Republicans cancel Thursday House hearings, Dem leader concerned about COVID-19

By: - November 11, 2020 5:01 pm

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

State House Republicans have canceled Thursday’s committee meetings and session, an action that has caused some speculation about whether more members or staff have contracted COVID-19. 

Gongwer first reported that Wednesday afternoon.

Gideon D’Assandro, spokesperson for House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), said on Wednesday that “there’s nothing immediately time sensitive on the floor tomorrow with the COVID response plan still being worked on and improved in committee.” 

Representatives are going to use the time instead to plan for the first full week back,” he added.  

When asked whether new COVID-19 cases within the body have occured, D’Assandro responded, “As far as COVID, the Legislature always leaves the announcement of any personal medical information up to the individual employees,” he said. “The Legislature does not announce employee test results, beyond any potential contact tracing that would occur.”

House Minority Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) called the timing of the cancelations “perplexing” given that state House and Senate Republicans have fought Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus-related directives for much of the year. 

“Widespread media speculation that the cancelations were prompted by COVID exposure reminds us all once again that House Republican leadership has failed to take the steps necessary to allow the House to continue functioning safely during this pandemic,” Greig said. “Imagine how different things would have looked for the Legislature and the people of Michigan if the House had approved, rather than ignored, Democrats’ plan for remote participation at the start of this public health crisis.

“The Legislature’s ability to safely and effectively perform its duties is made all the more urgent as a result of the lingering chaos created by the Republicans’ reckless litigation to undermine the state’s pandemic response without offering a plan of action. Michiganders need decisive leadership as lives are in serious jeopardy.”

Through a tweet, House Republican posted on Wednesday: 

“With COVID cases on the rise in MI, we clearly need a more effective strategy to combat the virus. Our highest court, and the millions who voted last week, want the gov and Legislature at the same table. So let’s find sensible solutions. Together.”

State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit) said it that she does not know why the cancellations have been announced but believes that concerns about COVID-19 and its spread are “likely” and “plausible.” She could not confirm whether members have been asked to quarantine. “I have not heard or seen that [via text message or email alert],” she said.

Several members of the Legislature have contracted coronavirus during the last several months. They include Reps. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) and Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit). Rep. Isaac Robinson (D-Detroit) died on March 29 and the virus is believed to have played a factor. State Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt) said she believed she had COVID-19, although her test was lost. 

When LaFave contracted the virus in late September he seemed to mock the effect of the virus. 

“I’m not gonna have a big rally in the meantime,” he chuckled during an interview with Michigan Advance at the time. “I’ll wait a little bit. It’s campaign season. I’m going to get out there but I’m not gonna get out there too quick.”

Several Democratic lawmakers said at the time that they were concerned that they hadn’t been informed about LaFave’s coronavirus diagnosis and instead learned about it from the media. D’Assandro declined to address those concerns.

In the upper chamber, Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) also had a bout with COVID-19 over the summer, which led to legislative leaders closing down the Capitol. Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) announced last week that he had coronavirus. 

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.