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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

GOP to governor: Tell us when you leave Michigan. Whitmer: Stop wasting time.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has faced weeks of scrutiny over her use of a chartered jet in March to fly to see her father in Florida. (Bridge file photo)

June 7: Michigan Republicans seek campaign finance probe of Whitmer trip to Florida

LANSING — Voting along party lines, the Michigan Senate on Wednesday passed a bill to require Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration to notify legislative leaders whenever she is out of the state.

The measure — which Whitmer no doubt would veto — follows backlash the Democratic governor has faced for traveling to Florida in March on a chartered plane while her administration was encouraging people not to travel due to the pandemic.

Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, said the legislation is needed to clarify who is in power in case of an emergency and when the governor is absent. 

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“The Legislature does not sign declarations of emergency, that is an executive branch function,” Barrett said. “We're simply asking to know who is filling the role at any particular time. There is no security risk to this.”

Barrett’s bill spells out that the person serving as interim governor “shall make a good-faith effort” to notify the Senate and House’s majority and minority leaders within 12 hours. The notice has to be in writing and has to state the duration of the governor’s absence.

Shanon Banner, a spokesperson with the Michigan State Police, told Bridge Michigan the agency would have “serious concerns with the advanced sharing or publication of the governor’s travel schedule, as the more people who know or have access to her movements, the higher the risk level for both her and her executive protection detail.”

Federal officials say Whitmer was the focus of a kidnapping plot last year that led to numerous arrests.

The bill moves to the House and follows weeks of criticism over Whitmer’s trip to Florida in March on a private jet owned by three wealthy families in southeast Michigan with business before the state.

Whitmer wasn’t vaccinated for the trip to see her father. Initially, she didn’t disclose the trip. Then, weeks after news outlets reported on it, she tried to have a shadow nonprofit pay for the $27,251 flight. 

That prompted an FAA investigation because the jet company was not authorized to operate charter flights. Last week, a lawyer for Whitmer announced her campaign would pay for the flight.

Whitmer has said she doesn’t discuss her travels due to security threats. Her office has also declined to share when Lt. Gov. Garlin Glichrist served as interim governor. 

Bobby Leddy, a spokesman for Whitmer, told Bridge Michigan in an email the Legislature continues to “waste more time taking political shots than serving their constituents.”

“It would behoove the legislature to read the Michigan Constitution, which clearly outlines a process to ensure that there is always an acting governor available to continue the functions of the state in case of an emergency,” Leddy said.

The Michigan Constitution says the lieutenant governor is the second in the line of succession if the governor is convicted, impeached, removed from office, resigns or dies.

Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, blasted the measure in a floor speech, saying “it’s hard to believe, but the days here get sillier and sillier.

“We are now passing legislation on what notes need to be passed between the governor and the Legislature,” he said. 

“If you are wondering where the governor lives, it’s in a space rent-free between the sponsor’s head.”

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