Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is still reeling as the state’s highest court dismantles the authority she used to fight the public health pandemic as the future of the response from the state ‘Coronavirus state turns into confusion.
In a 4-3 decision released Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that a key law invoked by the governor during the pandemic “violates the Constitution”, according to the ruling, because it gave the governor legislative power undue.
The move was a devastating political and political setback for one of the leading Democratic voices during the coronavirus pandemic as the partisan fight against state restrictions continues to unfold across the country.
“It is in my opinion a disaster that the Supreme Court ruled in this way,” said Representative Yousef Rabhi, the Democratic House leader. “I would say it’s akin to a dog chasing a car, and now that Republicans have grabbed the car, they don’t know what to do with it because it creates a ripple effect on public health and economic issues. “
But it was good news for Republicans who have long criticized Whitmer’s approach as the months passed during the pandemic. GOP leaders who control State House and the Senate had also sued Whitmer for his use of emergency executive power in a case separate from the state Supreme Court ruling, according to a press release from the State Supreme Court. office of the Senate majority leader.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, House Majority Leader Triston Cole said his “constituents felt their voice was being excluded from the process because the governor was exclusively using executive orders.
“At this point, it is important that we do our best to bring Michigan back to normal economically and to operate our businesses that have been forcibly taken out of service, which is considered unconstitutional action by the governor. Cole said.
Michigan had more than 128,900 confirmed cases during the pandemic as of Monday, according to state health data, with 6,816 deaths as a result. In another part of the ruling, the High Court was unanimous that Whitmer did not have the power to maintain a state of emergency after April 30 on its own using a different emergency act, according to the decision.
The decision will create a “significant change” in the state’s response to the coronavirus, said Meryl Chertoff, executive director of the Georgetown Project on Local and State Government Policy and Law.
“This is going to hamper (Whitmer’s) ability to effectively manage the crisis because it will take away the flexibility inherent in top management,” Chertoff said.
The emergency authority used by governors in an effort to ensure public safety has been a thorny political issue during the pandemic. Democratic governors across the country have faced criticism and legislative and legal challenges from Republicans in their states as attempts have attempted to undermine stricter responses from elected leaders and public health measures.
But the implications for Michigan are particularly intense, given its position as a critical critical state that has been fertile ground for political fighting as the pandemic rages on and anti-restriction protests have provided disturbing scenes on state land.
And with about a month to go until Election Day, the dynamics only got more complicated with the state’s High Court ruling.
“As a result, executive orders issued by the governor in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are no longer based on Michigan law,” the majority opinion said on Friday.
The governor criticized the decision after it was released on Friday, saying in a statement that the decision of a “narrow majority of Republican judges is deeply disappointing, and I strongly disagree with the Court’s interpretation of Michigan Constitution ”.
While Whitmer’s setback is among the most notable examples of a decline in authority during the pandemic, she was not alone.
Other notable examples include the legislative effort already underway in Louisiana by Republicans to cut the Democratic governor’s emergency powers. And in Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration response to the pandemic was hit hard in May when the state Supreme Court demolished the country’s safer state order. .
Like many Democratic governors, Whitmer passed statewide restrictions during the pandemic, including a mask tenure. But following Friday’s decision, Whitmer said in a statement she believed she had “at least 21 days,” before the decision formally eviscerated the authority she was relying on as the pandemic unfolded.
On Sunday, the state’s Democratic Attorney General’s office said in a statement that it “will no longer enforce the governor’s executive orders through criminal prosecution.”
“However, his ruling is not binding on other law enforcement agencies or state departments with independent enforcement authority,” a spokesperson for the attorney general said in the statement. communicated. “It is his fervent hope that people continue to respect the measures Governor Whitmer has put in place – such as wearing masks, meeting social distancing requirements and staying home when sick -” because they have proven to be effective in saving lives.
The Whitmer administration filed court documents Monday in an attempt to clarify that the earlier notice would not take effect “until 28 days after publication.”
But the top House Republican made it clear hours later that he disagreed. According to The Detroit Free PressGOP House Chairman Lee Chatfield told reporters “the opinion takes effect immediately,” and also made it clear that lawmakers would return to the legislature because of the situation.
Monday’s uncertainty only added to the alarm in the state, with Whitmer’s office warning in a press release “if the ruling takes effect immediately, up to 830,000 Michigan workers and their families could lose crucial unemployment benefits.
“The Supreme Court has spoken and while I totally disagree with their decision, I am willing to work across the aisle with Republicans in the legislature where we can find a common ground to slow the spread of the virus and rebuild our economy, “Whitmer said in a statement Monday.
Following last Friday’s decision, Peter D. Jacobson, professor emeritus of law and health policy at the University of Michigan, said Monday morning that he expected some of the governor’s orders be transferred to the state public health code. But it’s not without its drawbacks and could lead to a “wave of litigation,” Jacobson said.
On Monday afternoon, the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced that he had officially put in place collection restrictions and detailed mask requirements, according to the order.
And Jacobson remains concerned that the ruling “reduces the governor’s responsibility, accountability and flexibility to take action to protect the public.” Although he was under no illusions that the courts would allow the governor’s orders to extend “in perpetuity”, the last major action of the State High Court still worried him.
“Instead of relying on the executive authority of the governor, the state will need to rely on the government’s public health system to deal with the ravages of the pandemic,” said Jacobson.
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