By Jessica Mathews /

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has vetoed legislation sponsored by a local lawmaker that would have exempted high school graduation ceremonies from COVID-19 restrictions on crowd sizes - calling it “half-baked and punchless.”

HB 4728 was sponsored by Republican State Representative Ann Bollin of Brighton Township. An initial press release from Bollin stated that the bill did not require a school district to hold a commencement ceremony or obligate a student and their family to attend; it just allowed districts to choose to hold a graduation ceremony in a safe manner that suited their own district.

“This bill is a solution in search of a problem,” the Democratic governor wrote to the GOP-led House. “Rather than sending me half-baked and punchless legislation like HB 4728, I encourage the Legislature to join me in eradicating this pandemic and making transformational investments in our economy.”

When the measure won final passage more than two weeks ago, Michigan was restricting crowds at many outdoor stadiums to 1,000. At most indoor arenas, the limit was 375. Thursday's veto comes two days after administration orders were loosened to end outdoor capacity limits and cap indoor gatherings at 50% occupancy.

In early May Bollin said that the bill would give schools flexibility to host commencements “in a manner that suits their districts. ... It’s time to celebrate these young lives and give them the send-off they deserve.”

The graduation bill passed with mostly GOP support. It was vocally opposed by Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail who said that exempting large gatherings of high school-age kids was (quote) “probably not the wisest thing to do.” The Michigan Education Association also opposed the legislation. The GOP-controlled Senate passed a similar bill, with all but one Democrat in opposition. The Senate version was sponsored by White Lake Township Republican Jim Runestad.

Whitmer also vetoed a bill that would have prohibited a governor from issuing an emergency order extending response times for public-records requests or otherwise limiting a public body’s duties under the Freedom of Information Act. She did so for two months early in the pandemic.