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Legislature To Begin “Lame Duck” With COVID As Focus

Maxim Jenkins

State lawmakers return to the Michigan Capitol Tuesday to begin the post-election “lame duck” session” with COVID-19 as the focus of their attention.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has asked for a $100 million COVID-19 package, but GOP leader say they have their own ideas.

Whitmer says a state-level relief package is needed absent more help from Washington and she has support from Democrats in the Legislature. State Representative Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township) says the money is needed to help prepare for the next wave of COVID-19 cases and the accompanying economic consequences. She says a critical element is making permanent the extension of jobless benefits that went from a 20-week cutoff to 26 weeks.

“This is about ensuring that Michiganders don’t fall into a spiral and a cycle of poverty that we can’t recover from,” she said at an online news conference.

Republican leaders have their own plans, and don’t feel pressured since the Legislature will remain in GOP hands in the 2021-22 session. Amber McCann is the communications director for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake).

She says the plan is for a very-limited lame duck:

“The Majority Leader has established that ‘lame duck’ will be a session of needs, not wants. The Senate has been working on ways to get dollars into the hands of workers and businesses adversely impacted by shutdown orders. Our primary focus will be on legislation related to the impact of COVID on the state.”

A spokesman for House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) says COVID-19 assistance will also be a priority, and that Chatfield would also like to wrap up work on criminal justice reforms and alternatives to incarceration before his time as the House leader comes to a close.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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