Truce: Republicans, Whitmer agree to deal on pandemic response

Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Republicans who control the state Legislature say they have reached a deal to lay out lawmakers’ role in pandemic response moving forward and to come to the table on the state’s budget.

Speaker of the House Jason Wentworth, R-Clare, said in a release that he, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, and Whitmer had agreed to “work on a plan to create a permanent role for the Legislature in all future state pandemic emergency orders,” including the dates Whitmer set Thursday to loosen and then lift Michigan Department of Health and Human Services restrictions.

In its own statement, Whitmer’s office said she had agreed to “a conversation about formalizing legislative input on epidemic orders.”

What exactly that will look like remains unclear.

As part of the deal, Whitmer is also giving up on proposed permanent rules from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration for coronavirus mitigation in workplaces. In her statement, Whitmer said the changing state of the pandemic makes those rules unnecessaary.

For their part, Wentworth and Shirkey said Whitmer’s negotiators may now be involved as lawmakers work out the upcoming state budget. That will be key, Whitmer said, in getting federal coronavirus rescue dollars doled out.

“Today’s bipartisan framework shows how we can unite around investing in our schools, small businesses, and communities to help them thrive,” Whitmer stated. “I look forward to working with the legislature to invest the billions in federal resources sent to us by both the Trump and Biden administrations and pass a budget that makes lasting investments in our shared priorities.”

Republicans hailed the deal as a win. The Legislature has largely been left out of state orders in response to the virus since the pandemic began.

“Today, the governor was finally willing to work with us and make significant changes. Together, we can finally put a stop to these mistakes,” Wentworth said in a statement.

“This is a huge day for small business owners everywhere,” Brian Calley, the president of the Small Business Association of Michigan and also a former Republican lieutenant governor, said in a statement released by Whitmer’s office. “We now have a date certain when capacity restrictions will be lifted, the prospect of permanent workplace rules is being pulled off the table, and all parties are committed to working together on potential future epidemic emergency orders. This will give entrepreneurs a much more clear and certain pathway to recovery. We applaud the Governor and the Legislature for working hard to come together and putting aside their differences in this comprehensive agreement.” 

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