By Jessica Mathews/

Michigan’s attorney general is backing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, telling local law enforcement officials that her stay-at-home directive and restrictions on places of public accommodations are valid and enforceable.

Tuesday's letter (attached below) comes days after Republican lawmakers refused to extend an emergency declaration. Dana Nessel, a Democrat, says her letter was necessary to clarify the situation after numerous legislators and other officials questioned the validity of the Democratic governor’s orders to curb the coronavirus.

The measures, Nessel says, are a “valid exercise” of Whitmer’s broad emergency powers under a 1945 law.

Recognizing the important work done by these local officials, Nessel noted that “COVID-19 has created a public health crisis of unprecedented gravity in our lifetime. To date, the most effective means to contain an infectious pandemic is to keep people away from each other. In promulgating Executive Order 2020-69 and Executive Order 2020-70, the Governor has done just that by placing restrictions on certain activities to limit social interactions. The absence of these restrictions would open gateways for the virus to reach every family and social network in every part of the State.” 

However, the Republican-led Legislature appears likely to sue over the interpretation of that law. Speaking last week on the State Senate floor, Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said, “We can no longer allow one person to make decisions for 10 million people. Citizens count on a government structure of checks and balances. The Legislature is the voice of the people and we must have a seat at the table to ensure the concerns of our constituents are considered as part of every decision-making process.”