Senator Mike Shirkey is the Michigan Senate Majority Leader. He represents the 16th state senate district comprising Jackson, Branch and Hillsdale counties.
Today in Michigan, residents can buy marijuana, but they can’t get flowers. They can purchase lottery tickets and liquor but can’t pick up paint for their homes. They can buy propane for outdoor grilling, but they cannot buy a new grill. They could buy candy for Easter baskets, but cannot support Michigan growers who are the No. 1 producer of Easter lilies. The governor encourages citizens to exercise outdoors but they cannot pay someone to cut their lawns. People can kayak or canoe but are prohibited from using a motorboat. The list of absurdities in the governor’s order is long, and unlike our gardens, it’s growing.
Last week, Governor Whitmer extended her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order and imposed further restrictions on our movements and freedoms. The Senate Republicans have heard from citizens across Michigan who understand the need to protect public health and safety, but struggle to understand the decisions coming out of the executive office that seem to make little sense.
Weeks ago, the Senate Republicans raised concerns with the disparity between large retailers with garden centers (Home Depot, Lowe’s etc.) that could remain open under the governor’s order and small businesses that were forced to close because they only sold garden materials. We suggested common sense would dictate that our locally owned businesses be allowed to safely remain open and compete with the chain stores. Governor Whitmer’s answer was to force large retailers to place “caution” tape around planting materials and prohibit Michiganders from purchasing plants for their gardens.
- Related: April 14, 2020: Opinion | Gov. Whitmer needs our help in this crisis. That's common sense.
Senate Republicans have worked hard to find ways to support our governor over the past several weeks. We have offered input and suggestions for ways to improve the series of orders that have altered citizens’ lives and their livelihoods. Some very modest suggestions were taken, but when it came to getting people back to work smartly, we were largely ignored. We are not looking to be pandered to and neither are our constituents.
COVID-19 will persist in Michigan long past the end of the month. We have adopted new behaviors to defend ourselves against the virus: handwashing, social distancing, and wearing masks will be our new normal long past April 30. These new behaviors are long-term changes to daily life and must be embraced as our primary weapons against COVID-19. While our citizens focus on responsible personal behavior, government should be focused on making decisions based on risk and safety, not arbitrary definitions of “essential” versus “non-essential.”
Governor Whitmer believes that one size fits all. But just like the weather can be vastly different in Detroit than it is in Houghton, so too are the realities of this virus. The governor should make common sense revisions to the new stay-at-home order that make health the top priority while recognizing different geography and different business types. Revisions demonstrate trust in the people of Michigan to safely return to work.
We are asking all citizens to contact Governor Whitmer and let her know Michiganders want to see common-sense changes made to “Stay Home, Stay Safe.”