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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Courtesy | Wikimedia Commons
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Courtesy | Wiki­media Commons

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a bill on Nov. 11 that would have refunded fees and for­given the penalties for busi­nesses that vio­lated COVID-19 man­dates, according to the Michigan Leg­is­lature website.

Repub­lican state Rep. Andrew Fink, a co-sponsor of the bill who rep­re­sents Hillsdale and Branch counties, said H.B. 4501 would have created precedent that reaches beyond the issue of COVID-19 restrictions.

“In addition to pro­tecting Michigan busi­nesses from our gov­er­nor’s oppressive exec­utive orders, another objective of the bill was to ensure the enforcement of exec­utive powers remains con­sistent with whether or not they actually have the force of law,” Fink said.

Fink said he is frus­trated with the governor’s veto, since the bill would have offered much-needed assis­tance to the Hillsdale com­munity, as well as countless busi­nesses across Michigan.

“Hills­dale’s small busi­nesses had to per­severe through some incredibly tur­bulent and chal­lenging cir­cum­stances last year due to the governor’s blanket, back­wards policies,” Fink said. “This bill would have pro­vided some welcome relief to those in Hillsdale who unde­servedly suf­fered penalties last year while simply trying to keep their business open. Our leg­is­lation would also ensure that they don’t have to face the same threat again in the future.”

Whitmer said in her veto letter that the respon­si­bility to ensure con­formity to federal law was a reason for the veto, along with her desire to con­tinue enforcing work­place safety standards. 

Whitmer later wrote in her letter that allowing the law to pass would bring “dis­as­trous con­se­quences” to the state of Michigan.

“We all want  business  in  Michigan  to  thrive, from large, inno­v­ative com­panies to small, beloved Main Street shops. Main­taining a flexible and responsive occu­pa­tional health and safety program is a key part of Michigan’s success,” Whitmer said in her letter. “Because H.B. 4501 would undermine those goals, I am vetoing it.”

Hillsdale Mayor Adam Stockford said Whitmer’s veto will have neg­ative effects on each indi­vidual Michigan city.

“We get this all the time in our municipal rela­tionship with the state: if it’s some­thing that turns out well, they’re happy to take credit for it,” Stockford said. “If it’s a no win sit­u­ation, polit­i­cally speaking, they’re happy to drop it in our laps.”

Stockford said every Hillsdale business has been affected by the pan­demic one way or another, and he is dis­ap­pointed that the state gov­ernment is refusing to assist busi­nesses harmed by COVID-19 man­dates and fines. 

“The idea of holding busi­nesses accountable for Gov­ernor Whitmer’s edicts, which were changing by the week and whose legality was con­stantly in question, is ridiculous,” Stockford said.