Michigan GOP introduce bills to limit Gov. Whitmer's emergency powers

Republicans in both chambers of Michigan's legislature have introduced bills that would limit Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's emergency powers, following increasing criticism from residents and lawmakers the executive has overextended her authority.

On Thursday, Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) and Reps Jason Sheppard (R-Temperance) and Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell) proposed respective legislation in the Senate and House that would repeal the 1945 Emergency Powers of Governor Act. Another bill proposed would reduce the length a governor can declare a state of emergency.

Under the Emergency Powers Act, Michigan's governor is granted wide-ranging power and an ability to exercise that power in times of great need and public safety. Whitmer has used this act before when temperatures dipped dangerously low in January of 2019 and again in response to flood events in Southeast Michigan. But under HB 5713 and SB 857, that act would be repealed entirely.

"The governor is playing with people’s constitutional rights," Sheppard said in a statement. "She has stripped residents of their property rights by prohibiting travel from one residence to another. In addition, the governor has interfered with commerce by prohibiting Michiganians from purchasing certain goods."

The weighty response of the state GOP comes following a tumultuous week in Michigan's effort to combat the spread of COVID-19. While there was little criticism of Whitmer's first several executive directives she ordered under the Emergency Powers Act, following the extension of her stay-at-home order announced last week several forms of protest erupted overnight and spilled into the week.

Along with growing Facebook groups and letters from state business CEOs, a large protest took place in Lansing on Wednesday. Whitmer warned the actions taken by individuals who chose to leave their vehicles and congregate on the capitol lawn could validate another extended order.

Additionally, lawmakers want to halve the amount of time a declaration of emergency is in place following its enactment. HB 5708 and SB 858 would shrink the length of time from 28 days to 14 days. 

There's been controversy in this realm as well. Right before Whitmer's extended shelter-in-place order, the state legislature approved a 21-day extension on her order. However, Whitmer had called for a 70-day extension. House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) rebuked that request.

In a sign of things to come, Whitmer told viewers on Good Morning America early Friday she was looking at easing some restrictions May 1.

Both bills however are subject to the governor's veto.