Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) made national headlines for her draconian approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, invoking an emergency powers act to keep her state under lockdown since March 24. Now, a group of citizens has started a petition to repeal the law in an effort to curb her control.
Unlock Michigan, the organization behind the effort, asserts that the governor has abused the authority granted to her by the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945, which she has used to close businesses and impose a stay-at-home order that was only lifted June 1. The act doesn’t require the consent of the legislature, allowing the executive to move unilaterally. The governor is expected to extend the state of emergency again after it expires July 16.
The group asserts that Gov. Whitmer has “misused this law to assume sweeping, permanent powers the legislature never intended a governor to have” in violation of the Separation of Powers doctrine.
“No politician in America should ever have the unlimited power this governor is wielding,” the organization’s website states.
If the effort is successful, governors would still retain certain powers under the 1976 Emergency Management Act, which requires approval from the legislature every 28 days to extend a “state of emergency.”
According to Unlock Michigan’s Facebook page, the petition received approval from state regulators on Monday and will move forward with mailing them out to potential supporters. If the petition garners enough signatures and the Republican-controlled Legislature adopts it, the act would be repealed and could not be vetoed by Gov. Whitmer. If the Legislature does not adopt it, it would appear on the ballot in the 2022 general election.
Gov. Whitmer had choice words for those who would try to minimize her executive authority.
"I want to be very clear,” she said at a June 17 press conference. “Any attempt to strip away the powers of the governor during this time is irresponsible, dangerous, and foolish."
Unlock Michigan's petition is the latest attack on the governor and her handling of the pandemic: she currently faces another petition seeking to recall her from office.