News Story

CapCon’s Top 10 Stories Of 2020

COVID-19 dominated the news, but it wasn’t the only topic of great interest

Here are the top 10 stories for Michigan Capitol Confidential in 2020, based on reader traffic.

No. 1 (Aug. 7): New mandate for two weeks of self lockdown after 15 minutes with person who has sore throat

If a healthy person with no coronavirus symptoms spends 15 minutes within six feet of an individual who has a sore throat, they will now be expected to lock themself down for 14 days in their home, or until the individual with the sore throat gets a negative result on a COVID-19 test. That is what a Aug. 7 Michigan executive order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stated.

No. 2 (July 24): Vaccine may be years away; so may be end of Whitmer’s state of emergency

The Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research stated July 20 that the earliest a COVID-19 vaccine may be widely available is the summer of 2022. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had tied a relaxing of her COVID-19 restrictions to a vaccine for the coronavirus.

“COVID-19 is still very present. We know that having a lot of people inside in close vicinity to one another is how COVID-19 spreads and that's what we’re trying to avoid,” Whitmer said in June, according to MIRS. “Filling a stadium again probably won’t happen until we have a vaccine and that’s going to be a while.”

No. 3 (March 3): Giving a friend a manicure or haircut is illegal in Michigan

You’re breaking the law if you cut the hair of another person in Michigan without the government’s permission, even if it’s for a friend or family member, and even if there’s no charge. An aunt cutting her nephew’s hair? Illegal. A girlfriend giving her boyfriend a trim? Not allowed. And teenage girls giving each other manicures? They’re all committing misdemeanor crimes under Michigan law.

No. 4 (July 22): News site claims Whitmer defunding police, but $593m in state cuts to be replaced by federal dollars

A news site called Great Lakes News posted a story July 22, which went viral, that claimed Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has defunded the Michigan State Police and the prisons. That executive order did call for $633 million in state budget cuts, including $113 million in spending on the Michigan State Police and $386 million in the corrections system. But the state money cut by the executive order was replaced by federal dollars received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. It had almost no impact on the overall funding on police and corrections.

No. 5 (May 28): Whitmer blames dam failure on low funding after she proposed funding cut for dam repairs

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has made claims that she tried to fix Michigan’s infrastructure problems, including strengthening the thousands of dams in the state. To make the case, at a Lansing press conference, the governor pointed to a 45-cent per gallon gas tax increase she proposed in 2019. But that proposal would not have directed any additional resources to dam repairs.

In fact, Whitmer’s first executive budget proposed reduced annual funding for a state dam repair fund, even as her budget presumed that the gas tax hike would be passed and boost revenue available for such projects.

No. 6 (May 3): Wife says Flint dollar store security guard killed over face mask dispute

The wife of a Flint dollar store security guard who was shot and killed May 1 said her husband’s shooting arose from a dispute over him not allowing a customer to enter the store without a face mask.

No. 7 (April 10): Lawn mowing double jeopardy in Roseville? City’s order versus state’s

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s new stay-at-home order prohibits “in-person work that is not necessary to sustain or protect life.”

But for residents of the city of Roseville, in Macomb County, the local government has decreed (in a Facebook post April 8) that this doesn’t apply to keeping lawns trimmed.

“The City takes the position that failure to maintain lawns is unsafe and unsanitary and constitutes a nuisance under City Ordinances,” according to the post. “Therefore residents are allowed to mow their lawns OR may allow lawn services to perform this task.”

No. 8 (June 22): Federal judge blasts Whitmer’s lockdown defense

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s assertion that her COVID-19 executive orders are based on the “best science” came under attack when a federal judge wrote that her lawyers could provide no factual basis for keeping the state’s gyms shut down.

United States District Judge Paul Maloney gave his June 19 rebuke of Whitmer and her legal team’s response to a lawsuit brought by several gyms.

Maloney emphasized that the bar he faced to uphold Whitmer’s executive orders was extremely low but not zero. He said also that the bar was very high for him to grant the gym owners’ request to let them reopen.

“Plaintiffs [gym businesses] must show that there is no conceivable set of facts from which a rational relation can be drawn,” the judge stated.

“Plaintiffs only argue ... the continued closure of gyms is arbitrary and unreasonable because gyms are basically the only category of businesses that remain closed in Michigan, and because the State has not put forward any scientific data that supports keeping gyms closed while opening other closely similar activities and businesses, such as swimming pools, restaurants and bars, and ‘personal touch’ services like salons,” the judge wrote.

And then, the judge stated how little evidence Whitmer’s team would have to produce to win the lawsuit.

“Rather, this Court must uphold the Governor’s Executive Orders as long as they are supported by some relation to the public health.”

Maloney then emphasized how far short Whitmer’s lawyers fell of even that low standard.

“Unfortunately, on the record before it, the Court has not been presented with any evidence that shows a rational relation between the continued closure of indoor gyms and the preservation of public health,” he wrote. “While the standard is extremely deferential here—if the Court can conceive of any set of facts that would support the Orders, it must uphold them and deny the injunction—the Orders must still connect the challenged prohibition with some fact or facts.”

No. 9 (July 31): Not a single Yooper hospitalized for COVID-19, but Whitmer orders UP bar patrons outdoors anyway

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered all Upper Peninsula bars to halt indoor service with her 161st executive order on July 29. That order takes effect today.

There were no individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 in the Upper Peninsula as of July 30, according to a state database.

A state COVID-19 epidemic dashboard nevertheless shows the Upper Peninsula being an overall “medium high” risk level. The same dashboard shows the UP’s “positive test” rate listed as “low” and its “new cases” rate listed as “medium.”

No. 10 (Oct. 2): Michigan Supreme Court takes away Whitmer’s unilateral emergency powers

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's emergency orders are illegal and unconstitutional.

The court ruled 7-0 that the governor “did not have authority after April 30, 2020, to issue or renew any executive orders related to the COVID19 pandemic” under the 1976 Emergency Management Act. That was the date on which the governor’s authority under the act expired, and the Legislature did not assent to an extension.

Since that date, the governor has rested her authority to issue enforceable executive orders on the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act, which places no time limit on how long she can maintain a state of emergency without legislative consent.

The court ruled, by a vote of 4-3, that the 1945 law violates the Michigan Constitution for this reason, holding, “The Governor did not possess the authority to exercise emergency powers under the EPGA because the act unlawfully delegates legislative power to the executive branch in violation of the Michigan Constitution.”

Editor’s note: As always, the websites we link to may update or delete their information over time. This story uses excerpts of previously published material; the websites linked to in story 9 were updated subsequent to the story’s publication date of July 31.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.