Opinion: Let's keep our republic in COVID-19 era
As he left Independence Hall in 1787 at the close of the convention which drafted our Constitution, Benjamin Franklin was asked what form of government our founders had crafted. Franklin’s answer has echoed through the ages since that day: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
The genius of the system crafted by our founders created checks and balances among the three branches of government to guard against any individual wielding unfettered power.
But the COVID-19 pandemic is testing our republican form of government. To be clear: Each side in this debate, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Republican-led Legislature, want to beat the virus and keep our citizens safe. The point of contention is whether we can defeat this virus while preserving our republican form of government. I believe we can.
Whitmer claims unilateral authority unchecked by other branches of government. She wants to decide, on her own, who can work and who can’t. What is “essential” to your life and what isn’t. In a republic, no individual can be allowed that power.
I am proud of the Legislature’s work to combat COVID-19. As this crisis emerged we worked with Whitmer under the Emergency Management Act of 1976, granting her emergency authority and even extending that authority to match the federal government’s “30 days to slow the spread” campaign. I didn’t agree with all the governor’s orders, but I believed that the Legislature and executive branches would work together to keep the people of Michigan safe while allowing our economy to reopen in a safe and responsible manner.
As the extension approved by the Legislature was set to expire April 30, our legislative leadership attempted to work with Whitmer on a path forward. The governor blew up those negotiations by releasing private emails in an unprecedented breach of trust.
All the Legislature is doing is our constitutional duty. We codified several executive orders issued by Whitmer for an additional period of time to help keep people safe if the emergency powers were to not be extended. This clearly showed the Legislature’s willingness to work together through the collaborative and transparent procedures outlined in the constitution.
It isn’t the governor taking calls every day from a small business owner seeing the family legacy crushed by the shutdown order — it’s me. It isn’t the governor getting calls from a family struggling to pay their mortgage or feed their kids because they aren’t allowed to work — it’s me. All the Legislature is asking for is to give citizens a representative voice in these decisions.
I will never stop fighting for the families I serve and the constitution I swore to uphold. That’s why I sponsored a resolution authorizing the House of Representatives to appeal to the third branch of government, our courts, to confirm and restore the legislative authority granted by the constitution and forcing Whitmer to work with the people’s elected representatives. I have faith that our courts will take the appropriate action because if they do not, they will have failed to keep our republic — and for the first time we will have failed the test put forward by Franklin.
Rep. Shane Hernandez, R-Port Huron, chairs the House Appropriations Committee.