Whitmer vetoes GOP bill targeting use of alert system

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed Friday a Republican-backed bill that intended to limit her administration's use of the public threat alert system after emergency notices were used as part of the state's COVID-19 response.

While notices were sent to cellphones in 2020 to inform people of the state's stay-at-home policy and an executive order requiring masks, Whitmer's administration has said that they were sent through a different alert system than the one the legislation focused on.

The bill stipulated the public threat alert system must not be activated to announce a new law or executive order unless the policy responds to "an immediate or nearly immediate loss of life or property." But the integrated public alert and warning system was the one used for the COVID-19-related notices, according to the Michigan State Police.

An alert informs recipients of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's new executive order on masks in July 2020.

"The bill would add complexity to the administration of the state's public threat alert system, making it harder for law enforcement officers to do their jobs and making Michiganders less safe," Whitmer wrote in a letter explaining her veto.  "Since it was launched in 2016, the public threat alert system has been used only once — to alert the public to (an) active shooter situation.

"There is no need to further limit or complicate its use."

Rep. Bradley Slagh, R-Zeeland, the sponsor of the bill, has argued "overusing the alert system" will cause people to "become numb to legitimate emergencies in the future."

"Many people told me that the governor’s use of the emergency system made them look for a way to turn off the alerts,” Slagh said in a statement last year. “If residents get tired of people ‘crying wolf’ and turn them off, they won’t have valuable and life-saving information when a true emergency takes place.”

The bill passed the House in a 63-47 vote in March and the Senate in a 20-16 vote on Sept. 1.