As I am sure you are well aware, the current coronavirus pandemic has forced many states and regions to make unprecedented decisions and actions to keep its citizens safe. Michigan and its Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer have put out some of the strictest and longest-lasting of these measures.
Her nearly dictatorship-like hold on the state has dropped the entire state and its 10 million occupants into a state of emergency since mid-March. During that time, she has given over 100 executive orders.
These orders include everything from mandating masks and closing down “non-essential” businesses like hair salons to forbidding the purchase of ordinary products like house paint and gardening plants.
And, by the way, should someone ignore these rules or violate them, they can be charged with a misdemeanor.
Naturally, many have questioned Whitmer’s orders, as well as the legality to implementing such laws. I mean, this is America, right? We aren’t in Peru, or Cuba, or even China. And as such, dictatorship is very heavily frowned up, not to mention illegal.
However, as it turns out, Whitmer’s action is entirely legal, at least in the state of Michigan.
In 1945, then-Governor Harry Kelly established the Emergency Powers of Governor Act. It was created as a result of a riot in Detroit in 1943 that had turned violent. It was believed that should the governor have the powers to give police emergency authority, the situation could be better handled, and the crowds kept at bay.
According to and under the law, the governor of Michigan was given special emergency powers, allowing them to “proclaim a state of emergency, and to prescribe powers and duties of the governor with respect thereto; and to prescribe penalties.”
It classifies “emergencies” as “times of great public crisis, disaster, rioting, catastrophe, or similar public emergency with the state.” Such an event permits, “either upon application of the mayor of a city, sheriff of a county, or the commissioner of Michigan State Police or upon his or her own volition, the governor may proclaim a state of emergency and designate the area involved. After making the proclamation or declaration, the governor may promulgate reasonable orders, rules, and regulations as he or she considers necessary to protect and property or to bring the emergency situation with the affected area under control.”
Additionally, the law states that these “orders, rules, and regulations… shall cease to be in effect upon declaration by the governor that the emergency no longer exists.”
So, basically, the act gives the governor unlimited powers to make whatever rules she sees fit and for as long as she deems necessary.
Luckily, most Michigan governors have only used this sparingly and for a short amount of time.
It was first used in 1964, a whole 19 years after its creation when violence and rioting broke out in Hillsdale due to labor unrest. Since then, it has only been used a handful of times, mostly due to riots, but once to also temporarily ban fishing in Lake St. Clair when high levels of mercury were found there.
However, as director of research at the Mackinac Center, Michael Van Beek has pointed out, “Gov. Whitmer’s interpretation and use of the EPGA is completely novel. Constitutional concerns followed previous uses of these powers, but Gov. Whitmer has taken these to a new level. No other governor has attempted to use the EPGA to gain unilateral control over an emergency for an indefinite period.”
And it is this “unilateral control” that has now sparked even one of Michigan’s top Democrats, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, to contest her powers and support a repeal of the 1945 law.
According to Hackel and many others, including the GOP controlled legislature in Michigan, “No one person should have endless authority and ability to bypass another branch of government.”
This comes after Whitmer has once more extended the state’s state of emergency and her unlimited powers for another month, even though COVID cases and deaths have fallen drastically in recent weeks.
And that is precisely why Hackel supports Unlock Michigan, a movement to free Michigan from Whitmer’s grasp. The group is trying to overturn the law by getting 340,047 petition signatures. According to the Detroit News, this many signatures “could enact the repeal without Whitmer being able to veto the proposal.”
We can only hope that enough Michiganders sign on to end Whitmer’s tyrannical reign and bring democracy back to the Wolverine State, and soon.