State rep. calls for firmer legislative role in future emergencies


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that the state’s broadest coronavirus restrictions would lift early, it was a relief for many. For one state lawmaker who has long been critical of the Democratic governor’s actions, it was too little, too late.

The Gatherings and Face Mask order will lift effective Tuesday, Whitmer announced this week.

“I’m glad it’s moved up. I’m glad the timeline has been advanced and we’re getting to see this sooner,” state Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, said. “…I think it’s months behind where we should be now.”

Meerman said he represents one of the more conservative districts in the state. Since the pandemic has started, he said, it has been a challenge to convey his constituents’ point of view. Though he understood the pandemic was a dangerous time, he objected to the executive branch going it alone in issuing emergency orders and restrictions.

“It’s time to get back to as much normal as we can, never forgetting this was a serious event; I’ll always acknowledge that. Understand, I’ve lost friends myself,” he said. “But also understanding that this can’t carry on and it’s frankly unhealthy to continue to carry on.”

In his role as chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, Meerman pushed back against allowing the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration to make workplace virus mitigation rules permanent — and he won on that point when the Republicans who control the Legislature reached a deal to come to the table on the state budget.

But he said more has to be done to establish the Legislature’s participation in emergency decisions.

“Frankly, a couple of weeks ago when she kind of abandoned her (reopening plan tied to the population) percent vaccinated — 70% to 55% vaccinated — when she abandoned that plan, frankly I was a little emotional just because it’s been such a long haul,” Meerman said. “We’ve got a lot more work to do and we’ve got to make sure as we go through, God forbid, another pandemic in the future, that the future legislators kind of have a lot more stake at the table than, from my feeling, being locked out for over a year.”

He said he expects MIOSHA to follow the national model regarding virus mitigation but says he has yet to see a plan for when those regulations will be removed.

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