Whitmer vetoes bills nixing graduation capacity limits, FOIA emergency suspensions

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed legislation Thursday that would have exempted high school graduation ceremonies from capacity limits put in place during the pandemic. 

She also vetoed a bill that would prevent the state from suspending deadlines for the Freedom of Information Act during an emergency. 

In both cases, Whitmer protested constraints on her administration's emergency powers. She called the bill allowing for graduations "half-baked and punchless legislation" since capacity limits for outdoor events already have been lifted.

"As of June 1, capacity limits were lifted for outdoor events and residential gatherings, while indoor capacity limits increased to 50%, allowing social gatherings such as weddings and funerals to move closer to normalcy," Whitmer wrote Thursday. She noted in her letter that she looked forward to celebrating her youngest daughter's high school graduation. 

On July 1, the state is expected to lift the remaining gathering and mask restrictions.

"We have all been working hard for this moment over the past 15 months, and I am thankful for every Michigander who has gotten vaccinated to keep themselves, their family and our communities safe," the governor wrote.

Whitmer defended her 60-day suspension of public record requests last April by noting that it was designed to protect public officials who would have had to respond to requests at "an exceptionally frightening and uncertain moment in Michigan's history."

The past 15 months have taught everyone that disasters are unpredictable and require emergency authority such as that which was used to extend response times for public record requests, she said. 

"For that reason, I have said repeatedly that I will not sign bills that constrain the governor's ability to protect the people of Michigan," Whitmer wrote. 

Rep. Steve Johnson, the Wayland Republican who sponsored the legislation, said Whitmer's veto signals that she is "more concerned with her power than with being transparent." The bill, Johnson said, received bipartisan support, passing 98-11 in the House and 21-15 in the Senate. 

“It’s sad that the governor is turning her back on her campaign pledge to increase government transparency," Johnson said. "Transparency is especially important at this time and we will continue to be an advocate for transparency.”