Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives a COVID-19 update with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist | Whitmer office photo
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday asked the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately clarify when their Oct. 2 ruling, which struck down a law she invoked to issue COVID-19 pandemic emergency orders, goes into effect.
Whitmer and state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Director Robert Gordon filed a motion asking the high court if the ruling takes effect now or if it takes effect on Oct. 30. Whitmer’s administration wants the ruling to take effect at the end of the month because they say a transition period will allow her, local health departments and the state Legislature to work together on issuing COVID-19 protections.
The high court ruled 4-3 on Oct. 2 that Whitmer does not have the authority to declare states of emergency and issue executive orders under the 1945 Emergency Powers of Governor Act (EPGA) because the act “unlawfully delegates legislative power to the executive branch in violation of the Michigan Constitution.”
If the ruling goes into effect immediately, up to 830,000 Michigan workers and their families could lose crucial unemployment benefits, Whitmer said on Monday.
A number of pandemic health protocols put in place by Whitmer’s executive orders are also expected to lapse if the ruling takes effect now. Local jurisdictions, such as Oakland and Ingham counties, have already issued their own health mandates in response to the ruling.
“We need this transition period to protect the 830,000 Michigan workers and families who are depending on unemployment benefits to pay their bills and put food on the table, and to protect Michiganders everywhere who are counting on their leaders to protect them,” Whitmer said in a statement. “The Supreme Court has spoken, and while I vehemently disagree with their ruling, I’m ready to work across the aisle with Republicans in the legislature where we can find common ground to slow the spread of the virus and rebuild our economy.”
Whitmer said it’s time for the GOP-controlled state Legislature to “get to work” on addressing the COVID-19 crisis. Top Republican lawmakers in the Legislature were responsible for the May lawsuit that challenged Whitmer’s emergency powers. It made its way to the state Supreme Court, resulting in the Oct. 2 ruling.
Those lawmakers can start addressing the pandemic “by canceling their October recess and getting back to work,” Whitmer said.
Gordon said the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling raises legal questions still under review by him and the governor. “While we are moving swiftly, this transition will take time,” Gordon said.
He urged Michigan residents to, in the meantime, continue to wear masks, wash their hands and follow social distancing protocol.
Jeff Donofrio, the director of the state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), also put an emphasis on keeping protections for Michigan workers made jobless by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A transition period is critical to ensure protections for the 830,000 unemployed Michigan workers and families who are counting on us,” Donofio said.
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