COLUMN: Governor must respect the constitutional separation of powers

Categories: O’Malley News

Last year, I made a commitment to the good people of the Fighting 101st House District that I would explain the votes I cast at the Capitol on their behalf. I respect people for putting their trust in me to represent their interests, and it’s important for them to be able to hold me accountable.

I recently voted to approve a resolution rejecting an executive order from the new governor that would have abolished three review panels providing important oversight of the Department of Environmental Quality.

There seems to be a lot of confusion and misinformation about this issue, and I want to be very clear on where I stand. This is a constitutional issue being masked as an environmental matter. Nothing about the resolution I supported will hurt the environment. It’s all about maintaining the separation of powers outlined in the Michigan Constitution.

The Constitution created three branches of government, giving each branch its own clear set of responsibilities. The legislative branch makes the law, the executive branch enforces the law and the judicial branch interprets and applies the law.

The governor’s decision to eliminate three legislatively established commissions constitutes an after-the-fact veto of the law, and was a clear abuse of her power. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer overstepped the division of power between the governor’s office and the Legislature, which is fundamental to the operation of our government.

While I respect the constitutional authority of the governor to organize state departments as she sees fit, I believe the Legislature has a constitutional duty to reject any executive order that repeals a law. We simply cannot allow duly enacted laws to be abolished by the action of one person.

The input panels the governor wants to abolish were put into law last year to give citizens a much-needed voice in the rule-making process, increasing the transparency and accountability of the DEQ. Prior to the creation of review committees, citizens and small businesses had no recourse to appeal new rules made by the DEQ and were stuck with the consequences, unless they decided to pursue costly and time-consuming appeals through the courts.

Unfortunately, the elimination of these committees was included in an executive order that I believe also included some good ideas for Michigan. Because the Legislature does not have the power to edit individual lines within an executive order, we are forced to accept or reject it in its entirety.

My hope is that the governor’s office will work with legislators to eliminate the parts of this executive order that hurt the people of Michigan, and retain the areas where we find common ground.

It’s crucial that we find a way to move forward together on policy to protect water quality, drinking water safety and the environment for all Michigan families.

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