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Senate returns to Lansing to deal with COVID-19 bills

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

The state Senate returns Thursday after the Michigan Supreme Court declared many of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 executive orders unconstitutional.

First the Senate and then the House will meet on consecutive days to adopt their own plans and send them to Whitmer to sign or veto.

This will be the first time lawmakers meet since the state Supreme Court declared Whitmer had usurped the role of the Legislature.

But there’s still a lot of confusion, especially about when the court’s decision will take effect.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey has said statewide mask mandates are off the table – although the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has issued its own set of mask and distancing orders.

One potential area of agreement between Republicans and Whitmer could be adopting a six-week extension of unemployment benefits for workers idled by the COVID-19 crisis.

That’s one of the Whitmer orders affected by the court decision.

Whitmer’s asked the Supreme Court for another decision explaining when the ruling takes effect, but her administration has not waited either.

MDHHS has issued its own orders that continue many of the governor’s mask and social distancing requirements.

Many Republicans say Whitmer’s efforts to get around the Supreme Court’s determinations are also illegal, and could become part of the bargaining.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.