LANSING, Mich. — The Republican-led Michigan Senate voted to repeal a law Governor Gretchen Whitmer used to issue emergency orders early on in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Senate approved the Unlock Michigan petition on a 20-15 party-line vote Thursday. The petition aims to repeal the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act, which has been the target of state Republicans and conservatives who have criticized Gov. Whitmer use of emergency powers to put forth COVID-related restrictions without input from the Legislature.
Thursday's vote comes after the Michigan Supreme Court ordered the Board of State Canvassers certify the petition’s 340,000+ signatures after they were initially deadlocked on party lines. The board sent them to the Legislature Tuesday.
While several Senate Democrats spoke in opposition to the petition, arguing it would hinder future leaders' response to a pandemic or emergency, the state’s highest court already struck down Gov. Whitmer’s use of the law in October as unconstitutional.
After the ruling, the Whitmer Administration began issuing orders through the state health department, which is the latest target of Unlock Michigan. The group will soon begin collecting signatures on a second drive that aims to limit state health department epidemic orders to just 28 days in length; to extend any further would require legislative or local government approval.
The first petition now heads to the Republican-led House where it will likely be approved and the law repealed. The petition drive method also prevents a potential veto from the governor.