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Legislators suing Michigan Gov. Whitmer say she can’t ‘rule the entire state on her own’

Michigan legislators file lawsuit against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan legislators who filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer argue she shouldn’t be able to rule the state on her own, and they’re asking the courts to affirm that opinion.

Lawmakers claim Whitmer’s decisions to “unilaterally” extend the state of emergency without negotiating with the House and Senate on relaxing the stay-at-home order forced them to act.

Legislative leaders believe it’s a fairly simple case between two competing laws. Which is the right one? Whitmer has chosen the one that gives her the ability to act without going through legislators. They claim that’s unconstitutional overreach.

“It is our firm belief that the law does not give the power to the governor to rule the entire state on their own for as long as they like, and today, we are asking the courts to affirm our opinion,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said.

“The fact is no one wanted to go to court,” House Speaker Lee Chatfield said. “No one wanted to have this battle, and it was entirely avoidable.”

The leadership’s larger frustration is Whitmer’s shift from flattening the curve to what she calls “saving lives," without any explanation or public data behind the decision-making process.

UPDATE -- May 6, 2020: Michigan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases up to 45,054; Death toll now at 4,250

Legislators say that has led to a one-size-fits-all approach that, in their estimation, is doing irreparable economic damage.

“I’m concerned about another lost decade,” Shirkey said. “I’m concerned about not just the jobs, but the lives and livelihoods, and I’m concerned about not just the lives, but the lives lost because of government action.”

While protests accompanied this battle in Lansing, Chatfield said right now, he’s more interested in legal clarity.

“I’m not encouraging any civil disobedience or mass chaos at this point in our state, but I think these orders are legally questionable, and that’s why we’re going to court,” Chatfield said.

“This lawsuit is just another partisan game that won’t distract the governor,” Whitmer’s office said in a statement. “Her No. 1 priority is saving lives. She’s making decisions based on science and data, not political or legal pressure.”

The lawsuit was filed in the Court of Claims on an expedited basis, but there’s no expectation of a quick resolution. Leaders expect the case will end up in the Michigan Supreme Court.

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