LANSING, Mich. – Michigan lawmakers voted Tuesday to pass an extension to the state’s coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency declaration through the end of the month.
Massive adjustments were made in order for the Michigan Senate and House to have legislative sessions on Tuesday. Just to get into the building, lawmakers had to have their temperature taken and complete a healthcare survey.
Then, the floor sessions were unlike any other seen inside the building. Clad in an “Everyone vs. COVID-19” shirt, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist opened the morning Senate session with a handful of mask-clad senators on the floor.
Keeping plenty of hand sanitizer, rubber gloves and even a face shield at the ready, they needed 20 members for a quorum, and had exactly that many.
In 13 minutes, they reached a unanimous concurrent resolution vote.
Over in the House, they needed 55 for a quorum and 78 representatives signed in. Only five were allowed on the floor.
In under 10 minutes, the House also reached a unanimous vote.
Rep. Ryan Berman didn’t mind taking part.
“Safer to be here than going into a local grocery store or gas station or something like that,” Berman said.
House Speaker Lee Chatfield said the legislature wants to work with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, but the extension wasn’t as long as the governor had hoped.
“I think extending the state of emergency to the end of June is the wrong call,” Chatfield said. “We’re learning more on a daily bases and every single week. I think this needs to be re-evaluated every few weeks, and that’s the decision we made today.”
“I think that’s unfortunate that they didn’t go with the full 70-day extension for the state of emergency,” Whitmer said. “This was really necessary to give protections to our frontline workers. They will still have those protections, but now the legislature will have to come back in a few weeks.”
The politics in play are about control. Whitmer wants to be able to call the shots in combating the virus, but she only gets 28 days at a time under the state constitution.
The legislature only wants to give Whitmer those 28 days at a time, largely to be able to open up the state and its businesses sooner, should that become an option. If not, they can extend the declaration again.