Republicans have spent $542K to challenge Whitmer’s orders
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature have spent about $542,000 to sue Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over her use of emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Senate and House released the figure to a liberal advocacy group, Progress Michigan, late last week on the same day the state Supreme Court ruled against the governor in a lawsuit that was similar to the Legislature’s, which is still pending. The Whitmer administration has quickly reinstituted a mask requirement and size limits on gatherings under a public health law that is not an issue in the legal challenges.
The $542,000 in public money, split evenly between the House and Senate, has been used to pay attorneys at Bush Seyferth, a Troy-based law firm.
GOP lawmakers have long criticized Whitmer’s handling of the outbreak, though the public has backed her in polling. Republicans contend that she should have eased a lockdown earlier and that they should have a say in orders underlying her declaration of an emergency.
In a 4-3 decision, the high court declared unconstitutional a 1945 law that underpins her executive orders and ruled 7-0 that she needed legislative approval to extend the emergency and orders beyond April 30.
“Since this pandemic started, the Republicans really have focused more time, energy and taxpayer dollars on fighting against public health protections than they have working to protect the people of Michigan,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan.
Gideon D’Assandro, spokesman for House Speaker Lee Chatfield, defended the spending.
“Gov. Whitmer’s unconstitutional power grab was the wrong move for the state of Michigan,” he said. “Among other reasons, it forced the Legislature to spend resources to defend the constitution and give a voice to the people. Fortunately, Gov. Whitmer lost at the Supreme Court and democracy has been restored.”
The Legislature is not subject to Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act, but it releases financial records under legislative rules and the state constitution. Although Progress Michigan asked for all financial materials related to the litigation, the Senate and House instead released their total spending amounts — not including the attorneys’ hourly rates or how the contract was awarded.
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