Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer rebuffed efforts by the legislature to curtail her executive authority Thursday night, issuing a trio of executive orders that would put Michigan in a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic through May 28.
Shortly after the majority Republican legislature declined to issue an extension of the initial state of emergency, which expires 11:59 p.m. April 30, Whitmer said the crisis isn’t over, regardless of what lawmakers believe.
“By refusing to extend the emergency and disaster declaration, Republican lawmakers are putting their heads in the sand and putting more lives and livelihoods at risk,” she said in a statement. “I’m not going to let that happen.”
The first of the three orders terminates the existing state of emergency and disaster declarations, and the second asserts that Michigan remains under a state of emergency under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945.
The final order declares a new state of emergency and disaster under the Emergency Management Act of 1976. The new orders would run through 11:59 p.m. May 28.
The issue will almost certainly end up in court, as both the House and Senate gave its leadership the go-ahead to sue Whitmer if she continues issuing emergency executive orders after April 30.
“If she does not recognize the end of the emergency declaration, we have no other choice but to act for our constituents,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, said in a Senate floor speech Thursday evening.
Whitmer’s office also indicated she would not sign Senate Bill 858, amended legislation that laid out extension dates for certain executive orders issued by the governor. Notably, one of the provisions in the bill would allow restaurants, bars, gyms and other public-facing businesses to open May 15, albeit with some social distancing restrictions.
The bill “does not comply with constitutional requirements” and the governor won’t sign bills that constrain her ability to protect Michigan residents from COVID-19, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
Earlier Thursday, hundreds of protesters stood shoulder-to-shoulder both inside and outside the Capitol to encourage lawmakers not to extend the state of emergency.
At one point, a group crowded in front of the entrance to the House floor, chanting, “Let us in.”
There have been 41,379 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan and 3,789 deaths.
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