Tag: constitution

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How the Michigan Supreme Court Whacked Whitmer for COVID-19 Overreach

HEALTH CARE / COMMENTARY

This article first appeared in the Daily Signal, a publication of the Heritage Foundation.

In two cases that were fast-tracked to the Michigan Supreme Court, justices ruled against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s overuse of executive orders on COVID-19 restrictions.

During the past several months, COVID-19 policies have stretched the limitations in the constitutions of Michigan and other states, as well as those of the U.S. Constitution.

In two cases that were fast-tracked to the state’s highest court, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Whitmer and several other governors across the country have used executive orders extensively, instead of working with their legislatures or county health departments on solutions.

That distorts the separation of powers in our constitutions, both state and federal. The orders have devastated innumerable businesses by keeping them closed longer than necessary.

Here in Michigan, Whitmer, a Democrat, has issued 192 executive orders, many of which were struck down recently by the state Supreme Court.

The governor got spanked unanimously by the court for flouting a 1976 law, the Emergency Management Act. She extended the state of emergency without the Legislature’s permission. Lawmakers must renew their consent every 28 days. They did that once, through April 30. Whitmer has been in violation of the law ever since.

The court’s unanimous ruling was not widely reported. It went unmentioned by the governor as she criticized the “narrow majority of Republican justices” in a second ruling, which, by a 4-3 decision, struck down as unconstitutional a 1945 law that gave governors expansive authority without a time limit.

A recent Heritage Foundation analysis of the ruling described some of the orders the governor made under the emergency management laws.   

The court ruled that Whitmer unlawfully used her power to “reorder social life and to limit, if not altogether displace, the livelihoods of residents across the state and throughout wide-ranging industries.”

Instead of being chastened by the judicial branch or embarrassed by her unconstitutional actions since May 1, Whitmer doubled down:

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling, handed down by a narrow majority of Republican justices, is deeply disappointing, and I vehemently disagree with the court’s interpretation of the Michigan Constitution.”

Then she vowed to accomplish her purposes by other means. Some existing regulations by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services could be legally expanded. County health departments have also stepped in with mask-wearing and other regulations.

Those are appropriate and lawful means, unlike the governor’s use of a perpetual state of emergency to shutter businesses without the Legislature’s approval.

The judiciary’s job, beyond ruling on civil or criminal cases, is to rein in rogue legislatures and other lawbreakers.

Despite the COVID-19 virus making collecting signatures more difficult, Unlock Michigan, a coalition of residents concerned about Whitmer’s lockdown orders, turned in 500,000 signatures on Oct. 2 for its ballot proposal to repeal the 1945 law. The Supreme Court ruling rendered the ballot proposal moot.

The spin from Democrats, echoed by many in the news media, has been that we need to maintain mask-wearing indoors and social distancing everywhere. However, most people don’t have a problem with that.

Not mentioned are the numerous orders restricting businesses. Gyms reopened Sept. 9, while other businesses remained closed. Movie theaters, bowling alleys, performance venues, and stadiums reopened on Oct. 9.

How will all this affect the Nov. 3 elections in this battleground state? Whitmer is not on the ballot for another two years, but her policies are. Conservatives are more fired up than liberals about all this, so it will be interesting to see what effect it will have.

In this major battleground state, former Gov. John Engler, a Republican, was dubbed “King John” by his critics for what they viewed as his heavy-handed leadership. Whitmer has been labeled “Queen Gretchen” and worse.

Government works best with a diversity of opinions working toward the same goal; in this case, safety from a deadly virus, but without crippling businesses, and without the collateral damage of clinical depression and even suicides. (A June survey by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 31% of Americans had anxiety or depression symptoms and 11% had seriously considered suicide.)

Of the coronavirus crisis, state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, said it well: “Now is the time for bipartisan action to transition from government operating in fear of the virus to government managing life in the presence of the virus.” 

Other states would do well to follow Shirkey’s advice.

