Whitmer, Senate agree on budget deal that bans mask mandates in schools, vaccine passports

Posted at 5:47 AM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 11:14:20-04

(WXYZ) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan legislature have agreed on a budget proposal that could put a wrinkle in local efforts to fight the pandemic.

Under the nearly $70 billion budget deal, Michigan public agencies can't require employees or customers to get vaccinated.

It would also ban state and local health officials from enforcing mask mandates in schools. That means mandates, like the one put forth by the Oakland County Health Department, could be null and void under this budget bill.

Instead, the decision to require masks would be left up to schools boards and school districts. Right now, a little more than half of Michigan students attend a school with a mask mandate.

"This budget is going to make a big difference and the work that we are doing will continue," Whitmer said.

Whitmer says the state's proposed budget for 2022 puts Michiganders first.

The deal includes a boost in child care for families, big investments in infrastructure changes, and millions of dollars for training programs to help increase the state's workforce.

"We need to make the investment to support families, to support working people, to support kids and business and I think you are going to see there is a lot of good stuff in this budget and I'm excited about it," she said.

Also written into the bill is a provision that would ban state entities from requiring vaccine passports.

It also expressly prevents county health departments from enforcing masks on anyone who is 17 and younger, meaning any mask mandates in K-12 schools would have to come from the school districts themselves.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services could still enact blanket emergency orders but they'd have to provide extensive justification.

The extra step of justification stemming from lawmakers who thought Whitmer's orders early on in the pandemic were made rashly and without evidence.

"It's been a tough couple of years without question," Whitmer said.

The budget deal, also known as Senate Bill 82, was agreed upon in closed-door negotiations. Whitmer says the process will become more transparent in the coming weeks.

"I am a woman of my word so I'm going to let them roll that out to their members before we start talking more publicly about it," she said.

The governor says she does plan on signing this bill but does have the power to veto certain provisions, including ones related to COVID-19 mitigation.

"As soon as it comes, we will do our task of going through line by line of the budget to see what is enforceable, what might not be enforceable, and then I will do my action and get it signed and make some changes if necessary," Whitmer said during a press conference on Mackinac Island on Wednesday.