LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway Township, released the following update on Friday regarding the coronavirus pandemic and the November general election.
The coronavirus pandemic in 2020 has brought health and economic challenges to our state, the nation and the world that have been unprecedented in our lifetime.
In Michigan, more than 10,000 residents have died from COVID-19 as of Dec. 10, and more than 400,000 have contracted the disease. Beyond the death toll and physical suffering, a record number of millions of Michigan job providers have been devastated by the governor’s response to the virus.
Early on during the pandemic, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer decided that in response to the threat of the virus she would act unilaterally through emergency orders instead of working with the Legislature, the most direct voice of the people of Michigan.
In October, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that by acting apart from the Legislature in issuing her emergency orders, she violated the Michigan Constitution. Since the court’s decision, the governor has flaunted that ruling by having the Department of Health and Human Services issue her orders.
Gov. Whitmer’s use of the state’s health department to issue epidemic orders under the public health code clearly violates the intent of the Supreme Court’s ruling on her executive orders under the 1945 law.
Meanwhile, in the state Senate, Republicans have worked in a bipartisan fashion throughout the year to provide the resources necessary to fight the coronavirus and to help Michiganders recover from its physical and economic effects.
We assisted Michiganders dealing with the personal effects of COVID-19:
• Extended unemployment benefits. Just yesterday, Dec. 10, we passed a bipartisan bill to extend unemployment assistance to millions of out-of-work Michiganders through spring of 2021;
• Passed bipartisan bills to reverse Gov. Whitmer’s tragic policy of exposing nursing homes to the virus;
• Ensured coronavirus testing is readily available;
• Reduced the cost of child care for families and helped child care facilities remain open; and
• Hired more temporary workers to fix Gov. Whitmer’s unemployment system that failed when Michigan families needed it most.
We protected those who protect us during the pandemic:
• Passed a bill to provide front-line medical professionals caring for patients with the liability protection;
• Provided hazard pay to local public safety officers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty during the crisis;
• Increased pay for nursing home and Area Agencies on Aging workers; and
• Provided funding to ensure nursing homes, long-term care and other medical facilities have the protective equipment and testing they need.
We supported students and schools:
• Allowed each district to consult with their local health department and parents throughout the school year to determine the best and safest form of learning, whether that is in-person, distance learning or a hybrid of both, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach;
• Gave districts flexibility on the total number of mandated instructional days and hours, as long as a full year’s worth of instruction is provided; and
• Required regular two-way interaction between teachers and students because regardless of how they are participating in school this fall, students need personal attention from their teachers.
We helped Michigan businesses large and small who were ravaged by the extended
shutdown of our economy:
• Encouraged safe workplaces by ensuring liability protection for businesses that follow recommended health and safety guidelines;
• Created a grant program to help local businesses stay open and keep Michiganders employed;
• Extended the state and local income tax filing and payment deadlines for most individuals and businesses; and
• Supported restaurants through the creation of special districts where establishments can stay open with social distancing guidelines.
Many of the Legislature’s actions have been met with vetoes by Gov. Whitmer.
While we had hoped the governor and her administration would be capable of a genuine partnership with the Legislature — working together for all Michigan residents — they have clearly decided to continue to go it alone, and we have serious concerns with attempts to sidestep the Supreme Court’s opinion through these public health orders. As recently as yesterday, the governor once again has announced she will select another group of unelected individuals of her choosing to advise her — rather than work with the legislative representatives elected by the people for the very purpose of working with the governor’s administration to express their views and concern.
The administration’s actions in response to the coronavirus have made it clear that our laws inadequately protect the balance of power in our state. Empowering people to take the responsibility for themselves and their families and neighbors remains the only realistic way out. The governor’s administration is ill-equipped to make all the considerations necessary to accomplish this task. A pandemic doesn’t negate the Constitution (or common sense). I am hopeful the courts will also recognize this.
The governor continues to proclaim that the Legislature is somehow unwilling or refusing to work with her. That has never been the case. We have tried to work with the governor throughout the year. We have never asked her to hand over the reins; only that we be given a seat at the table.
Nov. 3 General Election
Following the general election on Nov. 3, the Michigan House and Senate Oversight committees launched hearings to investigate the numerous claims of election errors, irregularities and fraud.
As legislators, my colleagues and I have a responsibility to provide a forum to review policies and procedures regarding our elections, so we can reveal the truth, dispel myths, and propose changes in the law, where necessary. Regardless of the outcome, it is critical that our election results are accurate and fair.
Despite any personal hopes for the outcome of the recent election, I do not anticipate a different result, absent intervention by our highest courts. While the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the power to determine how to appoint electors, Michigan in 1954 spelled out in statute the manner in which electors are to be selected (Michigan Election Law, Act 116 of 1954). That law does not allow the Legislature to reject certification or appoint different presidential electors. Any change to the law, like all legislative changes, would ultimately require the governor’s signature.
This year has made it abundantly clear we must strengthen our laws, especially in this new era of greatly expanded absentee voting, same-day registration and other changes in voting laws that came as a result of the 2018 citizen-initiated ballot proposal. I would be surprised if a new citizen-initiated ballot proposal is not sought to address the problems of voting integrity inherent in mail-in balloting.
There is nothing more sacred to democracy than the principle of one citizen, one vote, and I remain committed to taking every possible step to ensure the voices of constituents are heard and that our state’s voting system is held to the highest standard.
The House and Senate Oversight committees will continue to hear testimony on the election in the coming weeks.