Senate Targets Virus Restrictions; OK’s unemployed, water payments

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  Senate Targets Virus Restrictions;  OK's unemployed, water bills

The chamber put down the law on visitor restrictions late Thursday with 22-16 votes.

LANSING, Michigan – Senate Republicans voted to limit the duration of the coronavirus restrictions imposed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer unless they were extended by the GOP-controlled legislature.

The bill, which would be vetoed if it reached the Democratic governor’s desk, was removed by the chamber late Thursday by 22-16 votes.

However, the Senators found common ground on other pandemic-related measures – they unanimously voted to keep unemployment changes going for an additional three months and allocate $ 250 million to continue funding a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits per year for the unemployed instead of 20 weeks . Water shutdowns would be banned nationwide if a 30-8 Bill were passed.

The vote set the stage for final House action next week before lawmakers adjourn the year.

Since the state Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a law that formed the basis of Whitmer’s unilateral order to contain COVID-19, she has instead used the state Department of Health’s epidemic powers to demand masks and restrict gatherings. More recently, Robert Gordon, director of health and human services, has banned face-to-face tuition in high schools and colleges, banned dining in indoor restaurants, and closed various entertainment venues until at least December 20.

The legislation, sponsored by Senator Lana Theis, would require legislative approval to extend such orders beyond 28 days, much like a provision in a 1976 law that applies to a governor’s emergency statements. She said the majority in the Supreme Court understood that Whitmer should work with lawmakers to fight the virus.

“Unelected and accountable DHHS bureaucrats should not be able to permanently issue freedom-restricting and business-killing emergency orders that disrupt lives and threaten livelihoods,” said Theis, a Republican from Brighton.

Democrats attempted to amend the bill to add a face-covering mandate to the bill, but were blocked by GOP senators.

“If we hinder and forbid the main department, which is also responsible for the promotion and protection of public health, not just before a pandemic, but clearly before us and the lack of attitude of the legislative majority towards a pandemic that is always present and continues to rage, this is not only irresponsible. It’s absurd, ”said Senator Erika Geiss from Taylor.

Following the October Supreme Court ruling invalidating the governor’s executive ordinances, lawmakers and Whitmer enacted laws to continue less controversial measures related to unemployment, virtual government meetings and other issues. However, they expire later this month unless lawmakers act.

For example, bills approved in the last few days would extend until March flexibility for pharmacies and the validity of driver’s licenses that have expired since last March.

The Senate’s vote to refreeze the taps was welcomed by supporters. The governor had done so in a spring decision until it was turned on its head by the court ruling more than two months ago.

Billing sponsor, Detroit Democratic Senator Stephanie Chang, said more than 317,000 Michigan households were lagging behind on their water bills during the virus outbreak. Addressing shutdowns, especially during a pandemic, was “a public health issue, an economic security issue and a moral issue,” she said.

The Senate also passed a Republican-sponsored bill that would allow certain pandemic-hit businesses – such as restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues – to postpone their summer property tax payments without penalties or interest. Whitmer vetoed a similar measure in July. Under the latest bill, the state would pay local governments an amount equal to the interest and penalties waived if lawmakers postpone funding.

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