Emergency Powers Act removed in Michigan

Welcome to the Monday, July 26, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Michigan Legislature approves indirect initiative repealing Emergency Powers of Governor Act
  2. Recall election being held in Fairhaven, Massachusetts
  3. COVID-19 policy changes and events one year ago this week

Michigan Legislature approves indirect initiative repealing Emergency Powers of Governor Act

On July 21, the Michigan House of Representatives voted 60-48 to approve the indirect initiative that repealed the Emergency Powers of Governor Act (EPGA). The initiative was first filed in June 2020, three months after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued the first coronavirus-related disaster declaration. Michigan is currently under divided government, with Democrats holding the governorship and Republicans holding a majority in both the state House and Senate.

The House’s vote followed the state Senate’s vote of 20-15 to approve the initiative. The governor cannot veto the legislature’s approval of an indirect citizen-initiated measure. In Michigan, indirect initiatives can be approved by the legislature without the governor’s signature needed, or go before voters at the next general election.

The EPGA, also known as Public Act 302 (PA 302) of 1945, was designed to empower the governor to issue rules and regulations to bring emergencies under control and protect life and allow violations of these rules and regulations to be punished as misdemeanors.

Here’s what happened leading up to the legislature’s approval.

  • June 2020: About three months after Gov. Whitmer issued the first coronavirus-related disaster declaration, the campaign Unlock Michigan filed the proposal to repeal the EPGA.
  • October 2, 2020: The campaign reported submitting 539,000 signatures. On the same day, the Michigan Supreme Court struck down the EPGA as violating the state constitution in a 4-3 decision. While the Supreme Court rendered the EPGA moot, Unlock Michigan continued to advocate for the law’s repeal to prevent the court from issuing a different opinion on the law in the future.
  • April 19, 2021: Elections staff reported that, based on a random sample, a projected 460,358 signatures were valid. The minimum number of required signatures was 340,047.
  • April 22, 2021: The Board of State Canvassers voted 2-2 on certifying the petition as sufficient. The divided vote meant that the motion failed. The Board’s two Republicans voted in favor, and the Board’s two Democrats voted in opposition.
  • June 11, 2021: The Michigan Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the board “has a clear legal duty to certify the petition.” 
  • July 13, 2021: The Board of State Canvassers certified the petition. 

Since March 2020, 12 bills aimed at increasing legislative oversight of gubernatorial emergency power authority have been enacted in nine states: Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah. 

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Recall election being held in Fairhaven, Massachusetts

We’ve been covering lots of recall elections this year一we tracked 164 recall efforts against 262 officials in the first half of 2021. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. You might have heard about some of the more notable recalls, such as the effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)

Here’s an overview of one recall you probably haven’t heard about. Further, it’s being held on a Monday, which is pretty rare! An effort to recall Selectman Dan Freitas in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, is being held today, July 26.

Organizers said that they were attempting to recall Freitas because of abusive and disruptive behavior. They also alleged that Freitas had circumvented the standard process for selecting a new town administrator in order to advance an insider candidate. Freitas denied the allegations and said that the recall attempt was a smear campaign against him.

As I mentioned, it’s uncommon for an election to occur on a Monday. Elections are usually held on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Saturdays. We looked into how many elections have been held outside of those three days of the week since 2018. To do this, we asked our data team to poke through our database and see how many elections were held based on each day of the week.

We found that 41 elections have been held or scheduled on a Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, or Friday since 2018. Of those 41, 36 have already been held, and five are scheduled up to four years in the future. They include the statewide general elections in New Jersey and Virginia, scheduled for Wednesday, November 5, 2025.

The 41 elections include 15 party conventions一12 state party conventions and three national party conventions. The remaining are a mix of special, primary, general, and ballot measure elections. 

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COVID-19 policy changes and events one year ago this week

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans: 

  • On July 28, 2020, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) closed bars and limited restaurant capacity to 25% for two weeks. 

School reopenings: 

  • On July 31, the Maine Department of Education released guidance for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidance required all staff and students aged five and older to wear masks.

Mask requirements:

  • On July 24, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) enacted a face-covering requirement requiring anyone eight or older to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces, commercial businesses, transportation services, and in outdoor public spaces when social distancing is not possible.

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