Legislative Updates & News
Last week, we learned some truly horrific news: the FBI, Michigan State Police, and Attorney General had foiled a domestic terrorist plot and charged 13 men with planning to kidnap Governor Whitmer, along with details that they’d planned to storm the state Capitol with “200 men,” take hostages, kill police officers and more.
Back in April, I sounded the alarm that the protests we were seeing in Lansing contained an element of something much darker than residents’ fear and frustration over shutdowns and emergency orders in a response to COVID-19. We saw swastikas, Confederate flags, nooses and some with signs threatening to hang the Governor — people with ulterior motives clearly taking advantage of the rising tension during the pandemic for their own gain.
This past week, we learned that three of the men who were photographed in full tactical gear carrying high-powered rifles in the Senate gallery — directly behind our heads — were three of the men charged in this violent plot.
NBC News asked me to write a follow-up to my first op-ed after those initial protests, and I shared my thoughts this past weekend. You can read that here: The Gov. Whitmer kidnapping plot was inspired by common political rhetoric. It needs to end. (NBC News)
I want to be very clear. I don’t claim to know the political leanings of these men, nor should we care. I know that most people: Republican, Democrat, and Independent — stand united in opposition to hatred, intimidation, and threats of violence. We can and should disagree on policy — even passionately so — without resorting to dangerous rhetoric against each other as people. But I will not stand quiet when leaders in our own legislature and higher offices are openly meeting with and encouraging such groups. It creates a dangerous situation for all of us and moves us further away from standing united against any and all threats against us as Michiganders and Americans.
I’m eternally grateful to everyone in the FBI, MSP, AG’s office and others who worked diligently over months to surveil and bring these men in before something catastrophic happened to our Governor, her family, or any of the staff, visitors, or my colleagues at the Capitol.
In this Edition:
- COVID-19 Safety Order Updates
- Oakland County Update
- Legislative Update
- In the News
- What We’ve Been Up To
- Ask a Clerk! Voting/Election Virtual Coffee Hour
COVID-19 SAFETY ORDER UPDATES
Early last week, the Michigan Supreme Court declared the extended use of the 1945 emergency powers law unconstitutional in a 4-3 split vote, immediately rendering any of the Executive Orders issued after April 30th, 2020 void. In order to maintain our course of managing the COVID-19 pandemic and protecting our state, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Robert Gordon issued an Emergency Order under MCL 333.2253 restricting gathering sizes, requiring face coverings in public spaces and placing limitations on bars and other venues, as they have the authority to do under a separate statute.
These authorities were first enacted after the Spanish Flu of 1918, and were not at issue in the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision.
Under MCL 333.2253, if the MDHHS director determines that control of an epidemic is necessary to protect the public health, the director by emergency order may prohibit the gathering of people for any purpose and may establish procedures to be followed during the epidemic to insure continuation of essential public health services and enforcement of health laws.
Additionally, The Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Administration (MIOSHA) has issued emergency rules to clarify requirements for employers to control, prevent, and mitigate the spread of infection. Learn more at https://bit.ly/2SXlorH.
OAKLAND COUNTY UPDATE
Oakland County will be following the emergency order issued by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon, requiring face coverings in public spaces and placing limitations on bars and other venues.
This statewide order includes:
- Requirements to wear masks at indoor and outdoor gatherings. The order also requires the wearing of masks at schools in Oakland County.
- Limitations on the size of gatherings.
- Limitations on certain establishments: Although the order does not close bars, it requires them to close indoor common areas where people can congregate, dance, or otherwise mingle. Indoor gatherings are prohibited anywhere alcoholic beverages are sold except for table services where parties are separated from one another by at least six feet.
- Athletes training or practicing for or competing in an organized sport must wear a facial covering, except when swimming, or consistently maintain six feet of social distance.
>> Click here to learn more about Oakland County’s plan of action and response.
- Senate Bill 886: This bill would amend the Michigan Employment Security Act and codify Executive Order 2020-76 to continue the extension of UIA benefits for recipients from 20 to 26 weeks, giving Michigan families much needed support as we continue to grapple with COVID-19. SB 866 passed both the Senate and the House and is on their way to the Governor for her approval.
- Senate Bill 911: This bill would amend the State Employees’ Retirement Act to allow retirees hired after March 15, 2020, by the UIA or the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) to retain their pension allowance during the time of reemployment, until July 30, 2020. This allows the state to bring on experienced personnel in these two critical departments to help better manage the influx of claims to better serve all Michiganders as we navigate COVID-19. SB 911 passed 38-0 and has been sent to the Michigan House of Representative for their consideration.
