Shirkey: Gov. Whitmer cannot go it alone

Mike Shirkey

Michigan’s state emergency declaration expired on April 30. The Republican legislative majority reached out to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ahead of the expiration date in the hopes that she would engage her partners in the Legislature and develop a reasonable plan to move Michigan forward.

Whitmer did not respond.  

When it came time for the Legislature to consider an extension of the declaration, the Senate Republicans considered input from constituents who want to see an end to the stringent stay-at-home order and those who are more cautious about reopening Michigan. Regardless of their opinion on the stay-at-home order, all can agree that the citizens’ elected representatives should be involved in these kinds of decisions that have major impacts on the lives of all Michigan residents.

State Sen. Mike Shirkey

In the absence of any hope for compromise from the governor, the Legislature did not approve an extension of the emergency declaration and instead passed legislation to preserve programs like expanded unemployment benefits for our citizens and liability protections for brave health care workers in state law.

Whitmer vetoed the measure.

The governor then moved forward with a unilateral extension of the state emergency declaration and issued new executive orders based on her flawed interpretation of state law. It seems each time she is given the opportunity to work with the Legislature, Whitmer chooses to go it alone. 

As a result, the governor left the Legislature no other choice than to file suit and seek clarity from the courts.

Absent a legal challenge, Whitmer would be left unchecked and could extend the state emergency declaration indefinitely. That is too long for our citizens to wait for a plan to regain their lives and their livelihoods.

It begs the question: Should any governor be able to hold all citizens in a state of emergency without limits? 

"American Patriot Rally," in protest to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Coronavirus pandemic polices, on the Michigan Capitol steps and lawn in Lansing, Michigan on April 30, 2020.

Michigan can no longer allow one person to make decisions for 10 million people.   

The law is clear — a state emergency declaration extension requires legislative approval. Previous legislatures and governors abided by our system of checks and balances. Even Whitmer came to the Legislature last month for approval of her initial extension.

What has changed in the last month to make the governor believe she can extend the state declaration without approval from the Legislature? 

Michigan citizens across our state cannot be expected to sit around and wait for Whitmer to grant them permission to lead their lives. Our state law requires the Legislature, the voice of the people, to have a role in determining whether to extend a state emergency declaration. 

Whitmer’s actions have caused confusion and frustration for millions of Michigan residents eager to safely resume their daily lives. The governor dropped a curtain between her internal decision-making process and the outside world.

The Republican legislative majority believes citizens deserve clear direction and equal representation, and we will pursue our argument to the highest court to ensure Whitmer abides by the law.

Mike Shirkey is the Michigan Senate Majority Leader. Shirkey, R-Clarklake, represents the 16th state senate district which includes Jackson, Branch and Hillsdale counties.