Executive orders on executive orders! Can there ever be enough?
For Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the answer just might be no. Last week she issued an executive order requiring stricter enforcement of her other COVID-19 executive orders, of which there have been hundreds.
Yes, it's a crisis; yes, some sorts of quick action are necessary. But Michigan's Democratic governor has made a name for herself with outrageous and arbitrary rules. She suspended lawn care services, even though COVID-19 transmission is less likely outdoors. She forbade Michigan residents from traveling to their own in-state vacation residences. She banned "all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household." She prohibited big-box retailers from selling paint, outdoor goods, and other "nonessential" items in-store, forcing those establishments to block off select aisles. (And yet lottery ticket sales somehow remained "essential," perhaps because the proceeds help fund K–12 schooling.)
All this prompted some resistance. Several lawsuits against her orders have been filed, the plaintiffs ranging from a lawn care company to the state's Republican lawmakers, who took issue when Whitmer extended the state of emergency without weigh-in from the legislature. And four sheriffs publicly announced in April that they would not be enforcing parts of Whitmer's lockdown order. "While we understand her desire to protect the public, we question some restrictions that she has imposed as overstepping her executive authority," they wrote.
Her new executive order mandates that state department directors and agency heads "review allocation of their resources to ensure that enforcement of COVID-19 related laws is a priority." It issues a similar admonition to police, requiring that they "enforce violations of COVID-19 executive orders and epidemic orders in the same manner as it would enforce any other violation of law, using enforcement discretion as appropriate."
The order also gives state departments the ability to weaponize licensing requirements against businesses. "When interpreting a licensee's obligation to demonstrate or maintain suitability for licensing, state department directors and autonomous agency heads must consider violations of law, including violations of COVID-19 related executive orders and epidemic orders…as evidenced as a lack of suitability for licensing." It also says those departments should suspend licenses as they see fit, allowing them to revoke permits that arguably shouldn't exist in the first place.
The licensing weapon may well have an impact, but the rest of the order is the epitome of redundancy. Taken as a package, these orders perfectly embody Whitmer's iron-fisted approach to governing, reminding many Michiganders why they've become disenchanted with her leadership.