Whitmer likely to veto Legislature’s limits on alert system

Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan State Senate took another step Wednesday in defining what powers Gov. Gretchen Whitmer can and cannot use in battling the ongoing pandemic.

This time it was about limiting how the states emergency alert system.

The ongoing battle between the governor and Legislature about who can weigh in and how during emergencies is not going away. With lawmakers scheduled to resume regular session in a couple of weeks, the tug of war may intensify.

The question before the Senate Wednesday was about the use of the state’s emergency alert system. The system was traditionally used for statewide notification of missing persons or emergency situations. Whitmer used that system during the pandemic to remind people of mandates and restrictions produced by her office or the Department of Health and Human Services.

A screenshot of a March 23, 2020, emergency alert regarding the stay-at-home executive order. (File)

The bill that passed Wednesday says in part that the system should only be used in the event of “a clear, present, persistent, ongoing and random threat to public safety that is likely to lead to an immediate, or nearly immediate loss of life or property.”

The bill list some of those instances as an act of terrorism, mass shooting, explosions, train derailments, natural disasters and the previously mentioned missing persons.

House Bill 4061, introduced by Rep. Bradley Slagh, R-Zeeland, would expressly prohibit using the system for “announcement of a new law or executive order.”

Having already passed the House, the Senate sent it to the governor on a 20-6 party-line vote.

That is where it will end.

“Our administration has been clear that we will support public health measures that protect people and save lives, but oppose any attempts to politicize this pandemic or prevent future administrations from doing their jobs,” the governor’s office said in a statement when contacted for a comment.

“It’s important to recognize that we still need to have every resource available to slow the spread of this dangerous variant, which is why the governor does not plan to sign this bill into law,” the statement goes on to say.

This latest salvo fired by the Legislature and returned by the Ggvernor comes at an interesting time. With less than 30 days until a new fiscal year and the vast majority of budget bills not yet fully negotiated, the friction between the executive and legislative branches could make the important and time sensitive job of getting a spending plan done more difficult.

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