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Statement from Sen. Peter MacGregor

Friends,

A lot has happened in Michigan over the last few months, and we have all been significantly impacted. This public health crisis is something we have not experienced in our lifetime. We’ve lost more than 4,000 lives in Michigan and this pandemic has drastically changed our day-to-day routines and essentially stopped our economy overnight.

Michigan responded, through Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, by declaring a state of emergency, issuing various executive orders, and eventually requiring that citizens shelter in place. I do not think anyone would argue that the initial shelter in place order was unnecessary as we braced for the unknown. We had to be prepared so it did not overrun our health system.

There are many sides to this pandemic. First and foremost are the husbands, wives, sons and daughters who have lost their lives. We also have people who have or are losing their livelihoods. To lose the ability to provide for your family is scary and devastating. The fear is real no matter what side a person finds themselves on.

I am deeply concerned with the governor’s refusal to include the Legislature in developing a plan to reopen Michigan. The governor’s refusal to accept that the Legislature is an equal branch of government is both wrong and dangerous to our very system of government. Our constitution is not designed for one person to make decisions impacting every Michigander without input and participation from those elected to present a voice in government on behalf of their constituents.

This concern is not simply a technical issue or based on distrust of the governor. The very structure of our government requires input and collaboration from both the executive and legislative branches. It is the checks and balances, built into our system, as intended by our founders that the governor is choosing to ignore. To proceed as if the Legislature is irrelevant will result in both greater uncertainty and a lack of public support for the decisions that must be made in this critical time.

Unfortunately, the virus isn’t going away any time soon. It is therefore unrealistic to stay in our homes forever and to react out of fear forever. What the Legislature has begun developing is a realistic plan to live with this virus as safely and as realistically as possible, in a safer manner, with precautions in place. I believe that Michigan’s citizens can be — and should be — trusted to make the necessary adjustments and begin the process of returning to work. A one size fits all approach is not practical for such a diverse state.

Last week the Legislature met and passed legislation that would have put into law many of the executive orders the governor issued during this crisis. Senate Bill 858 included provisions to expand unemployment benefits, provide and expand liability protection for medical professionals, allow schools to continue operating under emergency conditions, and maintain extended tax filing dates. Unfortunately, the governor vetoed the bill.

The power Gov. Whitmer claims to have is problematic. It is clear in statute that after 28 days of a declared state of emergency the Legislature must vote to allow the governor continued emergency powers. The state of Michigan has two laws that refer to emergency powers. The Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945, and the updated Emergency Management Act of 1976. The governor is relying on an overly expansive interpretation of these two laws to say she can continue wielding emergency powers for as long as she likes, without Legislative approval. I believe she is bound by the 1976 law, which specifically mentions epidemics and clearly states that any additional powers granted to the executive in times of emergency have an expiration date, and that after 28 days the governor must return to the Legislature for an extension of those powers. These are the checks and balances built into our system of government and required by our constitution.

When this first began, our governor said, “we’re all in this together,” and I was prepared to roll up my sleeves and work with the executive branch to get our state through this crisis. But, unfortunately, the governor rejected our help and declared that she would manage this crisis without legislative involvement. Nobody wants to see a fight in the courts.

I agree that saving lives is a priority. But saving livelihoods and the wellbeing of all Michiganders should not be ignored. The actions the Senate took last week acknowledge that a health crisis persists in much of our state, while at the same time requiring Gov. Whitmer to work with the Legislature and make her decisions more transparent. We need to return to a system of checks and balances that ensures all voices are heard.

Sincerely,

Sen. Peter MacGregor

Majority Floor Leader

28th District

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