By Mike Shirkey
(December 22, 2020 6:53 PM) 2020 has been a year unlike any other in our lifetimes. The COVID-19 pandemic has devasted the lives of millions across the world and in Michigan.
When the virus hit the state in March, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer decided to act unilaterally through emergency orders instead of working with the Legislature, the most direct representation of the people of Michigan.
The governor’s poor response to the crisis has compounded the suffering, as untold thousands of businesses closed and millions of job providers lost what they had built.
Most recently, a contentious election and issues surrounding the elections process here and nationwide have heightened the polarization of Michiganders and Americans.
In large part, our attention and energy this year have been fixed on the governor’s burdensome shutdowns and the election process concerns. But we want to share what else we have accomplished in 2020.
Senate Republicans have worked with our colleagues across the aisle throughout 2020 to provide the necessary resources to fight the pandemic and to help our residents recover from its physical and economic effects.
We assisted Michiganders dealing with the personal effects of COVID-19 by:
• Passing bipartisan bills to reverse Gov. Whitmer’s tragic policy of exposing nursing homes to the virus;
• Ensuring coronavirus testing is readily available;
• Reducing the cost of child care for families and helping child care facilities remain open; and
• Hiring more temporary workers to fix Gov. Whitmer’s unemployment system that failed when Michigan families needed it most.
In addition, we passed measures to:
• Protect front-line workers and others who protect us;
• Support students and schools; and
• Aid Michigan businesses large and small that were ravaged by the extended shutdown of our economy.
Despite the sizable deficit created by COVID-19 and the governor’s extended shutdown of our economy, Senate Republicans passed a state budget that funds key priorities and balances the deficit without raising taxes.
We recently passed a COVID-19 relief bill that provides $465 million in state and federal funding for Michigan health care workers combating the virus, increases testing capacity, makes the investments necessary to ensure vaccine distribution, and extends unemployment benefits through March 31, 2021. If signed into law, it will bring the total funding approved by the Senate to combat the virus to nearly $4 billion.
We passed several measures to help protect those in need, including legislation to allow family members to install monitoring devices in nursing homes to ensure their loved ones are properly cared for; bills to strengthen penalties for repeat abusers of children; and measures to keep foster care children in loving, safe homes.
To improve health care for Michiganders, we passed bills to expand access to medical procedures and reduce the cost of providing health care; continued our efforts to combat Michigan’s opioid epidemic by requiring prescriptions for opioids to be transmitted from the doctor to the pharmacy electronically; and increased access to needed medication and medical care by making it easier for pharmacists to open remote pharmacies across the state and by expanding telemedicine services to include asynchronous care.
We reduced red tape for local road projects, which will provide savings of up to 30%. And we stood up against unchecked borrowing by approving a bill allowing the Legislature to review and reject any transportation bonds in excess of $100 million.
We made Michigan a national leader in criminal justice reform by creating laws to help offenders rejoin society as productive citizens, reduce crime, cut prison costs and keep our communities safe. And we passed legislation to ensure police officers have the best training to keep our communities safe and protect the rights of all residents by requiring training on procedural justice and de-escalation techniques and to receive education on mental health resources. Law enforcement has had a tough year, and we support them.
These are just some of the things the Michigan Senate was able to accomplish in this unusual year. Like you, I am looking forward to us all returning to a calmer, more normal 2021.
Through it all, I wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.