individuals to travel between their residences, though such travel during the epidemic is strongly discouraged.
    • It will clarify that state parks remain open, as they have been throughout the emergency.

View the full Executive Order.

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