Whitmer vetoes bill that would prohibit state from fining employees for 1st-time Covid violations

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday vetoed a bill that would prohibit Michigan’s workplace safety agency from fining employers for first-time violations of COVID-19 rules and require reimbursements if they violated her 2020 executive orders that were later declared unconstitutional.

The Democratic governor said the Republican-sponsored legislation would cause the state, which enforces workplace safety rules, to fall below minimum standards required by federal law.

"That would have disastrous consequences for our state," she wrote in a letter to lawmakers. She warned if Michigan lost control over enforcement, it would result in higher penalties, an end to voluntary safety outreach services and the loss of "stakeholder" input into the occupational health and safety program.

The bill had been approved on party lines by the GOP-controlled Senate last week after having gained some Democratic support in the House previously.

The sponsor, Rep. Timmy Beson of Bay County’s Bangor Township, has said his bill would "give some grace and relief to the employers in our state."

In October 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court struck down an emergency-powers law Whitmer had used to order coronavirus restrictions such as capacity caps and mask requirements. The state health department kept many rules intact amid second and third waves of new infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

Whitmer’s administration has since lifted many emergency workplace restrictions, except those aimed at protecting health workers.