Michigan appeals court backs Whitmer’s use of emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic

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A Michigan appeals court on Friday ruled in favor of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, finding that her emergency declarations and orders in response to the coronavirus were legal.

Whitmer implemented strict lockdown measures during the crisis, and has since extended the state of emergency to keep gyms and movie theaters closed. Masks are required in many parts of the state.

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Republicans in the state’s Legislature argued that she had overstepped her authority, and can unilaterally extend emergencies only if they are local, not statewide, under the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act (EPGA). They said a separate 1976 law means statewide emergencies need the Legislature’s approval after 28 days.

The appeals court, in a 2-1 decision, however, upheld a lower court’s ruling that the moves were within her power.

“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,” the ruling said.

A spokesperson for Whitmer called it a “complete and decisive win” for the Democratic governor and her efforts “to protect the people of Michigan from this once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic.”

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Republicans have promised to appeal, arguing the court got it wrong.

“The Court of Appeals ruled today 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,” Speaker Lee Chatfield said. “This is unconstitutional.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey also said this week that a group was trying to gather 340,000 signatures to repeal the 1945 law.

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If they get the signatures, the Legislature can pass a bill to repeal it, and Whitmer is unable to veto. Shirkey said they currently have more than 200,000.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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