The Emergency Powers Act of 1945 used most recently by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to issue sweeping pandemic restrictions was repealed by the Michigan House on Wednesday.
The vote, coming just one week after the senate approved the initiative petition, passed in the Republican-controlled House 60-48 along party lines in favor of repealing the act, according to the Detroit Free Press.
According to the act’s text: "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," the act continues.
Whitmer used the act to issue sweeping restrictions across the state in order to curb the spread of COVID-19, closing down businesses and preventing social interactions. "She justified the action by noting experts advice that indicated COVID-19 spread through social interaction," wrote the Free Press.
"This is not change forever, but we’ve got to be serious about how we act in this moment so we can look back at this as only a chapter," Whitmer said in the spring of 2020.
"Hundreds of thousands of our families, friends and neighbors changed Michigan forever when they decided they had enough and stood up to make a difference," said Speaker Jason Wentworth in a statement. "“They deserve a state government that is willing to do the same. They’ve earned that much. That’s why we had their back today and put this petition into law."
In Michigan, if a petition to change a law reaches enough signatures, it goes to Legislation for potential approval. If no action is taken by the lawmakers in 40 days, the petition goes out to voters as a ballot question. If Legislature approves the initiative, it becomes a law that is not subject to a governor’s veto, according to the Free Press.
Unlock Michigan, who was behind the repeal petition, applauded Wednesday’s vote and spoke on future campaigns.
"Our Unlock Michigan citizen army collected over 540,000 signatures in just 80 days. Now, 292 days later, we'll complete our mission with a final vote in the Legislature to end Gov. Whitmer's rule by decree," said Fred Wszolek, a spokesman for the Unlock Michigan petition drive.
"Next we'll turn our attention to the public health law Whitmer abused to destroy lives, businesses and futures. Don't bet against our success there either."
The new petition would require legislative approval for emergency orders from the health department that last longer than 28 days, according to the Free Press.
Opponents of the 1945 law said that it gave Whitmer too much power and the ability to act without oversight. Supporters, including Whitmer, said that the law allowed quick response to the pandemic.
"This proposal today is democracy in action. The people decided that they have had enough," said Rep. Matt Hall.
"From Day One, Unlock Michigan has been a brazen political power grab designed to hamper the abilities of those in government to act quickly and decisively during public health emergencies," said Mark Fisk, a spokesman for Keep Michigan Safe, an organization created to keep the 1945 law in place.