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GOP leaders: Whitmer needs their input on COVID plans

State capitol
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
The Michigan Legislature will close Wednesday

The Legislature’s Republican leaders said Wednesday they appreciate Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s calls for unity and bipartisanship in her State of the State address, but they’re not seeing much evidence she means it.

That was the word from Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell), who held their GOP response the day after Whitmer’s speech.

Just hours before the speech, the GOP-controlled Senate rejected 13 Whitmer appointments in an effort to force her to bargain. Whitmer called the Senate action “reckless.”

Shirkey said the governor has relied too much on the executive branch’s emergency powers to deal with COVID-19 in Michigan without engaging in direct discussions with the legislative branch.

“That is not happening, and that is not what the people of Michigan signed up for when they elected this governor,” said Shirkey. “It’s not consistent with our constitution. And it needs to change.”

“I wanted to hear how the governor was going to work with the Legislature to heal and open this state,” said Wentworth, “and I wanted to hear elements of a fact- and science-based re-opening plan with goals and targets and strategies that would guide us and allow us to measure our successes.”

Whitmer said setting targets for decision-making is important, but plans are complicated by the large number of factors that affect the spread of COVID-19. She said shifts in a wide array of data can force changes.

“Metrics matter, absolutely,” she said in an online news conference. “We are using metrics. We are focused on positivity rates. We’re focused on hospitalizations. We’re focusing on mortality rates. But the context does (matter), as well, and I think that’s the hardest thing, I think, to wrap your head around, but that’s the issue here.” 

One thing Republicans have been pressing for is allowing high school contact sports to resume. The governor said an announcement on that could be coming “in weeks or days.”

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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