Governor’s Powers and Your Constitutional Freedoms

American flag and gavel depicting constitutional freedoms

Have Michigan residents’ constitutional freedoms been violated?

This coronavirus outbreak and subsequent shutdown of society worldwide has to be one of the strangest times in human history.

While we are shut in our homes, except for a few approved activities, ideological battles are raging online on almost every forum.

Battles are also raging at state capitals in the Midwest. This includes Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Michigan has been and will continue to be a proving ground. This is due to the Republican-dominated legislature fighting a Democratic governor over the limits to her powers during a crisis.

As the immediate crisis posed by COVID-19 is on the decline, even in states like ours that were harder-hit than other states, Americans are beginning to ask what’s next.

European nations continue to open their economies, and some states are too.

The divide between states opening and states continuing to lockdown has become more apparent, and more political. Most states with Republican governors are beginning to open up. While states with Democratic governors are staying – or attempting to stay – locked down.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed its stay home order this past week, calling it “unlawful” and “unenforceable.” Within hours, bars were packed with patrons. Similar actions are taking place in Illinois courts.

Michigan’s Battle Over Power

Judge Cynthia Stephens heard oral arguments Friday, May 15, 2020, from both sides in a lawsuit brought by the GOP against Governor Whitmer.

The legislative branch of Michigan is suing Whitmer over the extension of her state of emergency powers. The case is likely to go to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Let’s be clear: Michigan’s House of Representatives and Senate don’t want to force Whitmer out of office. They are not asking the court to call her decisions bad or to cut her out of the decision-making process. They are not even asking the court to allow them to throw Michigan’s economy wide open. What they have done is taken legal actions for one reason: to reinstate the constitutional structure of Michigan’s government.

The way our constitution sets up the government of Michigan, the legislature is supposed to make the laws. The governor is supposed to enforce them.

Right now, Governor Whitmer is making unilateral decisions. Moreover, she hasn’t given the state a clear idea of what benchmark will make it possible for her to give up control.

Two Laws on the Books

The law undergirding Governor Whitmer’s months-long lockdown is the “state of emergency.”

The problem is that there are two “state of emergency” laws on the books in Michigan. There was one law made in 1945 and one in 1976. One of those laws provides clear legislative oversight to the state of emergency while the other one doesn’t.

GOP lawmakers sought to write a new law clearing up the confusion between the two. Whitmer promised to veto it. She rejected offers to extend her emergency powers through the legislature with their oversight, even though Republican lawmakers had been working with her throughout the crisis.

Michigan’s legislative branch now feels it has no other option but to bring the matter before the court. This is particularly because the continued lockdown is doing damage to counties relatively unaffected by coronavirus – which has been concentrated in Wayne and Oakland Counties.

Constitutional Freedoms – Takeaway

Here are the questions we need to ask of ourselves and our leaders:

Should Michigan remain a representative democracy even during times of crisis?

Were these laws designed to give unlimited power to the executive branch of our state government for an unspecified length of time?

Can we the people be trusted, and can our legislative representatives be authorized to act in the best interests of those who are at risk while also re-opening our businesses and churches and homes?

Furthermore, do we genuinely need one powerful person at the top to decide what’s best for us?

Lastly, if you feel that your constitutional freedoms have been violated and wish to take legal action, contact an experienced federal attorney.

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