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Whitmer to line-item veto restrictions on local government COVID orders

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer will line-item veto language in a budget bill that would punish local health departments that issue COVID-19 mask orders or restrictions.

This action by the governor is expected and Republican leaders say they’ll live with her decision even though they disagree with it.

Whitmer Press Secretary Bobby Leddy said the language to be vetoed is unconstitutional, unenforceable and the wrong response to managing COVID-19.

“The governor’s always said that she’d protect public health measures that save lives and oppose any that would seek to undermine or restrict basic life-saving actions throughout this pandemic,” Leddy said.

Republicans disagree. But Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jim Stamas said that won’t derail the agreement.

“So until one side or the other probably challenges whether something can be deemed unenforceable and finding the opportunity to pick a fight on that, it hasn’t come up yet,” said Stamas.

The governor and the GOP-controlled Legislature still have to figure out how to use several billion dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funding.

The governor will sign the final bills of a budget deal before the state’s new fiscal year begins Friday. That will ensure state departments and public universities will be funded.

The Ionia County Health Department lifted its emergency COVID health order for schools on Monday. The Ionia Sentinel-Standard reported that was in response to the budget bill.

“We’ve always been clear that the state of Michigan would not withhold funding from local health departments for implementing universal mask policies or quarantine protocols in local schools, specifically ones that are designed to keep students safe so that they can continue learning in person throughout this pandemic,” said Leddy.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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