Michigan governor vetoes nursing home bill calling it a ‘political game'

State leader signs bipartisan budget bills into law

Michigan nursing home bill vetoed

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed several bipartisan budget bills into law Friday, while she vetoed nursing home legislation.

The bipartisan budget bills are aimed at protecting funding for Michigan schools and public safety. 

Whitmer vetoed Senate Bill 956, which she believes would have jeopardized the health of Michigan’s nursing home residents and other COVID-19-positive patients. 

Vetoed Legislation

“Protecting the health and safety of nursing home residents and their staff continues to be a top priority for my administration,” said Whitmer. “Senate Bill 956 is nothing more than a political game that would relocate vulnerable seniors without any requirement for consent, doctor’s approval, or notification to patients and their families.  It’s time for the Republican legislature to get serious about protecting our most vulnerable and addressing the public health and economic crisis faced by our state. We look forward to continuing our work with stakeholders and legislators on the task force to develop real solutions that make sense for Michigan seniors and their families.” 

To protect against a possible second wave, she created the nursing home preparedness task force, which is set to produce its report Aug. 31.

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Michigan has risen to 81,621 as of Saturday morning, including 6,199 deaths, state officials report. Friday’s update includes 734 new cases and 8 additional deaths.

“Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens require unique medical care and living assistance to keep them safe and healthy. This legislation puts seniors at greater risk by failing to provide the enhanced and qualified staffing needed for their protection,” said Linda Cook MacDonald, Chairperson for the Michigan Senior Advocates Council. “We support the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 956 and express our gratitude to her for protecting the health and safety of all Michiganders during this difficult and unprecedented time.” 

Republican Lawmaker Reacts

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Peter J. Lucido and would prohibit the transfer of people who have COVID-19 into nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

“I am very disappointed and saddened that the governor vetoed this extremely important and commonsense legislation,” said Lucido, R-Shelby Township. “Politics should not prevail over the health and safety of our seniors and health care workers, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate and House to consider passing a veto override. We owe this to our citizens, especially the seniors and vulnerable members of our communities who cannot speak for themselves.”

Lucido said every state that followed COVID-19 nursing home guidelines like that of the Whitmer administration has since changed course to a policy similar to what was included in his bill.

Last week, Whitmer extended protections by continuing limited and temporary restrictions on the entry of individuals into health care facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities, and juvenile justice facilities.

She also created the bipartisan Michigan Nursing Homes COVID-19 Preparedness Task Force within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which is charged with, among other things, analyzing relevant data on the threat of COVID-19 in nursing homes, and making recommendations to the governor on improving data quality, and releasing periodic reports to the governor on its findings and recommendations.  

Bills signed into law

House Bill 4391 requires LARA to promulgate rules for firefighters regarding the use of the firefighting foam concentrate, PFAS, which has been linked to various health concerns. The bill was sponsored by Representative Jeff Yaroch (R-Richmond).  

House Bill 5265 appropriates funds to various state departments for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The bill was sponsored by Representative Shane Hernandez (R-Port Huron). 

Senate Bill 145 appropriates funds to the Department of Natural Resources for the 2019-2019 fiscal year. The bill was sponsored by Senator Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo). 

Senate Bill 373 provides omnibus appropriations for school aid, higher education and community colleges for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. This bill was sponsored by Senator Jim Stamas (R-Midland). 

“This bipartisan budget package will help protect critical funding for Michigan’s frontline workers, educators, and students, but our work isn’t done,” said Whitmer. “Now it’s time for President Trump and our leaders in Congress to follow Michigan’s lead and work together in a bipartisan manner to extend federal unemployment assistance and provide direct support to states like Michigan so we can maintain essential services like education, health care, and public safety.” 

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Natasha Dado is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit.