As most of us were expecting, the governor last week extended her stay-at-home order through the end of April. This was a prime opportunity for her to clear up some of the lingering questions and inconsistencies with her executive orders that have left people throughout Michigan frustrated and confused. Unfortunately, she missed the mark and instead moved our state further in the wrong direction by creating even more nonsensical restrictions.
The sale of vegetable plants and seeds to grow food are prevented at some stores, but not at others. Fishing in a rowboat is allowed, but fishing from a motorized boat is not. Lawn care businesses, employing thousands of Michiganders and easing burdens on the elderly, are banned even though many other states have figured out to allow these folks to work safely.
The governor’s orders are riddled with absurd restrictions like these. That’s why my colleagues and I have continuously asked Gov. Whitmer and her administration to shift their focus from “essential” vs. “non-essential” to which jobs and activities can be done safely. We’ve called on them to more accurately describe what businesses can open safely and which cannot and give the reasoning behind how these decisions are made. If the governor is going to order that individuals give up their rights and freedoms in the name of safety, she at least owes them a logical explanation.
Our state’s leaders are more than capable of having a smart discussion about how to safely reopen small businesses. For example, lawn care businesses could reopen, but with strict guidelines on workers not traveling together and how many individuals can be on a job. Making common-sense changes like these would help tens of thousands of people get back to work and earning paychecks before they fall even further behind on their bills.
In the days leading up to Thursday’s announcement of the expanded and extended COVID-19 stay-at-home order, the Legislature reached out to Gov. Whitmer and asked her – at the very least – to consider adopting the latest guidelines issued by the federal government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which were revised to provide clarity and address critical seasonal jobs that can be done safely outdoors. Numerous other states have adopted the updated guidelines, which show a more open, nuanced approach to getting individuals working safely and providing services to residents. Sadly, the governor’s latest order fails to follow these national guidelines and the example set by neighboring states.
As legislators, we have a duty to be thoughtful while dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. We are asked to provide resources to fight the virus and at the same time we must advocate for small businesses and practical, logical government action. It’s a balancing act.
It’s not enough for the governor to say, “We have to be tough on COVID-19, we will all make sacrifices” – especially when they’re unnecessary sacrifices that are going to harm an already devastated economy.
The city of Detroit and Metro Detroit have been ravaged by COVID-19, and we must continue to provide resources to flatten the curve there, so their hospitals are not dangerously overcrowded and so their health professionals are protected. At the same time, we must recognize that this crisis continues to affect the jobs and livelihoods of millions, and we must advocate for allowing people to work, if they can do so safely.
House Republicans and the governor have worked together well to take a bipartisan approach, which is what the public expects and deserves during a crisis like this. However, the expanded stay-at-home order was not a product of bipartisan efforts, and it has left my colleagues and I with many unanswered questions. For example: What information was used to decide whether Michigan should have such a strict stay-at-home order? Why weren’t the updated CISA guidelines followed? What kind of data will the governor need to see before she decides what restrictions can be loosened? Why can I buy something from Amazon, but I cannot purchase the same item from a local store?
Between now and April 30, the Legislature will review the COVID-19 situation in Michigan weigh whether to further extend our state of emergency. We will continue to work with the governor and ask her to be a friend to Michigan families that are trying to work and put food on the table.
In the meantime, I will continue to remain hopeful because signs are showing that social distancing and the hard work of health care professionals is helping flatten the curve. Let’s keep up the good work and defeat this virus.
State Rep. Graham Filler said hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents could soon have the opportunity to clear their records of old criminal convictions and set themselves up for future success, as the Legislature is slated to approve a bipartisan plan to reform Michigan’s expungement laws.
Rep. Filler speaks before passage of his HB 6032 on the House floor Wednesday. Rep. Filler says the measure, which prohibits an employer from taking adverse employment action against an employee who is absent from work during a declared emergency, helps workers while protecting the state’s economy.
State Rep. Graham Filler today helped lead the Michigan House in approving a bipartisan plan to protect businesses, universities, non-profit organizations, child care centers and other Michigan job providers from becoming the target of unwarranted lawsuits related to COVID-19.