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Nov. 25 | This Week in Government: Discussion on Impeachment Resolutions; Workplace Safety Guidelines

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

  1. Officials Stress COVID Workplace Safety Requirements
  2. Wentworth Discusses Impeachment Resolution, Unlock Michigan
  3. Republican Rep. Brann Supports Mask Mandate

Officials Stress COVID Workplace Safety Requirements

The state’s coronavirus workplace safety director on Monday emphasized the need for employers to remain vigilant in using their workplace mitigation plans to stamp out the virus over the coming months until a vaccine is widely available to the public.

Sean Egan, state director for COVID-19 workplace safety, said during a video conference with the Detroit Regional Chamber that having a thorough plan in place in line with state regulations and following it closely will help eliminate the spread of the virus.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Oct. 14 issued emergency rules which he said are expected to be static and remain in place for the next six months.

“The numbers are off the charts, the positivity rate is really high, we’re getting so much community spread,” Egan said. “One important point is that just if it hasn’t already with community spread this strong, if you are doing in-person work it is going to be in your workplace and you need to be prepared to navigate what that means.”

Despite the recent positive news of there being multiple companies getting close to having a vaccine ready to begin delivering to the public, he said it is going to take at least several months to vaccinate a large portion of the public. That means the efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 will need to continue long into 2021, he said.

He also referenced state statistics as of Nov. 12 of there being about 210 workplace outbreaks in the state.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean that the workplace is terrible, but any place we have congregation, that creates challenges as it relates to COVID,” Egan said.

A positive, he said, is that businesses are doing the right thing and reporting and responding to outbreaks.

Inspections of businesses, he said, are not meant to be a “gotcha” moment but an effort to ensure compliance and to see if businesses need to improve in some areas of their written COVID-19 preparedness and response plans and training of employees.

Egan encouraged businesses to not panic if inspectors show up to check on their operations.

“They will sit down with you and the first thing they’re going to ask for is your plan and they’ll go through you plan with you and then they’ll do a walk-around of your building to kind of see what mitigation strategies you’re putting into place,” Egan said. “They’ll talk with you about what pieces are good and what pieces you’re missing and those types of things. Just them stopping in does not mean you’re getting cited.”

Remote work rules, he said, is one area that draws a lot of questions from employers.

He said current rules state that in-person work is prohibited if the person or persons can feasibly complete their work from home. Employers must outline classifications and positions of workers who are reporting to work and explaining the reasons why they are there.

“The strongest safety tool you have is to get rid of that hazard completely, which is why you’re doing the daily health screenings, why you’re doing remote work,” Egan said. “Then you don’t have COVID in the workplace, and those mitigation strategies are much more effective.”

He pointed to a link on the MIOSHA website for businesses interested in scheduling a consultation with the department to help improve their mitigation plans and efforts as one option for businesses that may need assistance or clarity on what is required.


Wentworth Discusses Impeachment Resolution, Unlock Michigan

House Speaker-elect Rep. Jason Wentworth said his goal moving into next term is to mend the relationship between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the GOP-led Legislature to help ease the frustrations that he said led to the recent introduction of an impeachment resolution.

Wentworth (R-Farwell) said in an interview last week with Gongwer News Service that he hasn’t read HR 324 from Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford), and Rep. Daire Rendon (R-Lake City).

“But I’ll be honest, I’m surprised that it’s taken this long for someone to introduce a resolution for impeachment. You know the frustration that we’re hearing from our constituents across the state has … been increasing over the last several weeks,” Wentworth said. “It comes down to … people of Michigan wanting a seat at the table. They expect their representatives, we’re the people’s chamber, to be able to voice their concerns. And we’re not getting that from the governor at this point. And so that’s the frustration. That’s the level we’re at, that members of the Michigan House of Representatives feel it necessary to introduce a resolution to impeach the governor.”

Gov. Whitmer and Democrats have said Republican lawmakers’ claims they have been ignored are untrue and questioned why they have not sent any bills to her desk to curb the pandemic.

When asked if he supported the resolution – which three of the 58-member Republican Caucus signed onto –Wentworth said his goal is to make sure House members, “and the people of Michigan,” don’t feel the need to go down that road next term.

“That we have a seat at the table, that that’s what I’m here for,” he said. “That’s what I want to … continue to build our relationship with the Governor. To make sure that those voices are heard at the table, and we’re not in a situation where the frustration has risen to this level where there’s introductions of impeachment.”

