State Rep. Julie Alexander today led a bipartisan coalition of state legislators who introduced a comprehensive plan to hold state government accountable to Michigan citizens when it uses emergency powers.
Michigan laws provide the governor and state administrative departments increased authority to address emergencies — often in cases of health or safety risks. Broad orders issued during the COVID-19 pandemic shed a light on the importance of accountability for emergency authority. Alexander, R-Hanover, said the wide-ranging, 31-bill package would establish timeframes, strengthen oversight by the Legislature, eliminate redundant laws, and remove unnecessary powers.
“An accountable government is a more responsible — and responsive — government, and accountability remains necessary when handling emergencies,” Alexander said. “As our Michigan government creates and enforces laws, public servants are dutybound to serve and answer to the people.
“The people hold state government accountable through elected representatives. The voters elect legislators, from our communities, to make laws and oversee the agencies that enforce the laws. Our new bipartisan plan will give the people of Michigan a greater say in emergency powers by giving their elected officials greater involvement and oversight.”
Some bills within the package would provide a specific role for elected legislators in the exercise of emergency powers, by ending the application of certain authority after 28 days, requiring the Michigan Legislature to decide whether to extend the power in that instance. Orders to address a public health hazard in water supply or to protect consumers from unsafe food are examples of powers to which the sunset would apply. The plan also proposes a time limit and legislative reauthorization for epidemic orders issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which were used quite broadly in the pandemic.
The changes are modeled after one of the state’s most prominent emergency powers laws, the Emergency Management Act, which allows the governor to declare a state of emergency or disaster and issue orders for a period of 28 days, after which the Legislature may approve an extension.
In order to ensure lawmakers overseeing state departments are aware of the use of emergency authority, other bills would simply require the executive branch to notify the Legislature in a timely manner — typically 24 hours — after some powers, such as emergency designation of a controlled substance or emergency orders related to dam operations, are exercised.
A handful of bills in the package would repeal unnecessary or outdated emergency powers, some of which have seldom or never been used. Other statutes to be repealed are redundant, granting emergency authority also provided in the Administrative Procedures Act or elsewhere in Michigan law.
The bipartisan plan, contained in House Bills 6184-6214, was referred to the House Oversight Committee.
State Rep. Julie Alexander and the Michigan House of Representatives this morning approved Alexander’s plan to hold state government accountable to the people of Michigan when officials exercise emergency powers.