Dale Murrish is a 36-year resident of Michigan, an engineer who has worked his entire career in the transportation industry, and a member of SAE. His opinions are his own, not those of General Motors, his employer.

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Posted in GM Milford Dream Ride

Michigan’s Coronavirus Response Stretches Constitution

This article first appeared in the Daily Signal, a publication of the Heritage Foundation.

During the past several months, COVID-19 policies have stretched the constitutions of Michigan and other states, as well as the U.S. Constitution.

Governors across the country have governed by executive order instead of working with their legislatures or county health departments on solutions. This distorts the separation of powers in our constitutions, both state and national.

In my home state of Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued more than 160 executive orders, which cover such issues as training requirements for pharmacists, establishing a food security council, and setting safety requirements for grocery stores, restaurants, and pharmacies.

The constitutional overreach of a few of the orders caused the Republican Legislature to sue the Democratic governor over two executive orders declaring an emergency.

One executive order was upheld by a lower court and the other was struck down. The Legislature is appealing the first and the governor is appealing the second. Because of the urgent nature of these lawsuits, a judge recently sent them directly to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Unlock Michigan, a coalition of citizens concerned about Whitmer’s lockdown orders, has started a petition drive for November to repeal the 1945 Emergency Powers of Governor Act, which has no time limit. The petition would keep the 1976 Emergency Management Act, which requires the Legislature to approve the state of emergency every 28 days.

Governors across the nation have executed some controversial executive orders during the pandemic. In the process, the U.S. Constitution is being stretched.

For example, although the First Amendment ensures freedom of the press, Whitmer changed the traditional pool-based system of press conferences to a Zoom system that required reporters to submit questions ahead of time.

After several journalists complained, Whitmer said that she was requesting questions in advance so there would be a backup if the system went down, not for screening purposes. Then the governor said that since the system worked, there wouldn’t be a need to pre-submit questions in the future.

The First Amendment right that allows churches to gather has been a national issue throughout the lockdowns.

In defiance of their governor’s order in late May, a few Illinois churches exceeded a 10-person limit for in-person worship. They filed a lawsuit challenging her policy, pointing out that liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries, and superstores were open.

Across the nation, churches have been divided about following the mandates. Some are obeying them by meeting outdoors, wearing masks, and keeping social distance. Services are livestreamed for those who choose not to attend in person.

Others have ignored indoor mandates on numbers by wearing masks and keeping social distance. A few have held large outdoor services, mostly without masks.

Americans’ rights under the Second, Fifth, and 14th Amendments also have been stretched.

On April 15, more than 3,000 people gathered in Lansing, Michigan, mostly in cars, for Operation Gridlock, defying Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders—which have been among the most restrictive in the nation. Some left their cars to protest, most without masks.

Four Michigan residents filed a lawsuit against the governor, alleging that the stay-at-home orders violated their Fifth Amendment and 14th Amendment rights to due process. One plaintiff owns a landscape company and had to lay off 15 workers.

Between 800 and 1,000 protesters returned April 30. A few were carrying weapons and tried to enter the Capitol. Michigan has no law prohibiting guns in the Capitol, but the protesters were stopped by state police.

Legislators debated the policy afterward. Perhaps a simple solution is to not allow loaded guns inside the Capitol.

Unfortunately, this is an election year, so more money has been spent on the federal, state, and local levels than otherwise would have been the case.

We are piling up debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay back.

The governor’s emergency and disaster orders expired April 30 after 28 days, under the 1976 law (the Legislature needs to approve any extensions).

This didn’t stop Whitmer from again declaring a state of emergency and disaster under the 1945 and 1976 laws. Her action prompted the lawsuits.

We should assume our leaders have good intentions about what to do during this pandemic. However, we ought to have a robust policy debate within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution.

Dale Murrish is a 36-year resident of Michigan, an engineer who has worked his entire career in the transportation industry, and a member of SAE. His opinions are his own, not those of General Motors, his employer.

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