Barrett slams governor’s veto

‘Her action to suppress speech should worry citizens everywhere’

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Tom Barrett criticized Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Wednesday after she vetoed his legislation to ensure whistleblower protections for state employees.

“The Legislature unanimously approved this measure to guard the rights of state employees, yet the governor has chosen to reject this bipartisan agreement out of spite,” said Barrett, R-Charlotte. “I sponsored Senate Bill 686 to protect state employees who communicate with members of the Legislature, and I am publicly calling for the Legislature to override this ridiculous veto.

“Unfortunately, given the governor’s recent decisions, this action to suppress speech is not entirely surprising, but it should worry citizens everywhere.

“The governor called this bill nothing more than an attempt to score political points. I would be interested to know exactly which of the Democrats in the Legislature Gov. Whitmer was referring to, especially since every single one of them voted for this bill. The obvious answer is that the governor either has something to hide, or she is retaliating against the Legislature — or against me personally. None of those reasons is acceptable.”

Barrett said there are many reasons an employee might want to contact a member of the Legislature: to report illegal activity, to get help with a state government issue, to improve or question a process in state government, or to advocate their personal position on legislation, among others.

“Employees should not fear retribution from their employer, whatever their reason for contacting the Legislature,” Barrett said.

The Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) was created 40 years ago to protect employees from retribution if they report their employer to a public body for violation of a law, rule or regulation.

The WPA applies to all public and private employees except state classified civil service employees.

Since the 2006 budget, the Legislature has included boilerplate language within each budget that further strengthens whistleblower protections by prohibiting departments from taking disciplinary action against employees for communicating with the Legislature.

After the passage of the fiscal year 2020 budget, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stripped this important protection from the budget, signifying she would allow her departments to punish civil servants for talking to members of the Legislature.

“The governor’s action will have a chilling effect on state employees who want to report concerns they have within state agencies,” Barrett said. “What about employees who contact their legislative representation for help with issues unrelated to their state employment or advocating their personal position on legislation? There should never be retribution for these activities. What a disappointment from someone who is supposed to be a leader in our state.”