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State board ordered to OK bill to end emergency powers law

The veto-proof initiative that would let Republican legislators wipe from the books a law Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used to issue sweeping pandemic orders.
FILE. Michigan Supreme Court.
FILE. Michigan Supreme Court.(WJRT)
Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 3:27 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ordered the state elections board to certify a veto-proof initiative that would let Republican legislators wipe from the books a law Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used to issue sweeping pandemic orders.

The decision came after two Democrats on the Board of State Canvassers opposed ratifying the ballot measure in April, despite a finding from the elections bureau that enough signatures had been collected. The justices said the four-member panel “has a clear legal duty to certify the petition.”

The board’s Democrats had called for further investigation into alleged wrongdoing by paid circulators.

For months, the Democratic governor acted under the 1945 emergency powers law to order and keep intact restrictions on the economy to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional last fall, but the conservative group Unlock Michigan wants to kill it to prevent a future court from deciding differently.

Since the ruling, Whitmer has turned to the state health department to tighten and ease restrictions under a public health law. Indoor capacity limits will go away on July 1, as will most mask requirements.

The canvassers will meet soon to certify the petition. The GOP-controlled Legislature will likely enact the measure rather than let it go to a public vote in 2022. The governor could not veto it.

“We urge the Michigan House and Senate to act promptly to finally strike this awful law from the books forever,” said Unlock Michigan spokesman Fred Wszolek. “Gov. Whitmer used this law recklessly to crush businesses, families and lives. No governor should be able to do so ever again.”

Whitmer has said her orders curbed the spread of the coronavirus and saved lives. They were backed by medical officials.

Since Michigan’s current constitution took effect nearly 60 years ago, lawmakers have approved citizens’ initiatives nine times - all since 1987. Republicans most recently did so in 2018 as part of an unprecedented maneuver to scale back minimum wage and paid sick leave measures to make them more business friendly.

Critics say the process has been abused by special interest groups that can get around a governor by gathering signatures from voters who represent as little as 8% of the most recent gubernatorial vote.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.