LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is in a heated battle with legislators, saying she needs emergency powers extended because she’s trying to save residents from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“I don’t enjoy using all of these levers of this office, but I have to do this to save lives, and that is what centers every decision we’ve made,” Whitmer said.
UPDATE -- April 29, 2020: Michigan coronavirus cases up to 40,399; Death toll now at 3,670
Whitmer didn’t mince her words: She said she’s going to get a state of emergency with or without the legislature.
The Senate and House gaveled into session at 10 a.m. Wednesday and stood down for a couple of hours. But it didn’t take long for the proceedings to heat up.
Several protesters wanting the state opened more quickly caused a scene that ended in physical removal from the House gallery.
Three women entered the third-floor gallery, which had been converted for social distancing purposes for representatives to sit on the east and west sides and the media to sit in the back. When they entered the media section, the House sergeant at arms bodily removed them.
A public gallery had been set up in the speaker’s library with a video feed, but they wanted into the media section.
Whitmer nixed negotiations on two one-week extensions in exchange for quicker reopening of the state, which leadership offered.
“The Republicans in the legislature want to negotiate opening up sectors of our economy,” Whitmer said. “They’re acting as though we’re in the midst of a political problem. This is not a political problem that we have. This is a public health crisis.”
House Speaker Lee Chatfield said Whitmer’s no-negotiations policy is political and wrong.
“We need to do all we can to prioritize public health, but we also need to be reasonable in our approach, and I don’t think we’ve done that here in the state of Michigan,” Chatfield said.
He said he’s willing to make one last try at a negotiation.
“We’re doing our best to be a partner with her so we can be the voice for thousands of Michigan families who are hurting unnecessarily around our state, and her one-size-fits-all approach is the wrong call,” Chatfield said.