Advance Notice: Briefs

Whitmer vetoes second GOP ‘poison pill’ meant to curb pandemic powers

By: - March 24, 2021 4:13 pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer | Whitmer office photo

After 13 days, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has, as expected, vetoed the second GOP-passed bill that would have stripped her administration of epidemic powers by giving the state Legislature the authority to block them after 28 days.

“Following the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic, the Legislature granted the then-equivalent of the Director of the Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS] broad power to issue orders to contain and eradicate epidemics. In the course of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of those orders has likely saved many thousands of lives,” Whitmer wrote in her veto letter of Senate Bill 1 on Wednesday.

“This bill would create a 28-day limit on epidemic orders. Unfortunately, epidemics are not limited to 28 days. We should not so limit our ability to respond to them. Therefore, I am vetoing SB1,” she wrote.

GOP lawmakers had tie-barred SB 1 to House Bill 4047, meaning that they intended for the $2.3 billion in supplemental COVID-19 relief funding enclosed in HB 4047 to only be available should Whitmer also sign SB 1 into law.

But Whitmer signed HB 4047 earlier this month, as she did with House Bill 4048 — which Republicans had also tie-barred to a bill (House Bill 4049) to limit the DHHS’ pandemic powers further as it comes to school closures and sports.

Whitmer had vetoed HB 4049, as well, leading the Republican-led state Senate to authorize Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) to launch a lawsuit against Whitmer for breaking the tie bars, ostensibly waiting to actually file suit until the Democratic governor rejected SB 1.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.