News Story

Bills Introduced To Limit Governor’s Emergency Lockdown Powers

Two laws authorize this power; one has no limit on how long governor can keep it

Michigan State Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, and state Rep. Jason Wentworth, R-Clare have introduced Senate Bill 857 and House Bill 5713, respectively, to repeal one of the two laws that give the governor the authority to assume emergency powers.

Public Act 302 of 1945 grants broad powers to a governor, including the ability to close buildings and public places and to establish a curfew.

PA 302 does not limit how long the governor may retain emergency powers.

It is one of two laws Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders have cited as her authority to order people to stay in their homes and close their businesses. The other is Public Act 390 of 1976. Unlike the 1945 law, this one limits a governor’s powers to a 28-day period, with legislative approval required to extend that.

To become law, the Barrett and Wentworth repeal bills would have to be passed by a majority of the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives and then signed by the governor.

The governor could veto the bill, which could be overridden by two-thirds supermajority vote in both houses.

It’s unlikely the current Legislature could summon such a supermajority to override the governor.

On April 7, the Legislature approved extending Whitmer’s emergency authority under PA 390 of 1976 until April 30.