Michigan Legislature Gives Republicans Authority to File New Lawsuit Against Gov. Whitmer Over Coronavirus Lockdown

As hundreds of protesters descended upon Michigan's Capitol building on Thursday to demand an end to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's coronavirus lockdown, the state's Republican-controlled Legislature ramped up its efforts to bring the Democratic governor's emergency powers to an end.

In a renewed effort to reverse Whitmer's stringent policies aimed at protecting Michiganders amid the coronavirus pandemic, lawmakers voted against extending Whitmer's emergency powers declaration allowing her to enforce a statewide lockdown.

They further voted in favor of giving House Speaker Lee Chatfield, a Republican, the authority to file a lawsuit against the Democratic governor over her handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Chatfield said the decision should send a clear message to Whitmer that lawmakers are ready to "take the next steps" if the governor refuses to make concessions on the state's stringent lockdown policies.

"We have to be prepared to take the next steps should she not accept her offer of partnership. We have three branches of government; the executive, the legislative and the judicial," Chatfield said. "They all have their role, even in a pandemic and this may be one where we get the third branch of government involved," the House Speaker said.

The state's Senate voted in favor of a similar resolution, giving Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, also a Republican, the power to file litigation against Whitmer as well.

Ending Whitmer's emergency powers, Shirkey said in a floor speech, would mean a return to a "system of checks and balances that ensures all voices are heard."

Michigan protest

"It also means the legislature must vote to ensure continuity of other necessary changes made via executive order," Shirkey said.

"If she does not recognize the end of the emergency declaration, we have no other choice, but to act for our constituents," he said. "The Senate offered to work with our Governor to reach a compromise on the stay-at-home order, but she did not accept our offer. Now, the Michigan Senate, along with our partners in the House, will begin our work to responsibly lead our state from governance by executive order back to government where all voices are heard and considered."

Tonight I spoke on the action the #MISenate took today to restore checks and balances as we turn away from government by executive order. It's time to move Michigan forward safely and listen and hear all voices! #TrustMI #OpenMISafely https://t.co/Wug8NGrbmz

— Sen. Mike Shirkey (@SenMikeShirkey) April 30, 2020

Despite demands from Republicans and widespread calls from protesters, including armed demonstrators who made their way into Michigan's Capitol building on Thursday, Whitmer has remained defiant, refusing to lift the state's stringent "stay-at-home" measures.

Ending the lockdown now, she has said, could cost lives—a known risk the governor is not willing to take.

Ignoring the Legislature's refusal to extend the state's emergency declaration, which was slated to expire at midnight, Whitmer issued a new executive order on Thursday proclaiming that Michigan's state of emergency would continue, with a new expiration date set for May 28.

Whitmer's new order cited authority to make that decision under a 1940s-era state law.

"While some members of the legislature might believe this crisis is over, common sense and all of the scientific data tells us we're not out of the woods yet," Whitmer said in a statement Thursday.

"By refusing to extend the emergency and disaster declaration, Republican lawmakers are putting their heads in the sand and putting more lives and livelihoods at risk," she said. "I'm not going to let that happen."