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Bills limiting governor's emergency powers advance out of state House oversight committee

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The Michigan House Oversight Committee has advanced several bills that would restrict the emergency powers of multiple state agencies.

One part of the package would limit emergency orders from the state health department to lasting 28 days unless they get legislative approval.

Supporters argue the bills would also repeal or update outdated or obsolete sections of laws.

State Representative Steve Johnson (R-Wayland Twp) said the legislation is lighter than what he would have preferred.

“Look, I wanted to go a lot further with this. I think the governor has far too much power. But this was a step that I think everyone can agree is — just notify us if you’re using these and then for certain sections of the law are duplicative, let’s just get rid of those, streamline it for everyone,” Johnson said.

The package is part of the backlash to Governor Gretchen Whitmer using emergency powers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Okemos) said the package demonstrates a distrust between the legislature and the executive branch.

“The level of micromanagement was very extreme, and the Democrats were not consulted. This was not a collaborative effort to clean up repeals of outdated legislation,” Brixie said.

Ahead of the final vote to advance the legislation Tuesday, Brixie and other Democrats on the House Oversight Committee questioned the need for some bills.

Among them was a bill requiring the Department of Natural Resources to notify lawmakers within 24 hours of it establishing an emergency speed limit change for boaters on Michigan’s water ways.

During the meeting, Democrats offered several amendments to the legislation attempting to tie it to Democratic priorities. Each failed to pass.

Brixie said she’d like to see the committee prioritize repealing other laws she saw as obsolete, like Michigan’s anti-sodomy legislation, instead of this package.

“They all are relating to the emergency orders section of our laws. There are way more egregious, outdated examples,” Brixie said.

But Johnson said fixing other obsolete laws should be part of a different discussion.

“That wasn’t this bill package. This bill package was looking at outdated laws regarding emergency powers,” Johnson said.

The bills now head to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

Copyright 2022 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.