Michiganders woke up to a barrage of information this morning that could cause more confusion than clarity. A struggle between legislators and the governor yesterday resulted in the Michigan Legislature allowing the emergency disaster declaration to expire and authorizing a lawsuit against the governor. Governor Whitmer’s response was to declare another state of emergency and state of disaster effective through May 28th and express her intention to veto any bills that “constrain her ability to protect the people of Michigan from this deadly virus in a timely manner.” Now, citizens are wondering who to listen to.
Some legislators are telling their constituents that they don’t have to follow Whitmer’s directives, but Shane Hernandez, State Representative for the 83rd District, said that the Governor’s orders can continue to be enforced until a court says otherwise.
“We didn’t extend. She thinks she can extend. Her orders stand until a court says otherwise.” said Hernandez. When asked what the legislature hopes to accomplish, Hernandez expressed concern that the people’s voices are not being considered in the Governor’s process for deciding what actions should be taken to confront COVID-19 in Michigan. Until the governor decides to take input from the legislature (the elected representatives of the people), the people of Michigan do not have a say in important decisions being made that dramatically affect their communities.
“When people call the governor’s office with questions about the unemployment system, she tells them to call their State Rep.” said Hernandez, noting the legislature’s role as advocates for their constituents. “We are the voice for the people, but we haven’t been able to be part of the process the governor has for deciding how to handle this.”
The legislature passed Senate Bill 858 on April 30th which puts several key directives to contain COVID-19 into temporary law. They include preventing employers from taking disciplinary action against any employee who elects to stay home from work because of COVID-19, expanded unemployment benefits and eligibility requirements, measures to prevent price gouging, and many others.
Whitmer’s office said in a press release that Senate Bill 858 “does not comply with constitutional requirements” and “the governor intends to veto this bill when presented to her.”
Reporting for WGRT – Jessie Wiegand