Sixteen months after the COVID-19 pandemic began in Michigan, the GOP-led Legislature has revoked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s pandemic powers.
The House of Representatives sealed the end of her powers Wednesday with a vote of 60-48. The Senate approved the petition on July 15 on a 20-15 vote.
Democratic Rep. Sam Steckloff said petitions are meant to go on the ballot to voters instead of enacted through the Legislature and contended petition gatherers “lied” to those who signed the petition.
Rep. Jack O’Malley, R-Lake Ann, said Whitmer decided to “go it alone” against COVID-19, ignoring all input from the GOP-led Legislature on her executive orders.
Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall, said many Michiganders felt voiceless as Whitmer took unilateral orders with far-reaching consequences, saying the petition restored “needed balance” between the coequal branches.
“This proposal today is democracy in action. The people decided they have had enough,” Hall said in the House floor. “They began circulating this petition because they felt they had no other way to make their voices heard.”
Fred Wszolek, the spokesman for Unlock Michigan, welcomed the news.
“Our Unlock Michigan citizen army collected over 540,000 signatures in just 80 days. Now, 292 days later, we’ll complete our mission with a final vote in the Legislature to end Governor Whitmer’s rule by decree,” Wszolek told The Center Square in an email. “Next, we’ll turn our attention to the public health law Whitmer abused to destroy lives, businesses, and futures. Don’t bet against our success there either.”
Wszolek credited the Legislature for repealing the law “that caused so much pain once and for all.”
The Unlock Michigan petition, filed in October 2020, dates back to the early COVID-19 pandemic when Whitmer enacted restrictions via 1945 pandemic powers.
The orders included threatening criminal charges for operating a motorboat, visiting a secondary home, and banning stores larger than 50,000 square feet from selling gardening supplies. Some professions, including barbers and landscapers, were deemed “nonessential.”
On Oct. 2, 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court tossed many of Whitmer’s executive orders but split 4-3 on whether the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act “is an unlawful delegation of legislative power to the executive branch in violation of the Michigan Constitution.”
That ruling threw out over 2,600 criminal charges and fines in Detroit alone. The GOP criticized Whitmer for what they say are “arbitrary” restrictions, deeming essential marijuana, alcohol and the lottery while shuttering gyms and many in-person workplaces. Democrats pushed back, saying the GOP only criticized but didn’t help the first-term Democrat fight a deadly pandemic.