Gov. Whitmer May 21

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces the reopening of auto dealerships and retail businesses by appointment on May 21.

(The Center Square) – A lawsuit filed against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer claims her increased penalties included in new executive orders are unconstitutional.

The lawsuit argues that Whitmer’s Executive Orders 2020-96 and 2020-97 that govern workplace safety procedures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic exceed her statutory authority.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation and the Miller Johnson law firm filed a lawsuit in the Court of Claims Thursday for the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Michigan and a private landscaping company.

ABC is a trade association representing more than 900 construction and construction-related firms.

Director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation Patrick Wright told The Center Square that Whitmer had written her own rules without going through the legislature or the Administrative Procedures Act.

“She contended she has the powers to dramatically increase the penalties for violations of her executive orders, and we believe the process by which she has done are illegal,” Wright said.

Violations of Whitmer’s emergency powers carry up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail, the lawsuit says, but the new orders increase penalties to a possible $70,000 fine and three years in jail.

That’s because a violation of Executive Order 2020-97 also violates the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSHA), the lawsuit says.

Wright said the orders remove enforcement from elected officials and hands them to a “centralized bureaucracy that the governor could control.”

The lawsuit alleges the state can fine businesses significantly without providing due process because the order lowered the burden of proof from “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“Gov. Whitmer’s approach threatens the safe jobs of Michigan workers who from the start have led the way, creating the gold standard of safe worksites during the COVID-19 public health crisis,” ABC Michigan State Director Jeff Wiggins said.

“Michigan’s more than 100,000 craft trades professionals deserve safety and certainty from state government as they return to their jobsites. They also deserve to have a voice in the rules process. Instead, they are threatened by the arbitrary, unclear and unconstitutional enforcement methods set to be dispatched throughout the state to intimidate good, honest workers.”

The other private company is DJ’s Landscape Management, a Grand Rapids-based landscape company started by DJ VanderSlik.

“We have a constitution for a reason,” VanderSlik said. “By making her own rules without backing from the Legislature, the governor is neglecting to give people a voice. Many businesses won’t be able to recover from the financial setbacks that her executive orders have caused.”

The lawsuit seeks to declare the two executive orders unconstitutional.

“We are a democratic republic and that means there are often competing voices,” Wright said in a statement. “Through the Legislature, the governor has been given some emergency powers. While the current situation is unprecedented and lives and livelihoods are at stake, the governor cannot single-handedly rewrite legislation to dramatically increase penalties apparently so as to stamp out dissent over the proper time and method of reopening society.”

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.