Advance Notice: Briefs

Republican says closing Capitol is ‘bad judgment,’ but Capitol panel VP says it’s not not a 1A issue

By: - December 14, 2020 11:59 am

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey at the Mackinac Policy Conference, May 30, 2019 | Andrew Roth

After Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said the Capitol and other legislative buildings will be closed Monday due to a “credible threat” during the presidential electors’ vote, he now says that closing the state building is an infringement on the First Amendment.

Shirkey told Detroit News that he is disappointed in the decision to close the building and says it’s “bad judgment and worse than that.”

But Michigan State Capitol Commission (MSCC) Vice President John Truscott, a former spokesman for GOP Gov. John Engler, says “this is not a First Amendment issue at all since the public does not have an opportunity to speak at the Electors meeting. Anyone can express their opinions in the public space on the Capitol grounds.”

Whether or not the Capitol building was open, the electors meeting, which does not fall under the Open Meetings Act, was always planned to be closed to the public and livestreamed

Electors meetings are hosted by the party whose candidate won, which in this case is the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP). Democratic Presidential-elect Joe Biden won the state’s Nov. 3 general election by more than 154,000 votes.

Truscott said the MSCC gave the MDP the option of opening the building, which is currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 safety protocols and in compliance with the Department of Health and Human Services order when the Legislature is not in session. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spokesperson Tiffany Brown denied to comment on security measures, but stated that she “can confirm that we have been in contact with the Michigan State Police to prioritize the safety of electors and participants during the Electoral College meeting.”

On Monday morning, state Rep. Gary Eisen (R-St. Clair Twp.) said on a WPHM radio show that there is a plan to seat President Donald Trump electors during today’s meeting, which is not permissible under law.

Eisen said an “event” will be “all over the news later on” if access to the Capitol is denied, but does not clarify what that meant. 

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) removed Eisen from all of his committees until the end of the term, which ends at the end of this month.  

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.