State Watch

Michigan lawmaker who tried to limit governor’s emergency powers tests positive for COVID-19

A Michigan state lawmaker who has been outspoken in opposition to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) use of emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic has tested positive for COVID-19. 

State Sen. Tom Barrett (R), who is also a member of the Michigan National Guard, said in a statement on Sunday that he tested positive for the virus after receiving a required screening ahead of a training event. 

“Despite taking reasonable precautions, I was notified this afternoon that I tested positive during a routine screening on Friday,” Barrett said, adding that he currently does not have any “significant symptoms.”

“I will be self-isolating according to medical guidelines. I have done my best to make contact with those I have been around in the past couple weeks so that they may also seek medical advice,” he added. 

Barrett’s announcement makes him the first Republican in the Michigan legislature with a confirmed case of COVID-19, according to Multiple Democrats have reported contracting the disease. 

State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R) said that the state’s upper chamber abided by protocols put in place at the outset of the pandemic and informed senators and staff of Barrett’s positive test result. Shirkey added that he would evaluate whether changes to the legislative calendar would be necessary. 

Barrett told The Detroit Free Press that the positive test result did not change his views about Whitmer’s handling of the outbreak. 

“How we govern our state is not something that should change based on someone’s unique circumstances, like mine,” Barrett said, adding that he wasn’t in favor of unilateral powers in state of emergencies.

The senator, who has repeatedly criticized Whitmer amid the health crisis, earlier this year sponsored a bill that would have amended a Michigan law and limited some of Whitmer’s emergency authorities. Whitmer vetoed that legislation on May 5. 

Whitmer in late April signed an executive order to extend a state of emergency in the state after the legislature failed to approve the governor’s order extending her disaster declaration. 

“By refusing to extend the emergency and disaster declaration, Republican lawmakers are putting their heads in the sand and putting more lives and livelihoods at risk,” Whitmer said at the time. 

After the legislature filed a lawsuit against Whitmer in early May, Barrett said in a statement that the governor was continuing “to disregard the constitutional separation of power by extending emergency declarations unilaterally.”

“Reasonable accommodations can be made to begin to reopen the state, but the governor has been unwilling to work with us,” he said. 

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 emergency powers Gretchen Whitmer Michigan Pandemic Tom Barrett

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