GOP strategist Bob LaBrant defends Whitmer’s use of emergency powers

COVID-19 is personal to me. I live in Michigan. I am retired after spending a 41-year career working in Michigan politics, mostly helping elect Republicans. Soon I will turn 74. I have had my share of health problems. A heart attack, cancer and respiratory issues. So, my mortality is at risk in this COVID-19 crisis.
Some states have handled the COVID-19 crisis better than others. My daughter and her husband, my two grandchildren and their spouses, and my two great granddaughters all live in Florida. I have witnessed Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, from a thousand miles away. First, he downplayed the crisis. Then he was slow to act, and quick to reopen. He made face masks a local option, instead of a requirement. At first, he made it a point of pride not to wear one. My daughter, a teacher, returns to her Florida classroom next week. I feel very much like a father sending my child off to the dangers of war.
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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has met the COVID-19 crisis head on. She has exercised her gubernatorial powers aggressively with a toughness designed to save lives. It reminds me of John Engler. She has exercised tough love for Michiganders. That steely resolve she demonstrates reminds me of Bill Milliken. By closing non-essential services early, she faced criticism and even dissent from a Confederate flag-waving mob that thought it could use open carry to occupy the State Capitol and intimidate lawmakers. Gov. Whitmer has faced that challenge and produced results.
Michigan ranked 8th in population after the last census, and Michigan currently ranks 18th in COVID-19 cases. Florida is second.
Republican legislative leaders have formed a ballot question committee called “Unlock Michigan.” They want to repeal the 1945 law that gives Gov. Whitmer her sweeping powers that have saved thousands of lives during the first six months of this crisis – a crisis that can, without warning, spike out of control as it has in Florida, Texas and Arizona. The 1945 law was enacted by a Republican Legislature and signed into law by a Republican governor. It has enjoyed bipartisan support for 75 years. Gov. Milliken successfully opposed efforts to repeal or weaken it, leaving it intact for Gov. Whitmer to use.
The legislative process, as we were taught, requires a bill repealing the governor’s emergency powers law to pass both the state House and the Senate. The governor can sign or veto such a bill.


But here in Michigan, the people can bypass the Legislature and propose a law by circulating petitions. It is called the initiative. If about 340,000 valid signatures are collected, the Legislature can pass that initiative, and it becomes law. The governor cannot veto it. If the Legislature does not pass the initiative, it goes on the statewide ballot for a Yes or No vote by Michigan voters.
Unlock Michigan does not want a statewide vote. In fact, they want to avoid a vote of the people completely. They want the initiative passed by a lame-duck Legislature after the November 3, 2020, election.
The time to evaluate Gov. Whitmer’s record is in 2022 when she is up for re-election. Do not strip her or a future governor of the necessary tools found in the emergency powers law that has served the people of Michigan well for the past 75 years just to score some cheap partisan points. The ill-conceived Unlock Michigan petition drive is literally a threat to Michigan’s health.
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