Democrats and Republicans in Lansing agree on one thing: strong COVID legislation unlikely this year

Nov 30, 2020

Credit MAXIM JENKINS / WKAR-MSU

After a lot of action in the Spring, the state legislature has been quiet on COVID-19 for months. Instead many have focused on legal and political battles.

Now legislators on both sides say that gridlock over the pandemic is likely to continue.

Republican State Senator Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) thinks Gov. Gretchen Whitmer relies too much on executive orders. He supported some of the early ones last Spring. Now he says those orders -- coming from a state agency instead -- are confusing.

Like in November when restaurants were required to collect customers’ contact info, which was relaxed after initial blowback.

Schmidt says that’s not a problem with the guideline itself. It’s a problem with the way it was made.

“No consultation with the restaurant industry, no consultation with the legislature," he said. "Just keep governing by executive order.”

Schmidt admits the Republicans in Lansing have made this process hard too. Because of that he says ‘govern by executive order’ is how Whitmer operates.

Now Schmidt and other republican lawmakers like Triston Cole (R-Mancelona) say they don’t have much of a working relationship with Gov. Whitmer

“The governor campaigned on building bridges, and she has destroyed bridge after bridge after bridge. It’s like her demolition crew of an administration can’t get enough of it,” Cole said.

Gov. Whitmer in Traverse City.

Cole, the outgoing Republican State House Majority Floor Leader, says Gov. Whitmer repeatedly leaves lawmakers out of the process.

But Whitmer said she’s tried to get their input. In Traverse City in October, Whitmer said she holds meetings with health officials on the pandemic.

“Sometimes the legislators show up, sometimes they don’t," she said at a campaign event for a state house candidate. "I remain ... extending a hand because we all need to be in this together.”

Whitmer added that Republicans weren’t focused on the pandemic, they were focused on campaigning.

Now that the election’s over, House Democrats say Republicans haven’t moved on. Michigan’s House and Senate Republican leadership met with President Donald Trump before the state certified it’s election results.

Democratic State Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) ripped that move.

“Instead of working to advocate for additional COVID relief funds, that would help working families and small businesses in our community, they’ve decided to waste time and disrespect the will of Michigan voters,” she said in a virtual press conference.

On Twitter outgoing State House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) later defended the meeting saying he in fact used it to ask for federal COVID relief funds.

What state leaders are doing now is asking people to follow public health guidelines. That means avoid groups, wash your hands and wear a mask.

But Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills), the outgoing State House Democratic Leader, says that’s all talk.

Prior to our interview, Greig says she checked in on a committee meeting held, in-person, at the Capitol.

“Then I see three out of four House Republicans not wearing a mask,” she said.