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A Michigan appeals court says, figuratively speaking, that Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s strict COVID-19 lockdown ain’t over until she says it’s over, and the GOP-led state legislature has no say in the matter.
In what might be a form of circular reasoning, the 2-1 court decision maintains that “A declared statewide emergency only ends upon the governor’s declaration that the emergency no longer exists. That has yet to occur in the instant case.”
Although Whitmer has lifted some restrictions in the state, Michigan’s coronavirus state of emergency currently extends through September 4.
It would hardly be a surprise, however, if the power-hungry governor extended it again, given how politics have entered into the calculation among Democrats who think that sabotaging the economy hurts President Trump’s reelection chances. Whitmer has already acknowledged that an extension is likely.
Republicans who control the state legislature have vowed to appeal the ruling to the state supreme court.
Although Whitmer’s team claimed the decision was a “complete and decisive win” for Joe Biden’s lockdown-loving, would-be running mate, House Speaker Lee Chatfield offered a different view.
“The Court of Appeals ruled…that as long as it’s the opinion of a sitting governor that there’s an emergency, they can take over complete, unilateral control of the state for as long as he or she decides. No checks on power. No separation of power. This is unconstitutional.”
In the legal contest, two Michigan laws are in play, The Detroit News explained, one of which has no time limit on unilateral orders from the governor.
“The legal fight involves two state laws: 1945 act and the 1976 Emergency Management Act. The 1945 law appears to allow the governor to declare an emergency and keep it in place without the Legislature’s input. The 1976 law allows the governor to declare an emergency but requires the Legislature’s approval after 28 days. The majority opinion focused on the 1945 law.”
The dissenting judge “argued that the 1976 law…specifically applies to the COVID-19 pandemic because it references an ‘epidemic.'”
Republicans are also mounting an effort to repeal the 1945 law provided they obtain 340,000 signatures to do so.
In June 2020, Gov. Whitmer — a foe of anti-lockdown demonstrations — abandoned her own stay-at-home order to march with protesters in the aftermath of the George Floyd death in Minneapolis police custody.
Various enterprises are still closed in Michigan by unilateral order of the governor including gyms, movie theaters, and outdoor pools, although she did allow Detroit casinos to reopen earlier this summer at 15 percent capacity.
Indoor gatherings generally are currently limited to 10 people.
A Whitmer executive order issued in July 2020 requires face mask in stores or restaurants, unless a person qualifies for an exemption. Non-compliance is a misdemeanor subjecting the violator to a $500 fine. Noncompliant businesses could lose their license to operate.
Whitmer has also declared that racism is a public health crisis.
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