Gretchen Whitmer Vetoes Bill Forgiving Michigan Businesses for First-Time Coronavirus Violations

SOUTHFIELD, MICHIGAN - OCTOBER 16: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer introduces Democratic presidentia
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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) vetoed a bill passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature this month that would have prohibited the state from fining a business the first time it violated coronavirus orders.

Whitmer reasoned in her veto notice, dated November 11, that granting the one-time forgiveness waiver to Michigan businesses would be a violation of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act and that House Bill 4501 would therefore “have disastrous consequences” for the state.

“By prohibiting the Michigan Occupational Health and Safety Administration (MIOSHA) from assessing a fine for an employer’s first violation of a COVID-19 emergency standard, HB 4501 would cause Michigan to fall below the minimum standard required by federal law, including 29 C.F.R. § 1902.37(12),” Whitmer wrote. “That would have disastrous consequences for our state.”

Elaborating on said consequences, Whitmer stated that “when a state fails to maintain the minimum standard, it loses control over enforcement of workplace standards. That would mean higher penalties, an end to voluntary safety outreach services, and the loss of Michigan stakeholder voices in our occupational health and safety program.”

“I will not let that happen,” she added.

House Bill 4501 was proposed as an amendment to MIOSHA laws. The legislation passed the Michigan House in May with substantial Democrat support and passed the Michigan Senate in November. The bill noted that any business that was granted the fine forgiveness would be required to take corrective action to prevent any future violations.

The bill also called for businesses that had been fined for violating unconstitutional coronavirus orders to be reimbursed for those fines.

Whitmer, who notoriously imposed stringent school and business lockdowns, capacity limitations, mask mandates, and more in the midst of the pandemic, was stripped of her emergency executive order powers by the Michigan Supreme Court in October 2020, a decision that effectively voided any active coronavirus orders she had in place.

People demonstrate during the Michigan Conservative Coalition organized "Operation Haircut" outside the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan on May 20, 2020. - The group is protesting Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's mandatory closure to curtail the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

People demonstrate during a Michigan Conservative Coalition protest against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdowns outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing on May 20, 2020. (JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

The Detroit News noted that some in Michigan have argued those orders — which were deemed unconstitutional as a result of the Court’s decision — were at least partially if not fully the basis for some of the violations that businesses were hit with.

Moreover, the veto of House Bill 4501 comes after the News also revealed that an MIOSHA inspector who had fined the city of Port Huron $6,300 in July 2020 for coronavirus violations had burned notes and destroyed emails related to his inspection. The alarming discovery that he had rid of pertinent records followed a Port Huron lawyer challenging MIOSHA for the citations the city had received. MIOSHA was ultimately forced to dismiss the $6,300 fine at the end of October 2021.

State Rep. Timothy Beson (R-Bay City), who introduced House Bill 4501, lambasted Whitmer for continuing “to stiff-arm our job providers,” saying in a statement that “once again, Gov. Whitmer has turned her back on small businesses. Her ridiculous veto shows no mercy to employers that have put in money, time and effort to protect employees and customers.”

Whitmer rejecting giving businesses a second chance before fining them ironically coincides with the governor repeatedly coming under fire for violating her own coronavirus policies.

On one occasion, the Michigan Democrat quietly chartered a private jet to Florida in March so she could visit her father, just prior to warning Michigan spring breakers not to travel. Whitmer was also caught in May at a dive bar with a large group and was forced to apologize for directly violating her own capacity mandate.

More recently, Whitmer was spotted maskless in D.C. in October at a posh indoor bar, a direct violation of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s (D) mask mandate.

The conservative research group Michigan Rising Action highlighted Whitmer’s apparent hypocrisy surrounding coronavirus orders and called her veto a “slap in the face” for small businesses.

“Gretchen Whitmer and MIOSHA have been more focused on hamstringing job creators than actually keeping Michigan safe,” the group’s executive director, Eric Ventimiglia, said in a statement. “For a governor who has been caught violating her own rules on many occasions, Whitmer’s veto is a slap in the face to small businesses across the state,” he continued, adding that Michiganders are “fed up with Gretchen Whitmer and her ‘rules for thee, not for me’ mentality.”

Write to Ashley Oliver at


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