The Michigan Federation of Independent Business, a group that represents small businesses in the state, is praising the Michigan Legislature’s action this week to kill an emergency law that enabled Governor Gretchen Whitmer to impose COVID-19 restrictions in 2020. The NFIB says the Unlock Michigan ballot initiative was certified by the Board of State Canvassers last week. That was followed by swift action in the Michigan Senate and House. Because Senate Democrats denied the measure immediate effect, the repeal of the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945 will not take effect until 91 days after December 31 of this year when the Legislature officially adjourns. Under Michigan’s constitution, the petition initiative as approved by the Legislature cannot be vetoed by the governor.
“No governor, regardless of party affiliation, should have the unchecked and absolute authority to shut down entire sectors of the economy and state without oversight by the duly elected members of the state legislature,” said NFIB Michigan State Director Charlie Owens. “This should be a non-partisan issue, and we are disappointed that only a few Democrats in the House voted to assert their rights as lawmakers to provide a check and balance to the executive branch.”
According to the NFIB, the Unlock Michigan ballot initiative repeals the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945 (Public Act 302 of 1945). It writes that “Governor Whitmer had been using the outdated law early in the Covid-19 pandemic to declare a continuous ‘State of Emergency’ and issue executive orders that did not require legislative oversight or approval. The orders closed entire sectors of the economy and placed restrictions on many others. In October of last year, the state Supreme Court ruled the Governor’s use of the law unconstitutional. However, NFIB and supporters of the petition effort believe the Act could again be used by a governor if it is not repealed.
Since the Supreme Court ruling, the Governor has pivoted to issuing pandemic emergency orders through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). Now another ballot initiative, “Unlock Michigan 2,” has been started that would limit such agency orders by the state health department to no more than 28 days without legislative approval or, in the case of a local health department order, local governing body approval. As a petition initiative, if the required signatures are gathered and the petition is put before the legislature, it could be passed by a simple majority vote and become law without any approval required from the governor.
Owens said that NFIB was the only statewide business organization that supported the petition effort to repeal the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945, and that the organization’s members will soon decide if NFIB will also support the Unlock Michigan 2 effort.