Governor, Legislative Leaders Reach Agreement
May 25, 2021
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and two Republican legislative leaders reached a deal Thursday that puts the Governor at the negotiating table for the state budget, while also giving lawmakers future say in pandemic orders.
Thursday’s deal comes after the Governor, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell) met behind closed doors Thursday afternoon.
Under the deal, the permanent Michigan Occupation Safety and Health Administration’s (MIOSHA) rules relating to COVID-19 will be gone. The public hearing for May 26 will be canceled.
With rising vaccination rates and falling case numbers, along with the recent updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MIOSHA officials are confident that completing the normal rulemaking will not be necessary, according to the Governor’s press release.
MIOSHA will remove the requirement that employers create a “policy prohibiting in-person work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely.” The agency will also be updating other aspects of the emergency rules to reflect recent guidance from the CDC and Department of Health and Human Services, which will take effect May 24.
Also, as part of the deal, the “Vacc to Normal” plan also will speed up as announced earlier Thursday.
In exchange, Budget Director David Massaron will be invited to work with the House and Senate appropriations chairs on the current Fiscal Year (FY) and FY 2022. Michigan is looking at $3 billion in additional funding due in large part to federal money from the former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden administrations.
Whitmer heralded the opportunity as one that can “deliver real and lasting positive outcomes for the state.”
“I am excited to get to work and partner with my colleagues in the Legislature,” Massaron said. “I am confident we can work together to make the right investments and put a budget plan together that will enable Michigan to thrive in the future.”
Shirkey said the agreement to pull back her “heavy-handed MIOSHA rules is a good-faith gesture” that she is willing to work with the Legislature.
“These MIOSHA rules were a foolish political game that should be ended the minute CDC updated its guidelines. I see it as a positive for Michigan that with each passing day the Governor draws closer to reason in her handling of COVID,” he said.
The news comes after lawmakers have been pushing for changes to the state’s management of the pandemic for the last 14 months.
“Today, the Governor was finally willing to work with us and make significant changes,” Wentworth said. “I’ve consistently said I believe the budget process is better with the Governor involved and the state’s pandemic management is better with the Legislature involved.
“The critical issues facing our state are simply too big and are hurting too many people for us to waste any more time.”
Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said Thursday is “a huge day for small business owners everywhere. We now have a date certain when capacity restrictions will be lifted, the prospects of permanent workplace rules are being pulled off the table, and all parties are committed to working together on potential future epidemic emergency orders.”
Dan Pedersen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 876, urged “caution and common sense.”
“The safety and health of UFCW 876 members working in our grocery stores, food processing plants, emergency services and pharmacies are dependent upon the timely decisions and action of their employers,” Pedersen said.