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Michigan Republican Lawmakers Sue Gov. Whitmer over State of Emergency Extension

Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer talks to reporters at a polling station in East Lansing, Mich., November 6, 2018. (Jeff Kowalsky/Reuters)

The Republican-led state legislature filed suit against Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday over her extension of Michigan’s state of emergency, saying she overstepped her authority.

Whitmer extended the state of emergency to last through May 28, a move the Republican leaders in the House and Senate say would require legislative approval.

“She has chosen to regulate every aspect of nearly 10 million lives with no consent or input from the people’s representatives, whose assistance the Governor publicly disdains,” states the lawsuit, filed in the Michigan Court of Claims.

State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said the administration’s “decision processes” have been opaque to lawmakers.

“We can’t see behind the secret curtain,” Shirkey said. “The Legislature is left with no choice but to seek the court’s intervention to restore constitutional order.”

“The law in Michigan is clear,” House Speaker Lee Chatfield said. “Only the Legislature has the power to extend the state of emergency.”

“COVID-19 was a serious challenge enough to deal with, but I do believe the government’s response to it and the one-size-fits-all approach has led to millions of families hurting unnecessarily,” he added.

Whitmer claimed that two laws, the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945 and the Emergency Management Act of 1976, grant her the authority to extend the state of emergency as well as order broad social distancing measures to stem the spread of the virus.

The 1976 law supports the Republican argument that extending a state of emergency requires approval from the legislature. The 1945 law does not stipulate that the governor requires approval from lawmakers to issue “reasonable orders,” but Republicans argue that law was intended to apply to smaller crises, “geographically limited, civil disturbance-like emergencies.”

Tiffany Brown, a spokesperson for Whitmer, called the lawsuit “just another partisan game that won’t distract the governor.”

“Her number one priority is saving lives. She’s making decisions based on science and data, not political or legal pressure,” Brown said.

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