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Barrett supports legislation to address coronavirus pandemic

‘This legislation will help protect both lives and livelihoods’

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tom Barrett on Wednesday voted in support of the bipartisan legislation to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Once again, legislators of both parties have come together for the benefit of our state,” said Barrett, R-Charlotte. “Following the recent Michigan Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutional separation of powers, I am glad to see the legislative process working as it should. This legislation will help protect both the lives and livelihoods of Michigan residents as we continue to combat this pandemic.

“Liability protections will give health care professionals the confidence they need to treat COVID-19 and businesses the ability to open safely—without fear of frivolous retaliation,” said Barrett. “Extended unemployment benefits will aid those unable to work due to the pandemic. And most importantly, our seniors will be protected by ensuring that coronavirus patients are not placed alongside healthy nursing home residents.”

Senate Bill 886 would temporarily extend maximum unemployment benefits from 20 weeks to 26 weeks and ensure those unable to work due to contraction or exposure to COVID-19, as well as those who are immunocompromised or caring for someone who has COVID-19, are eligible for unemployment benefits through the end of 2020. SB 911 would help the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) administer benefits by allowing some UIA retirees to resume work without compromising their retirement benefits through the end of 2020.

SB 1094 would reduce the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes by implementing recommendations of the Nursing Homes COVID-19 Preparedness Task Force and prohibit individuals who have tested positive and not yet recovered from COVID-19 from being admitted into these facilities. Among other things, this bill requires the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in consultation with LARA to implement a process to create Care and Recovery Centers within nursing homes for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19.

SB 1108 would amend the Open Meetings Act to permit virtual participation by members of a public body for any reason until Dec. 31, 2020, retroactive to March 18 of this year. In 2021, the bill would allow virtual participation for members with military duty or a medical condition, or during a state or local state of emergency affecting the location of the body or a member of the body. Beginning in 2022, remote participation would be permitted only for those members absent due to military duty.

House Bill 6030, HB 6031, HB 6032, and HB 6101 would ensure that businesses that comply with state and federal laws and abide by federal, state, and local requirements related to COVID-19 would not be liable for the spread of COVID-19. This package of bills would also prohibit employees from returning to work if they are quarantined due to COVID-19 contraction or exposure, and employers would in turn be prohibited from retaliating against employees required to quarantine.

HB 6159 would provide liability protections for health care providers who provided services as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic between March 29 and July 13. Immunity would not extend to willful misconduct, gross negligence, intentional and willful criminal misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm.

HB 6192 would extend the expiration for vehicle registrations and driver’s licenses until December 11, 2020. This would apply to all licenses and registrations expiring since March 1.

The passage of these bills follows a recent decision by the Michigan Supreme Court nullifying all of Gov. Whitmer’s emergency executive orders after April 30. The bills now proceed to the governor’s desk for her signature.