LANSING, Mich. - With Michigan's declaration of emergency set to expire Friday morning, a power struggle over authority in Lansing has erupted between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and GOP leadership in the legislature.
After being granted a 21-day extension in early April, Whitmer has called for another 28-day prolonging on her emergency declaration - which grants her the authority to issue executive orders during times of crisis. Among the most controversial orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic is Whitmer's stay-home ruling that has shuttered businesses across the state. Grounds for increasing criticism as a constitutional overstep by the governor, Whitmer has pushed back, stating the order is necessary to slow the spread of the virus in one of the hardest-hit states in the country.
House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) have rebuked the need for a one-size-fits-all rule due to the disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases reported around the state. Republicans have instead advocated for a more regionalized approach to tackling the pandemic while allowing some of Michigan's businesses to continue operating.
"We have actions we have been offering to take, some common sense decisions we think would've made perfect sense weeks ago," said Shirkey during an Off the Record segment on PBS.
Whatever semblance of compromise between the two parties appears to have disappeared, however. On Wednesday, shortly before a press conference with state officials, Whitmer's team forwarded correspondence between them and Shirkey's team to FOX 2. In the first email, Shirkey's Chief of Staff proposed two one-week extensions on Whitmer's emergency declaration "in exchange for a public agreement that all future stay-at-home-type orders (and only those) be enacted through bipartisan legislation and the democratic process rather than executive order."
A member of Whitmer's team dismissed the offer, sharing a statement approved by Whitmer saying "Michigan remains in a state of emergency regardless of the actions you decide to take or not take."
“I'm not going to engage in political negotiations with anybody. We don't have time for politics and games when people's lives are on the line," said Whitmer during her press conference on Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for Shirkey admonished the governor for leaking the internal emails to the press and said any interest in the senate majority leader or his caucus negotiating with Whtimer "has evaporated."
GOP lawmakers have attempted to curb Whitmer's powers by repealing the 1945 Emergency Powers of Governor Act and shortening the length of time a governor can declare a state of emergency. Whitmer promised a veto of any legislation approved by the Republican-held legislature.
Amid the political turmoil in Lansing is positive news that COVID-19's spread in Michigan has been slowed. While cases are beginning to climb in other parts of the state, Southeast Michigan which hosts more than 70% of COVID-19 cases has seen a plateauing in new daily cases and deaths.
In response to the slowdown, Whitmer has relaxed restrictions on some nonessential jobs like lawn care and bike repairs, as well as on traveling between residences. She also plans to allow residential and commercial construction projects to continue May 7.
Unlikely to ease the bubbling tension at the state capital is another protest that's scheduled to take place Thursday in Lansing. Critics of Whitmer's stay-home orders put on 'Operation Gridlock' two weeks ago that saw thousands of cars jam up traffic near the capitol building and hundreds congregate on the lawn.