Senator, state rep. continue to question governor’s newest restrictions.

April 13, 2020

Senator, state rep. continue to question governor’s newest restrictions.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Local state legislators continue to question the most recent increases in restrictions imposed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s extension of her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order. While both Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) and Rep. Jack O’Malley (R-Lake Ann) said they agree that social distancing and staying at home have decreased the risks of COVID-19, the expanded orders, Executive Order 2020-42, have gone too far, especially for rural Michigan.

On Saturday, O’Malley, who represents the 101st House of Representatives district, which includes Mason County, spoke to a liaison with the governor’s office.

“We had a nice conversation,” O’Malley said. “But, basically what she told me is that the governor is following the advice of the medical community, that includes the medical community from northern Michigan, when it comes to keeping people locked down. I asked what about balancing the economy and health and right now that’s not what the medical folks are saying.”

To date, Michigan has had 24,638 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Of those, 21,863 cases — 90 percent — have been in the southeastern counties of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Genesee, and Washtenaw. The state has had 1,487 deaths, a .0001 percent of a population of 9,996,000 people. Of those deaths, 1,442, 97 percent, have taken place in the above listed counties.

Mason County has had two confirmed cases with neither patient being treated in a hospital. Out a population of 28,884, that’s .00007 percent and no deaths. Oceana County, with a population of 26,417, has had three cases, .0001 percent, and one death, .00004 percent. Manistee County has had 10 cases out of 24,444 people, .0004 percent, and no deaths.

Today, in a press conference, Whitmer did state the stay-at-home order won’t last forever, but did not give any specific timelines.

O’Malley said he disagrees with the governor’s approach, considering 90 percent of the cases have occurred in the urban areas of southeastern Michigan.

“I believe in all the weeks that we have been dealing with this that people understand social distancing and using precautions. That may not have been true a few weeks ago but it is now. This is very frustrating. We are dealing with fear, which I understand. But, other states are doing it. They are bringing their people back to work and restarting their economies. Texas is a state of 30 million people with three cities larger than Detroit and Texas’ governor has started the process of getting people back to work. I think Michigan now has the strictest restrictions in the country.”

“Unfortunately, EO 2020-42 prohibits the sale of some necessary items,” VanderWall, who represents the 35th State Senate district, including Mason County, said. “For instance, the order has closed garden centers and nurseries, which means people are unable to buy plants or seeds. Many people rely on home gardens to sustain them; this was a dangerous decision by the governor.

  “In addition, both the governor’s earlier stay-at-home order and the new April 9 order cite guidance on critical infrastructure workers issued by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on March 19. The problem is that the federal agency issued an updated order on March 28 in which more workers were added to the critical list. These include landscapers providing necessary services and others performing construction.

It makes sense to follow these new federal guidelines and allow these fields to open for business. The governors of bordering Ohio and Indiana have done just that, as have 18 of the other 26 states relying on these guidelines.

This is a commonsense and safe approach that the governor has decided not to follow. Her decisions are not only having negative repercussions for businesses and the Michigan economy. They are beginning to affect safety as well.”

O’Malley said that many people have accepted allowing restricted freedoms until April 30, and also said people are likely going to be able to follow guidelines without government overreach after that time period.

In Michigan the governor is only allowed emergency powers for 28 days under Public Act 302 of 1945 the governor is allowed certain emergency powers: to control traffic, establish a curfew, regulate and prohibit the use and occupancy of buildings and public places, and control the sale and transportation of alcohol, dangerous liquids or explosives. These orders are only effective during the declared state of emergency, and anyone who violates them is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Public Act 390 of 1976, called the Emergency Management Act, is meant for “planning, mitigation, response, and recovery from natural and human-made disaster.” It charges the governor with “coping with dangers to this state or the people of this state presented by a disaster or emergency,” and with issuing orders that have the same effect as law during an emergency situation. Specifically mentioned in the statute is the governor’s power to suspend regulatory rules, spend state resources, reorganize state departments, force evacuations and control movements in and around certain areas, and limit the sale of alcohol.

The Constitution of the State of Michigan only addresses granting the governor emergency powers “resulting from disasters occurring in this state caused by enemy attack on the United States.” 

On April 7 the legislature met and allowed an extension of the governor’s emergency powers until the end of April, though she wanted 70 more days.

O’Malley said the legislature is likely going to meet at the end of the month and will then decide whether or not to extend the governor’s emergency powers. He said would like to see what happens in the next couple of weeks before he makes a solid decision on how he will vote.

O’Malley also added that once the COVID-19 crisis settles down that he would hope the legislature review state statutes that grant the governor emergency powers.

“The emergency management laws are flawed,” he stated in his nightly video address to constituents Saturday, April 11. “I think we need to have some serious and honest discussion when this clears up.”

This story is copyrighted © 2020, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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