Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer experienced a significant setback last week in her bid to use the coronavirus as an excuse to enact intrusive measures on her state’s residents. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 2 that she exceeded her authority in her response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she apparently is not giving up.
Michigan Supreme Court Strikes Down Coronavirus Orders
The court ruling comes amid an ongoing battle between the governor and the Republican-controlled legislature. GOP state lawmakers have complained that Whitmer has shut them out of the issuance of COVID-related orders that impact education, health care, and the economy.
The ruling threatens to relieve many of the restrictions the governor put into place. The Washington Examiner reported that, on the same day as the court’s ruling, opponents of Whitmer submitted more than 539,000 signatures in an effort to repeal the 1945 law the governor used to enact her orders.
Predictably, Whitmer stated that the court’s decision was “deeply disappointing,” but it appears that she will continue to fight for her right to maintain restraints. She explained that her existing emergency declaration could stay in place for 21 days, and then she would look to continue them “under alternative sources” of law. She said:
“Every state and the federal government have some form of declared emergency … With this decision, Michigan will become the sole outlier at a time when the Upper Peninsula is experiencing rates of COVID infection not seen in our state since April.”
Whitmer’s strictures, which she has kept in place for almost seven months, were ostensibly designed to decrease the spread of COVID-19. So far, the virus has infected 126,000 residents and killed more than 6,700. Some of the controls include a mask requirement in enclosed public spaces and crowded outdoor places. Restaurants must limit capacity to 50%. Indoor residential gatherings have been capped at no more than ten people.
The Supreme Court argued that the 1945 public safety law Whitmer embraced gave governors near unlimited power. “That act is an unlawful delegation of legislative power to the executive branch in violation of the Michigan Constitution,” Justice Stephen Markman wrote. “Accordingly, the executive orders issued by the governor in response to the COVID-19 pandemic now lack any basis under Michigan law.”
Whitmer Strikes Back
Whitmer remains undeterred. On Oct. 5, she reissued the restrictions using old laws that grant her the authority to keep the shutdown measures in place through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Robert Gordon, who heads the department, released a statement explaining the new route Whitmer’s administration has taken to maintain the orders and their supposed necessity. “Our order today flows from a legal authority not at issue in Friday’s case. It is important we stay the course we’ve been on. When it comes to defeating COVID-19, we’re all in this together,” he wrote.
Gordon continued, “The science is clear: wearing masks can reduce the chance of transmitting COVID by about 70%. Even with masks, transmission is likeliest when people are within 6 feet of each other for 15 minutes, especially indoors. The failure to take proper precautions can enable the disease to spread—whether in an East Lansing bar or at the White House.”
The director assured Michigan residents that they would not “need these orders forever” and indicated that a vaccine and “therapeutic drugs” might help the state get back to normal. In the meantime, Michiganders must continue to live under tight shutdown rules for the time being. However, it seems likely that even this new order will be challenged. The battle isn’t over yet.
Read more from Jeff Charles.