LANSING, Mich. - Michigan lawmakers are set to meet in Lansing on Tuesday to vote on extending Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's emergency declaration amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, both the governor and part of the legislature are at odds over how long that extension should be.
While the governor has requested a 70-day extension on to the declaration, GOP lawmakers have pushed back on such a long time table, arguing for a more moderate increase in the declaration of 23 days.
The state of emergency, which grants the governor more autonomy over laws she implements, has been the basis of more than 30 executive orders since it was first declared on March 10. The current declaration is set to end Tuesday, April 7.
The governor and lawmakers are also at odds over when Whitmer's emergency declaration is even set to end. During a press conference yesterday, she said her emergency declaration's 28-day clock was reset after she expanded the order on April 1 and that any vote taken would be unnecessary. Republicans dispute this claim.
The last time lawmakers met was three weeks ago. Since then, one legislator has died from a suspected COVID-19 infection and another has tested positive, causing uneasiness over congregating in Lansing. The potential for more lawmakers to be exposed to the coronavirus is reason enough that much of the Detroit Black Caucus says it won't be convening in Lansing on Tuesday.
“The majority of the Detroit caucus member, I would rest assure that most of them will not be driving up 96 to get to Lansing on Tuesday,” said Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit). “We’re going to be in our homes, with our families, talking to our staff, so that madness doesn’t break out in the city.”
However, House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) said guidelines have been put in place to ensure little chance that further transmission could occur. In a letter addressed to House Democratic Minority Leader Christine Greig, Chatfield wrote a screening process has been put in place and "every possible measure will be taken to minimize the risk of exposure to legislators and staff."
"In light of the rapidly evolving situation surrounding the spread of the coronavirus...the Michigan House of Representatives will continue to do its job and stand ready to address this pandemic on behalf of the people we represent," read Chatfield's letter.
In an apparent attempt at a compromise over the vote, Rep. Greig said on Twitter she would be introducing a resolution to allow lawmakers to participate remotely.
Whitmer's executive orders have run the gamut from lifting weight restrictions on tractor-trailers driving on Michigan roads to expanding who is eligible for unemployment benefits. In one of her most consequential decisions, the governor canceled the remainder of the school year and asked districts to deploy a form of remote learning for students.
The Associated Press contributed to this report