Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the “I am zee law!” lady of American politics, is poised to lose some of her powers, as legislators say they’re going to intervene and vote and reel her in a bit.
Well, ain’t that about time.
Executives aren’t kings. Legislators hold the true authority in determining the extent of executive powers.
That goes for governors — that goes for presidents.
Other lawmakers across the country should take some notes.
“A session has been scheduled for today to create an oversight committee that would review Whitmer’s coronavirus orders, and could strip her of some of her powers as governor,” The Daily Mail reported.
The moves comes as Whitmer announced her intent to extend the statewide stay-at-home order for all residents through May 15. And stay-at-home orders in Michigan aren’t exactly like the stay-at-home orders issued by other governors in other states. In Michigan, Whitmer ordered people to stay away from their neighbors, to stay away from all forms of travel and, of particular egregious — and curious — note, to stay away from the gardening stores. Do not buy seeds, she commanded. Do not buy grain.
What was worse was that simultaneously, she deemed abortions “life-sustaining” health care — an essential medical procedure.
As such, Michiganians could get an abortion — but couldn’t grow flowers.
Such is the nature of the coronavirus beast? No wonder Michigan became a sort of ground zero for protests, with some even gathering right outside Whitmer’s home to call for a reopening of business, a reversal on the stay-at-home orders and, in essence, a return to sane governing. They called it “Operation Queen’s Castle.”
Good for the citizens.
Sound a bell for freedom.
The bigger theme in all this madness — this unconstitutional, runaway government madness — is this, though: Legislators could’ve reined her in any time they wished.
Executive orders can be voted down by lawmakers. Restrictions on executive powers can be voted on by lawmakers.
The Michigan Legislature is moving in the right direction by meeting to discuss ways to curb Whitmer’s powers. But the legislators are only taking a tiny step toward that goal. They’re meeting to create — or discuss the creation of — a special oversight committee comprised of members who will then meet to curb — or discuss curbing — Whitmer’s executive actions.
That’s a baby step.
Legislators could go a bit bolder here.
A couple weeks ago, Kansas lawmakers met and revoked Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive order that prohibited gatherings for religious worship of 10 people or more. Kelly blasted the lawmakers — the Republican lawmakers. But so what? The executive has limited power to order the people around; it’s the lawmakers who make the laws and the governor’s role — or in the case of the feds, the president’s role — to see they’re carried out constitutionally.
If the people want something in America, it’s the people’s constitutional right, even duty, to assemble peaceably, exercise freedom of speech, petition the government, and call for what they want.
It’s the legislators’ job to introduce constitutional bills to carry out the will of the people.
It’s the executive’s job to sign bills into law, using both Constitution and legislative will as guides.
It’s the judiciary’s job to determine whether these laws are constitutional or not.
Whitmer has gone beyond her scope as governor — and it’s about time Michigan legislators stepped in and exerted some controls.
But other states’ legislatures should do the same. Congress, too, might want to get in that game.
Executive orders, no matter if they’re issued at the state level or federal level, aren’t exactly constitutional. Founders would be shocked to know that the limited government they put in place had been stretched to the point where providing for the general welfare of the country meant public servants serving in executive capacities could order citizens to stay in their homes, order private businesses to shut down — order people to stop buying seeds. For a virus. For a virus with numbers that aren’t based in fact or sound science. For a “trust me, I’m from the government, I’m here to help” type of virus.
If the new coronavirus can offer any good, it’s this: the chance for America’s citizens to rethink the whole executive order system and decide — democratic-republic or monarchy.
If the former, legislators the country over need to step up and start doing their jobs.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.