Whitmer vetoes bill exempting graduations from crowd limits
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) this week vetoed a pair of bills passed by the statehouse that related to capacity restrictions at graduation ceremonies and open records requests during the coronavirus pandemic.
The first bill, passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature, would have barred state and local health officials from capping the number of people allowed to attend high school graduation ceremonies in person this year. The second nixed a plan that would have prevented state officials from citing the coronavirus pandemic as a reason to delay responding to requests made for public records through the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.
“Rather than sending me half-baked and punchless legislation like HB 4728, I encourage the Legislature to join me in eradicating this pandemic and making transformational investments in our economy,” Whitmer wrote in a veto letter, according to the Detroit Free Press.
During the pandemic, Whitmer has faced scorn from Republicans in her state and nationally for what they have described as a heavy hand regarding public health measures and a staggered reopening of the state’s economy.
Michigan, once one of the nation’s largest hot spots for coronavirus infections and hospitalizations, has seen a sharp decline in cases like most states as more residents become fully vaccinated.
Whitmer sparked backlash last month when she was photographed at an indoor gathering in East Lansing, violating the social distancing orders she had put in place.
“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been committed to following public health protocols,” Whitmer said after the photo came to light. “Yesterday, I went with friends to a local restaurant. As more people arrived, the tables were pushed together. Because we were all vaccinated, we didn’t stop to think about it.”
In regards to the FOIA bill she vetoed, Whitmer said the initial intent of the executive order extending the deadline on public records requests was meant as a way to “protect the lives of public officials tasked with responding to FOIA requests during the first surge,” calling it an “exceptionally frightening and uncertain moment in Michigan’s history.”
“[The executive order] was limited in scope and did not change FOIA’s core requirement that public bodies respond to FOIA requests in a timely manner,” she said.