Republican lawmakers in Michigan have officially killed a law that allowed Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to lock down the state indefinitely during the coronavirus pandemic — and the governor is reportedly powerless to veto it.
According to WDIV-TV, the Republican-led state House voted 60-48 on Wednesday to repeal an emergency powers law that granted broad authority to governors to issue an emergency declaration and enact rules to "protect life and property or to bring the emergency situation within the affected area under control." The state Senate approved the repeal proposal last week.
The law, known as the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945, was employed by Whitmer early on in the pandemic to enact draconian and indefinite health and safety restrictions. But it was declared unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court last October.
With the Wednesday vote, the law has now been completely wiped from the books. And since the repeal proposal was the result of a citizen-initiated campaign, the governor is unable to veto it.
Another emergency powers law, known as the Emergency Management Act of 1976, remains in place. Under that law, however, emergency orders cannot extend beyond 28 days unless they receive legislative approval.
Unlock Michigan, the citizen campaign that led the repeal initiative, reportedly "spent millions of dollars to collect hundreds of thousands of voter signatures" in order to bring the bill before the state legislature.
Fred Wszolek, a spokesman for the group, celebrated the repeal vote on Wednesday, saying it ended Whitmer's "rule by decree."
"We're grateful to the members of the House and Senate who stood with the people of Michigan, and we're grateful for their help in repealing the misguided 1945 law that caused so much pain once and for all," Wszolek said, according to the Detroit News.
His group is now reportedly circulating petitions to revise a separate law, passed in 1978, that enabled Whitmer's administration to extend public health orders, such as capacity and masking restrictions, indefinitely without approval from lawmakers.
Wszolek said Whitmer also "abused" that law "to destroy lives, businesses, and futures."
Certainly, Michiganders have endured some of the nation's harshest lockdown policies since the start of the pandemic last March. Whitmer, though, has argued that her emergency directives were intended to keep residents safe.
Her allies, too, have warned that repealing the public health laws would only endanger residents.
"Today, House Republicans voted to eradicate an important tool for elected leaders trying to save lives and stop the spread of deadly, infectious diseases like COVID-19, Legionnaire's, tuberculosis and anthrax," Mark Fisk, a spokesman for Keep Michigan Safe, a group formed to oppose Unlock Michigan, said.