Republican governors and lawmakers in many states are moving against mask mandates and pushing to lift restrictions on businesses and social gatherings as swiftly as possible.
In Michigan on Friday, the state Supreme Court, which has a Republican majority, struck down months of orders by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, including a mask mandate. It said she illegally drew authority from a 1945 law.
It was an extraordinary development in a long, nasty fight between Whitmer, a Democrat, and Republicans who control the Legislature.
At one point over the summer, protesters filled the statehouse to demand an end to the restrictions some labeled “tyranny.”
Before Friday’s ruling, a conservative group with support from Republican lawmakers, turned in 539,000 signatures to put legislation before lawmakers to repeal the 75-year-old law.
Whitmer would be unable to veto it if it passes.
Also Friday, Republicans who control the Louisiana House of Representatives supported a package of measures aimed at unraveling the coronavirus restrictions imposed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat.
The legislation would overturn all of Edwards’ coronavirus executive orders for a month or more. It also would give lawmakers greater ability to overturn all or part of future executive orders the governor wants to enact.
Rep. Tanner Magee, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, said it’s “a false narrative” that Republicans are not concerned about public health.
“We are. We’re just concerned about both public health and the state of our economy and seeing how we can move forward in a way that addresses both issues,” Magee said.
In Wisconsin, Republicans who control the Legislature filed a court motion on Friday in support of a lawsuit seeking to repeal a mask mandate from Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat.
“There is no pandemic exception to the rule of law or our Constitution,” said Rick Esenberg, president of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which is suing Evers over the mask mandate.
Similar struggles have played out ever since the beginning of the virus outbreak in numerous states where the governor is a Democrat and Republicans control the legislature.
Kansas has had one of the longest running feuds.
Republican lawmakers, who already have forced Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to accept local control over coronavirus restrictions, are now considering creating a panel with permanent oversight of how the governor handles extended emergencies.
Meanwhile, in GOP-controlled legislatures in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, Democrats pushed Republican majority leaders to toughen their policies on masks for lawmakers.
Ohio state Rep. Kent Smith, a Democrat from suburban Cleveland, asked for a mask mandate for committee hearings and floor sessions.
“The work of the people need not become a super spreader event during a global pandemic without a treatment or cure,” he said in a statement.
Some Republicans, including Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, said they were comfortable with the existing protocols, while others said they cannot force rank-and-file lawmakers to obey them.
Pennsylvania House of Representatives Minority Leader Frank Dermody, a Pittsburgh-area Democrat, criticized Republicans for passing more than a half-dozen veto-bound bills that are designed to strip or limit Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s power to impose coronavirus restrictions.
“It’s time that we realize that we are in this situation and it is real, and I hope they realize that it is real when the president contracts the virus,” Dermody said.
Rep. Dan Moul, a Republican, said it has nothing to do with President Donald Trump’s diagnosis.
“When it’s my turn to get it, I’m going to get it, whether I’m wearing a mask or not,” Moul said.
The virus is a leading issue in the campaign for governor in Missouri, where Republican Gov. Mike Parson is recovering after testing positive.
Parson has taken a more hands-off approach to addressing the virus, leaving decisions on mask requirements, school shutdowns and other restrictions to local officials.
His Democratic challenger, Nicole Galloway, pushed Parson to issue a statewide mask mandate.
“This is the best way to put our state on the path to economic recovery,” Galloway said.
A spokesman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been aggressively lifting restrictions on restaurants and other businesses, said the governor isn’t going to change the state’s reopening plans just because the president contracted the virus.
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