Legislature forms COVID-19 emergency oversight committee
State Rep. Thomas Albert today said he is pleased the governor decided to heed the recommendations of legislators who have insisted she allow certain workers to return to their jobs and loosen restrictions on the sale of goods and services, outdoor activities like golf and motorboating, and the freedom to travel between residences.
The revised stay-at-home order announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today allows residents to purchase items from additional businesses through curbside pick-up and delivery – something legislators have been fighting for to improve the lives of residents and put people back to work. It also allows lawn care businesses, landscapers and nurseries to operate if they can do so safely.
“I am glad Gov. Whitmer has heard our concerns and is finally relaxing some of the restrictions constituents have reached out to me about,” said Albert, of Lowell. “There’s still a lot more she must do to restore personal liberties. We can have policies in place to protect the health of our residents, while exercising common sense. People still deserve for the construction on their homes to resume, the ability to access ‘non-essential’ medical treatments like hip replacements, and the freedom to use golf carts. That being said, today was still a step in the right direction.”
Albert joined his colleagues today in creating a bipartisan oversight committee to review new and existing executive orders issued by the governor during the coronavirus outbreak and help address any issues that arise due to their implementation.
The Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic will include five legislators each from the House and the Senate. Its existence will better protect people and maintain key foundations of state government – checks and balances, involvement of the Legislature and its role as a conduit to the people it represents.
“The creation of this oversight committee will provide much-needed transparency and accountability to the decisions made during the COVID-19 response,” Albert said. “It will give the Legislature an avenue to hold state government to higher standards for its actions and choices during this public health crisis.”
Gov. Whitmer has issued several directives as COVID-19 cases have spread throughout Michigan. Some have drawn criticism, such as the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency being unable to handle a surge in unemployment applications and a letter threatening potential administrative action against the licenses of physicians who prescribe hydroxychloroquine to assist patients with the virus.
This week, the governor abruptly cancelled a contract with a partisan political software vendor that was slated to handle data related to the state’s coronavirus contact tracing project. Albert said the committee allows the Legislature to examine such decisions and shape best practices for any potential emergencies in the future.
Albert said the formation of the committee is in no way motivated by partisan politics, noting that the same type of panel was used by the Legislature to investigate the Flint water crisis.
He also praised the Senate for passing legislation today that will help rein in the broad powers given to the governor during states of emergency and help protect the people of Michigan from gubernatorial overreach in the future.
The Michigan House, led by Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert, today approved time-sensitive COVID relief measures for families and communities – with more assistance for schools expected to be approved later this week.
Rep. Albert talks about House passage Tuesday of his HB 4698 , which makes it a crime to raise a false active shooter alarm knowingly andwillfully in a public place. Rep. Albert says the penalties for pulling an active shooter alarm would be the same as those for pulling a fire alarm.