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Senate oversight committee advances bills limiting governor's emergency powers

The Michigan state Senate room from the gallery.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
The Michigan Senate chamber

Republican lawmakers have been working on a 30-bill emergency powers package for months.

Now, the Senate oversight committee is advancing some of those bills to the full chamber.

State Representative Julie Alexander (R-Hanover) is a sponsor. She said every emergency powers law should have three components: “What triggers an emergency, what is the scope of authority, and thirdly, the duration,” she told the committee Wednesday.

The package involves limiting the duration of certain orders, requiring legislative notification when powers are used within a specified time frame and repealing some statute provisions.

Alexander said some of the statutes that would be affected have rarely been needed, with the Legislature's research arm unable to say when they were last used.

“We found that googling for news articles was quite often the most common way for us to look back,” she said.

Opponents said the package would hurt the state’s ability to respond to future public health crises. One bill would cap epidemic-related health orders at 28 days' duration unless the legislature okays an expansion.

Senator Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) said lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic make him concerned about how the proposed changes would play out.

“I’m pretty confident that if the Legislature were required to reauthorize any public health protections, that the legislature would not have because of the way the pandemic was politicized,” Irwin said during Wednesday’s hearing.

Not every bill in the package has made its way to the Senate Oversight Committee. Several pieces of legislation didn’t receive final passage in the House of Representatives until Wednesday evening.

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