Michigan graduations could be exempt from capacity restrictions under new bill

Posted at 5:45 AM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 05:45:22-04

(WXYZ) — The Michigan House and Senate have voted to exempt high school graduations from the governor's imposed emergency capacity limits.

If Republican lawmakers have their way, high schools would be able to make their own decision whether to hold graduation outdoors, but whether or not Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs off on the legislation remains to be seen.

"I've been hearing from parents and students for a couple of months, saying that they're so disappointed," Sen. Jim Runestad, a Republican from White Lake, said.

Runestad said the disappointment comes with the fact that vaccinations are taking place. He said Monday saw the lowest COVID-19 infection rate in the last six weeks.

"These families love having graduation ceremonies. For most people it's their most important milestone of their high school years," he said.

So, he introduced a bill to allow high school graduations to bypass the emergency capacity limits. On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled House and Senate passed it.

"So if it gets signed into law, it won't be these arbitrary dynamics that you can only have 20 percent capacity here or if you're off on the capacity numbers you may run into real problems with the state, that they want the fire marshal to control outdoor which they don't even control. There are so many things in here that make no sense," he said.

7 Action News viewers sounded off on the legislation on our Facebook page.

"Let them enjoy their day have them wear masks if they have to, but let them have their day, they deserve it," one wrote.

"Did it vote to exempt them from lawsuits if there's a COVID outbreak tied to graduation?" another asked.

"Exemption from state order does not mean they are going to have a free for all super-spreader event people. It means they get to make decisions that balance the safety and the needs of their graduates that is best for them," one said.

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, a Democrat from Royal Oak, was the only Democratic senator to support the bill.

"Nobody doesn't want to get back to normal. Everybody wants graduation ceremonies, birthday parties, wedding, dinners, but at the end of the day my job is to represent my district. So I will be voting yes on this bill but it is with a heavy heart that we are not doing more to get this state and all of our communities out of this pandemic in a real way," she said.

The bill is now headed to Whitmer's desk awaiting her signature.

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