As COVID-19 cases surge, what’s happening in Lansing?

Coronavirus

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — As Michigan set yet another single-day case record for COVID-19, it’s unlikely any legislative response to combat the deadly virus will come from elected officials anytime soon. 

Last month, Republican House members shared a plan that would work alongside current state health department orders to give counties control over response if certain thresholds are met in the area.

The bill, HB 6314, is currently just that: Introduced legislation that can only move forward with additional action by lawmakers. 

“The governor has kindly invited me, starting last week, to the weekly data meetings. So, I want to mention that I do appreciate that,” Rep. Ben Frederick, R-Owosso, said during testimony for the bill last week in front of the House Health Policy Committee. 

That statement is really the only sign of bipartisanship coming out of Lansing after the state Supreme Court ruled the law used by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to enact executive orders was unconstitutional.

“You would think my colleagues across the aisle would jump at this chance to offer this COVID legislation, especially after they argued for months that they wanted responsibility but were shut out of COVID talks,” Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, said during remarks made Thursday morning during Senate session.

She was referring to her Republican colleagues, who control both chambers, for not doing more to try to combat the spread after receiving the legal win. 

Instead, MDHHS has set guidelines under its epidemic authority including a mask mandate and gathering limits. 

Gov. Whitmer has repeatedly asked the legislature to codify the mask mandate by passing its own legislation, which is something she again reiterated Thursday

Simultaneously, a spokesperson for Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield told News 8 Thursday the sponsors of the GOP plan want the governor’s feedback, but “they haven’t heard anything yet.”

The sponsors haven’t met with their Senate counterparts, either.

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey confirmed Thursday he hasn’t met with the House members leading the plan.

As for calls to support a mask mandate, the leader’s spokesperson said the MDHHS order already covers mask requirements.

Masking up is one of the best ways to cut down on spread, according to several hospital leaders who held a first-ever joint press conference Thursday morning urging the public to listen to the science and help prevent capacity concerns. 

Lawmakers aren’t expected back in Lansing until after Thanksgiving. Michigan lawmakers typical take a break mid-November until December for firearm hunting season and the holiday. 

An emergency meeting, like the one called for after the election to discuss voting allegations, would be one option to bring legislators back earlier to discuss COVID-19 mitigation efforts. 

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