- Senate Bill 1108: This bill will amend the Open Meetings Act to continue to allow public body meetings to be held electronically through the end of the year. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, all our local municipalities and many school boards and other local boards have held meetings virtually to continue necessary work for our communities safely throughout the pandemic, and I was pleased to see the legislature ensure this practice can continue. SB 1108 passed both the Senate and House and has been presented to the Governor for her signature.
- Senate Bill 1094: The bill requires MDHHS, in consultation with LARA, to conduct an evaluation of the regional hubs that were implemented as part of Michigan’s COVID-19 response efforts and develop a plan that describes a process for establishing dedicated facilities in each of the health care coalition regions exclusively for residents who test positive for COVID-19. I’d had concerns with a previous version of this bill which would have automatically required any nursing home resident who tested positive for COVID-19 be transferred to a hub, which could be more than a hundred miles away from a residents’ home, without consultation with their physician or family. An amendment to address this concern was adopted, and I voted in favor of the bill. SB 1094 passed through both the House and Senate and has been sent to the Governor for her signature.
- House Bills 6030, 6031 & 6032: COVID-19 Response and Reopening Liability Assurance Act
- HB 6030-6031: prohibits a person from bringing civil action alleging a COVID-19 claim and provides minimum requirements and establishes standards for certain liability claims alleging COVID-19 exposure and certain product liability claims. Additionally, these bills would retroactively grant employers immunity for lawsuits arising from an employee’s exposure to COVID-19 if the employer was operating in compliance with governmental regulations and public health guidance at the time of the exposure. I voted in opposition to these two bills as I firmly believe employers need to be held responsible for the safety of their employees. According to the best available data, of the 4.655 civil lawsuits related to COVID-19 filed in the United States through September 1, only 28 have been filed by customers against businesses for personal injury and another 83 by employees for lack of personal protective equipment and exposure to COVID-19 at work. This small number of cases does not justify eliminating liability exposure for irresponsible companies. Overwhelmingly, employers throughout our district and the state tell me their greatest issue now is getting workers back to work and filling jobs. My concern with these bills, especially given we haven’t seen the influx of lawsuits that proponents feared, is the unintended consequence that such efforts would actually dissuade workers from returning to work if they feel their employer is not responsible for providing a safe workplace and would not be held accountable for doing so. I voted no. The bills passed 23-14.
- HB 6032 prohibits an employee who tested positive to COVID-19 or has displayed symptoms of COVID-19 from reporting to work until certain conditions are met. It also prohibits an employer from taking adverse action against an employee for not reporting to work due to health-related issues with COVID-19. I voted in support of this bill.
- House Bill 6192: This bill would provide that state ID cards, vehicle registrations, and driver licenses, permits, endorsements, and certifications that expire on or after March 1, 2020, are valid until December 31, 2020. HB 6192 passed through the House and Senate and has been sent to the Governor for her consideration.
IN THE NEWS
WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO
- Monday, Oct. 5th: I met (virtually) with several organizations and constituents to discuss relevant topics, including the Michigan Association of Health Plans, a constituent who’s the founder of Circle Power, a Michigan-based renewable energy provider, and multiple interviews with members of the current Leadership Oakland cohort.
- Monday, Oct. 5th: Monthly Superintendents Breakfast — Oakland County legislators met with several superintendents to address any concerns they have at the legislative level and talk about how COVID-19 has impacted our schools.
- Tuesday, Oct. 6th: Virtual meeting with the new CEO of Oakland Community Health Network — We discussed the importance of public health and her goals and plans coming in as the new CEO.
- Thursday, Oct. 7th: Oakland County Medical Society‘s annual legislative update meeting — Several topics were discussed including COVID-19, surprise billing and prior authorization.
- Friday, Oct. 8th: Electrification Coalition virtual boot camp — Michigan: a daylong conference with industry leaders, policymakers, and researchers to discuss electrification across our state and nation. As part of the event, I shared my own virtual test drive to show people a day in the life with my own made-in-Michigan electric vehicle.
- Friday, Oct. 8th: Virtual constituent coffee hour on Facebook Live.
ASK A CLERK! VOTING/ELECTION VIRTUAL COFFEE HOUR
Today we are hosting a special ASK A CLERK! virtual event on Facebook LIVE. Get all your election and voting questions answered from our very own expert clerks, Tina Barton (Rochester Hills) and Melanie Halas (Royal Oak). Our office has been asked questions about what happens if a ballot is turned in without a secrecy sleeve, or what if the ink bleeds through the ballot, and more! That’s why we are bringing the experts to you.
This event will be held live on Facebook and will be posting on our YouTube later today. If you can’t make it and have any questions you would like to ask our clerks, please send them to us at SenMMcMorrow@senate.michigan.gov with the subject line “Ask a Clerk.”