Local lawmakers oppose extending governor’s emergency declaration

By Mitchell Kukulka | Mitchell.Kukulka@mdn.net |Posted Apr 2, 2020

Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, is opposed to extending Michigan’s state of emergency due to coronavirus by 70 days.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week issued Executive Order 2020-33, which expanded on her initial declaration of emergency across the state, and also requested a concurrent resolution to extend the state of emergency by 70 days from the date of the resolution.

Stamas, who chairs the Michigan Senate Appropriations Committee, announced his opposition to the extension on the same day.

“I want to thank the people working on the front lines – and those supporting them – in this unprecedented challenge fighting against COVID-19,” Stamas stated. “However, we must balance necessary action to protect Michigan families and resolve to preserve our representative government. At some point, the people deserve to have a say in their own lives. I strongly oppose extending the declaration – especially for more than two months.”

Speaking to Midland Daily News on Thursday, Stamas explained he opposed the expansion on the grounds that the frequently-changing nature of the coronavirus threat makes it difficult to predict what challenges Michigan will face in the near future, let alone 70 days. Stamas also said he would prefer to see a “work safe” model to get Michigan residents back to work — which Stamas thinks would be a more positive option for both the mental health of Michigan citizens and the economy — implemented over a continuation of Whitmer’s stay home order.

“I don’t think that we’re ready to do that at this moment — we need to make sure that we have enough PPE (personal protective equipment) and other materials, and that we’ve hit the peak and are seeing a decline before we consider something like that — but I think 70 days of emergency management by a governor without legislative or other input is just too long,” Stamas said.

Stamas said he has received comments from constituents both voicing approval of the governor’s order and opposing it.

“There’s a balance in making sure that we are protecting our families — I’m just trying to make sure we’re evaluating that on a more regular basis than a 70-day period,” Stamas said.

Late Thursday evening, state Rep. Annette Glenn, R-Midland, issued a statement in agreement with Stamas. She said she too will not vote to extend the current state of emergency another 70 days. Glenn noted she is open to a shorter extension of several weeks or perhaps until April 30, at which time the legislature will reassess conditions then.

“Our U.S. and state constitutions give us three branches of government and a system of checks and balances for a reason,” Glenn said, “precisely so that even in times of crisis or emergency — and as history teaches us, especially then — all government power and decision-making isn’t wielded by just one person.”

She said she and Stamas are firmly committed to protecting the health and safety of all families in Midland County and the rest of our legislative districts as any government official in Lansing, including the governor. 

“The difference is, we know the people in our districts it’s our job to represent, and the job I was elected to in particular is to stand up for families in Bay and Midland counties,” she said. “They elected me to work with and support the governor whenever appropriate to do what’s best for all the people of Michigan, but not just go along when a decision’s made that may harm the families it’s my duty to represent in particular.”

Glenn, who also is a member of the House Appropriations K-12 School Aid Subcommittee, said she agreed with Whitmer’s announcement Thursday that public schools will remain closed for the remainder of the school year, unless they’re deemed to be safe before then, but will be required to formulate plans to provide online and other distance learning options.

She said after communicating regularly over the last ten days with the superintendents of four school districts in her legislative district — Bullock Creek, Meridian, Midland, and Pinconning — she has “the utmost confidence in their ability to comply with the governor’s directive in a way that protects student safety and still fulfills our responsibility to provide them a quality education.” 

“I appreciate the dedication of all teachers, school administrators, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, and other school support personnel,” Glenn said, “who I know agree that our first and foremost concern must be what’s best for students and how our policies will impact their opportunity to continue to receive an education, and for older students, their ability to graduate and move on to a skilled trade or college.”

Glenn encouraged anyone with a question or concern about the state’s response to the coronavirus — or any other issue involving state government — to call her office at 517-373-1791 or email AnnetteGlenn@House.MI.gov.