Senate OKs measures to update emergency declaration laws, create COVID-19 panel

LANSING, Mich. — The state Legislature during a special session Friday morning approved measures to update state laws regarding states of emergency and create a committee to provide oversight of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Bills 857 and 858 would provide for greater legislative oversight of the governor’s powers during a state of emergency. These bills would require legislative approval to extend a state of emergency every 14 days, rather than the current 28 days.

“Current state law removes the Legislature from all discussions and places all authority in the governor’s office,” Sen. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo. “I believe state law should be clear and should ensure that there are proper checks and balances between the Legislature and the executive branch — especially during times of emergency. Vesting unchecked power in one branch of government is not in the best interest of our state.”

The Legislature also approved a House Concurrent Resolution that would create the Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic to more fully review Michigan’s preparedness for and response to the virus outbreak. This bipartisan, bicameral committee will have the ability to subpoena information related to the governor’s actions thus far during the pandemic.

“It is Legislature’s responsibility to provide oversight of state government. This will provide the transparency that our constituents deserve and allow the state to be more prepared for any future crisis,” Bumstead said regarding the formation of the legislative task force.

Bumstead also noted that the governor went around the Legislature to extend the stay-at-home order until May 15 using the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act, which gives the governor unchecked power during a declared emergency.

“The Legislature has been working well with the governor during this crisis,” Bumstead said. “However, it is vital for the protection of everyone in Michigan that the Legislature be involved in such discussions, especially when it affects different regions of the state so drastically. The governor’s one-size-fits-all approach is not what we needed.”

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