(The Center Square) – Just 14 months after the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Michigan House approved a bill that requires the government reimburse private businesses for COVID-19 fines based on restrictions that were found unconstitutional.
The vote was 74-34.
House Bill 4501 seeks to amend the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act to prohibit the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) from issuing civil fines to an employer found violating an emergency standard under certain conditions.
The bill also seeks to require LEO to reimburse an employer that paid a civil penalty for violating a gubernatorial executive COVID-19 order that the Michigan Supreme Court determines to be void or unconstitutional, retroactive to whenever fined.
The Michigan Supreme Court on Oct. 2 tossed many of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 executive orders.
The reimbursement would have to be made within 30 days after the effective date of the Supreme Court order or 30 days after the bill’s effective date, whichever was later.
Another part of the bill seeks to let first-time COVID-19 offenders off the hook if that person fixed the problem.
Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, said businesses in his county had been fined for violating Whitmer’s orders. For example, he noted:
- River City Reproductions: $2,100 fine
- Eastbrook Homes: $3,500 fine
- Integrity Business Solutions: $3,500 fine
- Fire Rock Grill: $6,300 fine
Over the past weekend, Whitmer was caught violating her own COVID-19 rules.
If she can break COVID-19 rules a first time without a fine, Johnson argued, small businesses should too.
“Now, if that would have happened to a business in my district, that’s thousands of dollars of fines on you,” Johnson said.
“Colleagues, the question before you today: Should businesses in our district get the same treatment as the governor?”
LEO’s webpage of May 24 says there were 96 cases closed related to COVID-19 violations, with total fines of approximately $259,200. However, 112 “open” cases involve $364,200 in fines. Of those, 29 cases are currently under appeal, involving $119,300 in fines.