Senate OKs measures to limit governor’s power, create COVID-19 panel

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate on Friday passed legislation that would provide Michiganders a check against the governor’s power during an emergency and help avoid another crisis.

Senate Bills 857 and 858 would provide for greater legislative oversight of the governor’s extraordinary powers during a state of emergency, while House Concurrent Resolution 20 creates the Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“The COVID-19 virus has exposed weaknesses both in state law and in our governor’s leadership, which we have now taken steps to address,” said Sen. Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway Township. “These measures will give the Legislature and Michigan residents more control in responding to future emergencies.”

Two laws give the governor the ability to declare and act during states of emergency or disaster: The Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945 and The Emergency Management Act of 1976.

SB 857 would repeal the 1945 law, and SB 858 would amend the 1976 law to only allow declarations of disaster or emergency to last 14 days before requiring legislative approval, instead of the current 28 days.

The Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic is a bipartisan, bicameral committee that has the ability to subpoena information related to the Whitmer Administration’s actions during the outbreak.

Lauwers also commented on the governor’s latest stay-at-home order.

“The governor’s new order extending the stay-at-home provisions through May 15 doesn’t do enough to loosen restrictions and begin to reopen the state for business,” Lauwers said. “Her disinterest in working with the Legislature or listening to commonsense guidelines is very concerning. The longer the governor ignores the people of Michigan’s ability to return to work safely, the greater the damage to our state’s future.”

SBs 857 and 858 have been sent to the House for further consideration.

For information about COVID-19 and the state’s response to the pandemic, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus. The state has also launched a hotline about COVID-19. Residents with any questions about the virus can call 1-888-535-6136 between 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.