LANSING, Mich. – After months of going back and forth, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and legislative leaders have come to an agreement on some COVID rules and the budget.
The Republican-led Legislature has been furious over what it views as Whitmer’s consistent overreach during the pandemic. But now, the governor is agreeing to discuss a role for the Legislature in future orders.
Whitmer also agreed to withdraw Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (MIOSHA) permanent COVID work rules and have a conversation about formalizing legislative input on epidemic orders. Republicans have agreed to fully negotiate the state budget and federal funding from the CARES Act and the American Rescue Act with the budget director.
“As we emerge form this pandemic together our number one goal is to get Michigan back to work and jumpstart our economic recovery. Today’s bipartisan framework shows how can unite around investing in schools, small businesses ans communities and help them thrive,” Whitmer said in a statement.
The announcement came hours after Whitmer announced that outdoor capacity limits will be lifted on June 1 and indoor caps will be rescinded on July 1, when a broad mask and gatherings orders also will end. Some restrictions may remain.
“I’ve consistently said I believe the budget process is better with the governor involved, and the state’s pandemic management is better with the Legislature involved,” said House Speaker Jason Wentworth. “The critical issues facing our state are simply too big and are hurting too many people for us to waste any more time. The people we represent are tired of disagreement and just want results. This agreement is a good first step in getting us to that point.”
In October, the Michigan Supreme Court struck down months of orders by Whitmer that were aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, saying she drew authority from a 1945 law that is unconstitutional. A month later, new restrictions were announced under the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).
In the months following, state health officials updated the restrictions, eventually limiting indoor dining capacity from 25% to 50% and issuing an 11 p.m. curfew.
The state recently loosened its mask mandate for fully vaccinated people two days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidelines. The guidance says vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or socially distance indoors or outdoors, with exceptions for certain medical spaces.
“Last Thursday (May 13), the CDC released new guidance on masks, based on the strength of vaccines preventing infections and spread among vaccinated people,” Whitmer said.