COVID-positive Democrat cast votes at Michigan Capitol, despite protocols
- A Berkley House member was allowed to cast a vote from the gallery above the House floor, despite having COVID
- The Michigan Houses follows CDC protocols, which instruct those who test positive to remain home for at least five days.
- One Republican said the action from Democrats, who have thin majority of both chambers, is ‘hypocritical’
LANSING — A Michigan Democratic lawmaker voted from the State Capitol Building last week after testing positive for COVID-19, an arrangement approved by House Speaker Joe Tate despite state House isolation protocols.
Rep. Natalie Price, D-Berkley, was allowed to cast her vote from the gallery above the House floor Thursday, when state lawmakers spent long hours approving a spending plan and passing tax cut deals for seniors and low-income workers.
“Rep. Price wore an appropriate mask and voted from the gallery to ensure social distancing,” Amber McCann, spokesperson for Tate, D-Detroit, told Bridge Michigan on Monday. “She was otherwise not present and only entered the building to vote.”
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But according to the House website, the lower chamber follows COVID-19 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which instructs those who test positive for COVID-19 to remain home for at least five days.
“Individuals that do not feel well should not visit the Capitol or House Office Building,” the House website states.
McCann did not respond to a follow-up question from Bridge about why an exception was made. Price, a former Berkley City Council member elected in November, wrote on Facebook that she tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.
"I showed up to vote in support of bills that will bring much needed economic relief to hardworking Michiganders," Price wrote. "I remained in my car until it was time to vote and then proceeded to vote from the gallery. I remained far more than six feet away from everyone and wore a mask the entire time I was in the building. I took all precautions I could to protect the health and safety of my colleagues while fulfilling my responsibility."
Democrats took control of both chambers of the Legislature for the first time in nearly 40 years in January and have a two-seat majority in both chambers, meaning absences could impact the outcome of legislation.
Last week, Rep. Joey Andrews, D-St. Joseph, left his newborn baby and drove to Lansing to cast a deciding vote on a budget bill Republicans opposed.
But even if Price did not vote, it would not have changed the outcome.
The House voted 67-41 to phase out the state’s so-called retirement tax in four years and 100-8 to expand the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income families. It also voted 60-48 to approve a $1.1 billion spending plan, including $200 million to modernize an Upper Peninsula paper mill and $150 million for a business attraction fund.
Price’s Thursday votes drew criticism from some Republicans. Rep. Angela Rigas, R-Caledonia Township, called the action “hypocritical.”
Rigas, part of the eight-member Michigan Freedom Caucus in the House, voted against the spending plan and the retirement tax bill but supported the Earned Income Tax Credit expansion.
“Democrats in Michigan are so desperate, foolish and disorganized that they put the lives and health of all of us at risk by allowing Rep. Price to be present for their radical, reckless spending spree votes,” she said in a Thursday Facebook post.
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