Michigan Senate Majority Leader Shirkey: Embrace Hope Not Fear

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The State of Michigan is poised with the responsibility of weighing the health risks of lessening the restrictions of the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe, Save Lives” order with the risks posed to the economy. In today’s Tele-Town Hall, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey spoke with Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah about the Michigan Legislature’s meeting last Friday and his thoughts on the executive actions in response to the crisis.

Reassessing Emergency Powers

Shirkey specified that the Michigan Legislature met to ensure that the lessons learned from navigating the COVID-19 crisis can help guide the state’s response to crises down the road. He noted that the state had no prior experience or procedures in place to guide its response to the crisis.

The 1945 and 1976 laws were reviewed specifically:

  • 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, and the Senate passed legislation to repeal the 1945 law and limit powers of the 1976 law to 14 days. These two bills require either the governor’s signature or a two-thirds vote to override her veto, though both are unlikely.

What happens next? There are a couple of possible scenarios for what happens next.  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.  Read more on the possible scenarios of what could happen next here.

While Shirkey clarified that the Legislature supported the governor’s initial response to the crisis, many now hold that allowances for businesses to resume operations could have taken place much sooner. We all have different appetites for risk, Shirkey acknowledged.

“Anytime we try to have a one-size-fits-all approach, there are going to be unintended consequences,” said Shirkey. Those unintended consequences, he specified, include the negative impact on businesses.

Shirkey mentioned that his opinions have changed over time as more data is available.

There’s a distinction right there early on because we didn’t have much data then we only had models to react to. As time has gone on we’ve got the picture that has been started to be filled.”

We [he and the governor] talked last Monday, said Shirkey. “We hadn’t talked for the previous two weeks, and I’m pleased to report that at 5:15 today that we have another call,” he said.

On the Current Budget

Shirkey stated that the estimates for impacts on the current year’s budget is ranged between $1 billion and $3 billion.

“Making that kind of an impact in a budget that’s you know, two-thirds done is really difficult,” Shirkey said. ” I am encouraging the appropriation teams, plural, plus the governor’s budget office to take a look at the entirety of the projections to target initially,” he said.

Shirkey plans to encourage the appropriation teams and the governor’s budget office to take a look at the entirety of the projections and target initial estimates at the higher end and then back off of those as they see what the revenue is coming in at.

 

In closing, he encouraged Michiganders to embrace hope instead of fear in these difficult times since Michigan will need to come back strong.

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