Unlock Michigan campaign forges on, even after Supreme Court ruling

‘We set out to kill the 1945 law and we want to keep it dead’

Conservative protest at the Capitol against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, April 30, 2020 | Anna Liz Nichols

The same day a GOP-linked group turned in nearly 540,000 petition signatures to repeal an emergency powers law Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has leaned on throughout Michigan’s COVID-19 outbreak, that very law was declared unconstitutional by a narrow Michigan Supreme Court ruling.

But the Unlock Michigan campaign, which had been collecting signatures for months to repeal the 1945 Emergency Powers of Governor Act (EPGA), says its work is not done and still intends to see the process through.

“We will move forward by insisting that our petition submission be quickly validated and promptly passed by the Legislature. We set out to kill the 1945 law and we want to keep it dead,” said Fred Wszolek, spokesperson for Unlock Michigan.

The law was struck down Friday with a 4-3 ruling from the court’s conservative majority. Wszolek told the Advance Monday that although this is “good news” and Justice Stephen Markman’s majority opinion was “powerful and persuasive,” he is concerned that Markman’s retirement from the Supreme Court in January could lead to a more liberal court that could reverse the decision.

“Whitmer is hellbent on replacing him with someone who will vote to restore her unconstitutional powers,” Wszolek said.

Unlock Michigan reportedly turned in 539,384 signatures Friday, well exceeding the minimum 340,047 signatures of registered Michigan voters it needed to gather within 180 days.

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Upon certification from the Michigan Bureau of Elections, the measure would go to the GOP-led state Legislature for approval — and Whitmer would not have veto power.

The Supreme Court ruling prompted Whitmer to begin considering other options to keep Michiganders safe during the ongoing pandemic.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling raises several legal questions that we are still reviewing. While we are moving swiftly, this transition will take time,” Whitmer spokesperson Tiffany Brown said in a statement Sunday.

“As the governor said last week, many of the responsive measures she has put in place to control the spread of the virus will continue under alternative sources of authority that were not at issue in the court’s ruling. We will have more to say on this in the coming days.”

Those alternative sources of authority include emergency rulings from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). DHHS Director Robert Gordon said Monday afternoon that the department plans to issue epidemic orders to fill the gaps created by the Supreme Court ruling.