News Bite

It’s In The Law: Michigan Executive Orders Have Force Of Law

A 1945 statute is clear, and violating Whitmer’s orders is a misdemeanor if she says it is

An ongoing social media debate in this state is whether Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders are, in fact, laws.

The Saginaw County Sheriff’s Office recently said in a statement: “The governor’s order regarding masks is not a law and has not been promulgated into law. We will not be treating it as such, nor issuing sanctions.”

It is true that executive orders are not laws passed through the legislative process, which are called “statutes.” But a governor’s emergency orders are explicitly authorized by the Emergency Powers of Governor Act, a statute that was enacted in the usual manner by the Legislature and governor in 1945.

This law, also called Public Act 302 of 1945, states:

“During times of great public crisis, disaster, rioting, catastrophe, or similar public emergency within the state, or reasonable apprehension of immediate danger of a public emergency of that kind, when public safety is imperiled, either upon application of the mayor of a city, sheriff of a county, or the commissioner of the Michigan state police or upon his or her own volition, the governor may proclaim a state of emergency and designate the area involved. After making the proclamation or declaration, the governor may promulgate reasonable orders, rules, and regulations as he or she considers necessary to protect life and property or to bring the emergency situation within the affected area under control.”

PA 302 of 1945 then states: “The violation of any such orders, rules and regulations made in conformity with this act shall be punishable as a misdemeanor, where such order, rule or regulation states that the violation thereof shall constitute a misdemeanor.”

On Sept. 2, the Michigan Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case to determine whether this 1945 law violates the Michigan Constitution of 1963.