Senate OKs Barrett bills limiting governor’s power

‘Gov. Whitmer has abused her power with decisions that have cost people their livelihoods’

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate on Friday passed legislation that would provide Michiganders a check against the governor’s power, said sponsor Sen. Tom Barrett.

Senate Bills 857 and 858 would provide for greater legislative oversight of the governor’s extraordinary powers during a state of emergency.

“Gov. Whitmer happens to be the one in charge now making these unilateral decisions,” said Barrett, R-Charlotte. “Next time, it might be a Republican. That’s not the point. To allow a governor nearly unlimited power without deadline is not good, no matter who is in charge.”

Two laws give the governor the ability to declare and act during states of emergency or disaster: the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945 and the Emergency Management Act of 1976.

SB 857 would repeal the 1945 law, and SB 858 would amend the 1976 law to only allow declarations of disaster or emergency to last 14 days before requiring legislative approval, instead of the current 28 days.

“The Emergency Powers of the Governor Act places no limits on the duration of a declared emergency,” Barrett said. “Not even the Legislature — the people’s voice in government — can limit this time. That is a dangerous loophole in the law, and Gov. Whitmer has abused her power with decisions that have cost people their livelihoods. Her actions provide ample evidence that this law should be repealed.

“Revising the Emergency Management Act to limiting the declarations to 14 days would enable the Legislature to be much more responsive to the differing needs of differing communities around the state.”

SBs 857 and 858 have been sent to the House for further consideration.

For information about COVID-19 and the state’s response to the pandemic, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus. The state has also launched a hotline about COVID-19. Residents with any questions about the virus can call 1-888-535-6136 between 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.

Note: For video of Barrett addressing the Senate Friday, Select “Video” under the “In the News” tab, above.