Similar to the impeachment and removal of the president, a simple majority of the House could impeach the Governor and put the governor on trial in the Senate, which would need a two-thirds majority vote to convict and remove the governor. Republicans lack a two-thirds majority in the Senate and a conviction vote would be virtually guaranteed to fail.

The resolution claims the Governor: “has exceeded her constitutional authority, violated the constitutional rights of the people of Michigan, issued orders that are not in the best interests of the people of this state, and used the pandemic as an opportunity to reward political allies.”

The last point refers to the contact tracing contract awarded to a firm with Democratic ties, something the governor said she canceled as soon as she learned about it.

Earlier this month, Whitmer spokesperson Tiffany Brown panned the impeachment resolution in a statement.

“Gov. Whitmer doesn’t have any time for partisan politics or people who don’t wear masks, don’t believe in science, and don’t have a plan to fight this virus,” Brown said. “Right now, she is focused on saving lives. The governor will continue to work hard for all 10 million Michiganders. This is about Michigan vs. COVID-19. Governor Whitmer doesn’t care if you’re a Trump Republican or a Biden Democrat. We are all in this together.”

The Unlock Michigan petition seeking to repeal the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945, which the Governor used to issue executive orders before the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional could also come before the House while Wentworth is speaker.

Wentworth said the Legislature owes it to the people to at least look at the petition and debate it as a body. It seems likely the GOP-led Legislature would pass the petition, avoiding Gov. Whitmer’s veto pen, if the proposal in fact collected enough valid signatures.

“I think the key for me is I represent, obviously, the House going to next term,” he said. “And I want to make sure that that the people that were elected to the seats have a voice and so I’m open to the debate and the discussion and see where that goes.”


Republican Rep. Brann Supports Mask Mandate

Republican Rep. Tommy Brann called on Michigan Legislature to pass a bipartisan law requiring masks to be worn in indoor places and crowded outdoor areas to slow the spread of the coronavirus, emphasizing that many should listen to advice from medical professionals.

Brann is the first prominent elected Republican to call for the passage of a bill enacting a mask mandate. Top Republican leaders have resisted the idea. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has imposed a mask mandate via administrative order, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said the passage of a bill would make a big difference in persuading people to wear face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Brann told Gongwer News Service that when it comes to public health issues, he trusts the facts from physicians over the opinions of politicians.

“I just trust doctors instead of politicians,” Brann said. “So, I checked with CEO of Metropolitan Hospital Grand Rapids, Dr. Peter Hahn, and I checked with a couple other state representative friends that are doctors and a state senator.”

The feedback he received from friends and doctors was that masks save lives. He also said his other colleagues support masks, but he cannot speak on whether or not they would support a mandate.

“My colleagues do support masks,” Brann said. “The word ‘mandate’ I can’t put in there, they have to speak for themselves. But yes, they do support masks.”

However, Brann said a bipartisan law for a mask mandate would show greater unity by the Legislature.

“If both parties work together it shows strong leadership for Michigan,” Brann said. “I trust doctors and I want people to have faith in the medical profession. I know I do and I know my colleagues do. And this (mandate) would show support from the House for the doctors and nurses that are working their tails off to save lives.”

There is no bill requiring a mask mandate sitting on the House floor. If there were one, Brann said he would vote yes because he is concerned about the health of the Michigan people.

“Before I took my oath, I read the state constitution and part of the oath is to protect the safety and health… of the Michigan people,” Brann said. “To me, when I vote, I think of that. I carry it in my wallet and I think of that all the time. I would vote for (a mandate). I don’t know if I would be the one vote that would pass it, but I would vote for it.”

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) did not return request for comment on Brann’s call. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) has said multiple times he opposes a mandate, instead preferring to encourage residents to wear masks.

Republicans in the House and Senate have received criticism from colleagues for not wearing masks properly or continuously. A large contingent of Republican lawmakers in the House often do not wear masks on the chamber’s floor during session.

Dr. Rob Davidson, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare, also made a statement urging Michigan Legislature to pass a bipartisan law for a mask mandate.

“Masks, along with physical distancing, are far and away the best tool we have to stop the exponential growth of COVID-19 cases and get our state back on track,” Davidson said in a statement. “Bipartisan mask rules are cropping up around the Midwest from North Dakota to Iowa to Ohio — we applaud every elected official who steps up to the plate to protect their communities on this issue. Thank you to Representative Brann — frontline medical workers are grateful.”


Related:

COVID-19 Town Hall: Michigan’s Director of COVID-19 Workplace Safety on MIOSHA, MDHHS Guidance

Detroit Regional Chamber Leadership Supports Traditional Transfer of Presidential Power