Where does Gov. Whitmer get the power for drastic measures related to coronavirus?
Under normal circumstances, the actions taken by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the last week would be unprecedented.
Since the first cases of coronavirus surfaced on March 10, she has ordered schools, restaurants, bars, gyms and many other businesses closed; banned large gatherings, first of more than 250 people, then reduced that number to 50; made price gouging a crime, and set aside some of the regulations that make it harder for health care providers to get needed equipment.
Some people have questioned whether Whitmer actually has the power to take all the severe measures. So what gives her the authority for such drastic actions?
More:Where are the coronavirus cases in Michigan?
More:Whitmer bans gatherings with more than 50 people
The state’s constitution (section 1, article 5) vests the executive power over the state of Michigan with the governor.
The Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945 says that after declaring a state of emergency, “the governor may promulgate reasonable orders, rules, and regulations as he or she considers necessary to protect life and property or to bring the emergency situation within the affected area under control .”
The Emergency Management Act of 1976 allows the governor to declare a state of emergency “if he or she finds that an emergency has occurred or that the threat of an emergency exists.” And the same act gives the governor broad powers “to cope with dangers to this state or the people of this state presented by a disaster or emergency.”
If the emergency lasts more than 28 days, the governor has to ask the Legislature to approve an extension of the declaration and the orders that come with it.
Previous governors have used the emergency designation to take over many financially troubled cities, including Detroit, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Highland Park and Ecorse. Emergency declarations also have been used in weather emergencies, such as the polar vortex in 2019 or flooding in the Upper Peninsula in 2018 or to deal with the Flint water crisis in 2016.
But none have been as consequential as the emergency declaration to respond to the coronavirus.
Whitmer said this week that she didn't think the drastic measures amounted to a "new normal" for MIchigan.
“I hope every one of these (executive orders) is a chapter in time and I know that it is," she said. "This is not change forever, but we’ve got to be serious about how we act in this moment so we can look back at this as only a chapter.”
Contact Kathleen Gray: 313-223-4430, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @michpoligal.