Group to start veto-proof drive to repeal Whitmer’s powers

Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaking during a news briefing Friday, June 5, 2020.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Organizers said Monday that they will begin collecting voter signatures within days for a veto-proof measure that would repeal a law that has given Gov. Gretchen Whitmer broad emergency powers during the pandemic.

The ballot committee Unlock Michigan announced its plan after the state elections board approved a summary of the petition. It would rescind a 1945 law that the Democratic governor has cited to close businesses, limit gathering sizes and restrict other activities to curb the coronavirus.

The group, which has ties to Republicans, needs about 340,000 valid signatures. If enough are gathered within a 180-day period, the repeal legislation could be enacted by the GOP-controlled Legislature and not be vetoed.

The committee’s website features a video of Karl Manke, the Owosso barber who reopened early in defiance of Whitmer’s stay-at-home order. She later let barbershops open as part of a gradual restart of the state’s economy.

Unlock Michigan spokesman Fred Wszolek said the governor should not be able to continually stretch her state of emergency declaration — the underpinning for her restrictions. In May, Whitmer prevailed in court when a judge ruled she could use the 1945 law to lengthen the emergency despite not getting a legislative extension under a 1976 law.

Republican lawmakers had sued her after unsuccessfully seeking changes to the stay-home directive. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey has said he supports the citizens’ initiative.

“No sensible person should think that any governor should be able to rule by decree for almost a year, with no accountability at all,” Wszolek said.

Whitmer has called attempts to strip her powers “irresponsible and dangerous.”

The Michigan Democratic Party defended the governor, saying her leadership has saved lives.

“Repealing the governor’s emergency powers during a worldwide pandemic is extremely reckless and irresponsible, and doing so for political reasons is disturbing and wrong,” it said in a statement.

The state reported three additional deaths on Monday, bringing the total of confirmed or probable deaths to 6,221. An additional 297 confirmed cases were recorded.

Though Michigan has the country’s eighth-highest death rate per capita, it now is faring better than many other states on containing the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University. There were 52.3 new reported cases per 100,000 people in the state over the past two weeks, the 12th-lowest rate in the U.S.

Michigan’s rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 191 in those two weeks, however, a rise of nearly 81%.

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