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Panel under court order OKs effort to kill pandemic law

July 13, 2021 GMT

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Forced by a court order, a state board on Tuesday certified a petition drive to repeal a Michigan law that was used by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to set major restrictions during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision means the Republican-controlled Legislature can kill the law without Whitmer, a Democrat, intervening, or lawmakers can put it on the 2022 statewide ballot for voters to decide. Action in the Capitol appears to be the likely step.

A group called Unlock Michigan met the 340,000-signature threshold. The Board of State Canvassers certified the effort, 3-0, after deadlocking 2-2 along partisan lines in April.

The Michigan Supreme Court last week said the board had a “clear legal duty to certify the petition.”

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The court in October had declared the 1945 emergency powers law unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to the executive branch. Coincidentally, Unlock Michigan was turning in signatures on the same day to try to kill the law.

Whitmer used the law to put restrictions on Michigan’s economy, K-12 school system, health care system and even visits to state parks, all in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19. After the Supreme Court decision, the governor used public health law to get similar results.

Critics, especially Republican lawmakers, said one-size-fits-all responses to the pandemic were unfair in certain pockets of the state.