Whitmer Asks Residents “Decline to Sign” Emergency Powers Petition
Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been leading the state’s coronavirus response efforts for five months. At a press conference Wednesday, she asked residents not to sign a petition that would strip the Office of the Governor of its emergency powers.
The group called Unlock Michigan is trying to repeal a 1945 law that gives the governor of Michigan emergency powers to take executive action including declaring a state of emergency.
The petition was started by people unhappy with Governor Whitmer’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in Michigan. Wednesday, she called the groups’ methods “unscrupulous.”
“So, I ask people to decline to sign if you see that out there because we know these actions have saved us. The vast majority of people in this state get it and support this.”
Michigan has been under a state of emergency since March when the coronavirus pandemic reached the state. Currently the state of emergency extends through September 4th, but it has been extended many times by the governor without approval from the Republican dominated state legislature. Republicans are suing the governor over her use of emergency powers during the crisis.
Whitmer said, “If these powers weren’t in effect, we would look a heck of a lot more like Florida. And Florida is in a crisis.”
The governor said she’ll fight to retain the emergency powers for her successor, and any future governors of Michigan. The group would need enough valid signatures to present the petition to the legislature and enough state lawmakers would need to vote in favor of repealing the 1945 law in order to make the measure veto-proof.
Even though cases appear to be plateauing in some regions of Michigan, the governor noted she expects the state to remain in a state of emergency. However, Whitmer said sectors of business that remain closed due to the state of emergency may be reevaluated soon.
“If our numbers got low enough then perhaps, we could think about lifting that but as I said all these protections. All of those rely on us remaining in the state of emergency and that’s an important part of the consideration,” said Whitmer.
She also announced $65 million in CARES Act funding for schools that have been impacted by COVID-19.
$60 million will be available to schools who have high numbers of economically disadvantaged students, special education students and English language learners. The money comes from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund and can be used to better internet connectivity, mental health services, and enhancing distance learning.
To receive funding “the school district’s concentration of economically disadvantaged pupils, compared to total district enrollment, must exceed 50%,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.
At the Wednesday briefing, the state’s chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, also pleaded with residents to comply with people trying to trace the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
Khaldun noted nearly 20,000 Michiganders tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 20 days. Contact tracers speak directly with people who test positive, but the state is having trouble reaching their contacts.
“We’re still only successful in reaching contacts about 60% of the time. So again, everyone has an important role to play here. Do your part and please tell us where you’ve been and who your close contacts are,” said Khaldun.