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Published in Economic Development
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Gov. Gretchen Whitmer COURTESY PHOTO

Whitmer seeks clarification on court ruling timing to protect unemployment benefits

BY Monday, October 05, 2020 12:59pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to clarify when a major ruling from Friday afternoon takes effect, saying unemployment benefits for more than 800,000 Michigan residents are in jeopardy.

In a motion filed around noon Monday, the Whitmer administration asked the state Supreme Court to clarify its Oct. 2 ruling that a state law Whitmer has relied on to issue executive orders related to the COVID-19 health crisis is unconstitutional. Whitmer notes the 21-28 day time period for such orders to take effect, and asks for any “precedential effect” of the opinion to take place on Oct. 30.

“This would allow for an orderly transition during which some responsive measures can be placed under alternative executive authority and the Governor and Legislature can work to address many other pandemic-related matters that currently fall under executive orders,” the administration’s motion says.

In a 4-3 decision late Friday afternoon, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an opinion saying the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act (EPGA) is unconstitutional because it “purports to delegate to the executive branch the legislative powers of state government — including its plenary police powers — and to allow the exercise of such powers indefinitely,” the justices wrote.

The ruling brought immediate significance to the dozens of executive orders Whitmer has issued under the EPGA since April 30, which include various health directives, workplace safety requirements and new rules that expand and create easier access to unemployment benefits.

Whitmer said Monday afternoon that unemployment benefits for up to 830,000 Michigan residents would be in jeopardy if the Michigan Supreme Court’s opinion took immediate effect.

“We need this transition period to protect the 830,000 Michigan workers and families who are depending on unemployment benefits to pay their bills and put food on the table, and to protect Michiganders everywhere who are counting on their leaders to protect them,” Whitmer said in a statement. “The Supreme Court has spoken, and while I vehemently disagree with their ruling, I’m ready to work across the aisle with Republicans in the legislature where we can find common ground to slow the spread of the virus and rebuild our economy.”

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