Michigan House passes veto-proof bill refunding lockdown fines after governor caught violating own order

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LANSING, MI – After reports and photos circulated of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer violating her own pandemic restrictions regarding group sizes at dining establishments, the Michigan House reportedly passed a veto-proof bill that would refund all COVID-related fines for businesses that made a one-time infringement.

Back on May 23rd, a report originally published by Breitbart news showcased a photo of Governor Whitmer with a group of friends that had pushed together a couple of tables at a bar called the Landshark located in East Lansing.

The photo in question showed Governor Whitmer among at least twelve other people in the photo at this establishment, which was in violation of her restaurant capacity order that imposed a six-person limit on groups dining out together.

Specifically, that order the Michigan governor violated was among an update to the “Gatherings and Face Mask Order” dated May 15th, 2021.

In response to the revelation of Governor Whitmer violating her own orders pertaining to pandemic restrictions and guidelines, she issued the following statement:

“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been committed to following public health protocols. Yesterday, I went with friends to a local restaurant. As more people arrived, the tables were pushed together. Because we were all vaccinated, we didn’t stop to think about it. In retrospect, I should have thought about it. I am human. I made a mistake, and I apologize.”

She also managed to avoid being fined, despite the fact that numerous businesses in her state were subjected to these very sorts of fines for similar infractions.

On May 25th, a veto-proof majority of Michigan representatives passed HB 4501, which is a bill that would refund businesses that were subject to any pandemic related fines so long as it was the business’ first infraction and they took steps to rectify the issue outlined in the fine.

During a house floor speech regarding the bill, Republican Representative Steve Johnson stated the following about why the bill should be passed:

“To highlight the importance of this legislation, I want to tell you a story about how easy it is to violate these orders – how easy it is to get caught on one of these – and why it’s important why we have some mercy here.

“See, there was an individual that wanted to hang out with some friends. And what better place to hang out than at a restaurant? And they’re hanging out at the restaurant, and they made, as what she described, as an ‘honest mistake’ – they pushed some tables together.

“Now the problem with that is, now you’re violating the governor’s social distancing requirements. Now if that would’ve happened to a business in my district, that thousands of dollars of fines on you.

“Well, the good news for this individual is she happens to be the governor of Michigan. No fines. No citations. No penalties. Must be nice.

“Colleagues, the question before you today is should the businesses in our district get the same treatment as the governor. That’s all I’m asking.”

Clearly, the message shared by Rep. Johnson resonated with the House floor, as the bill passed the House in a 74-34 vote in favor of the bill.

HB 4501 has since been referred over to the State Senate’s Committee on Economic and Small Business Development.

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In other news pertaining to Governor Whitmer, she’s under further scrutiny over a recent trip to Florida where there is evidence suggesting she used non-profit funds to charter her private jet to visit her father. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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LANSING, MI- Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is under increasing scrutiny as information has come to light about a secret trip she took out of state in March, which was apparently paid for by a nonprofit 501(c)(4) organization.

The trip became public knowledge in April and Whitmer as well as her aides claimed the trip was “personal” in nature, allegedly to visit her father, who was ill, Breitbart reported.

Whitmer was obstinate when asked about the trip by journalists.

“I’ve said everything I am going to say about my trip to go check on my father,” Whitmer told a 9&10 News journalist when asked about the trip. “It was a quick trip. It was an important family reason for doing it. And I have nothing to add.”

Despite that, she continued to make excuses.

“I showed up when I was needed. I did a lot of cooking, a lot of cleaning,” she said.

“When you’re the governor of Michigan, you’re always on the clock, but it does not mean that you’re not also a daughter who shows up when a family member needs her.”

However more information came out about the flight on Friday, with her office now claiming the nonprofit organization, Michigan Transition 2019 paid for the flight.

Whitmer’s office claimed the flight cost $27,521, of which she only reimbursed it a fraction of that–$855 for her personal seat. Breitbart said it was not clear how that amount was determined.

Republican lawmakers, however are questioning the trip, with Rep. Steve Johnson, chairman of the Michigan House Oversight Committee telling The Detroit News that he’s considering launching a probe into the financial arrangements.

On Monday, Johnson said he hadn’t yet decided how he would proceed on the situation, but noted he may draft a letter to the administration and ask about Whitmer’s trip to Florida.

“If they refuse to [answer the questions], maybe, at that point, we will do hearings. It’s definitely something in consideration,” Johnson said. “I would like to give the administration the opportunity to answer questions before we go down that road.”

Breitbart reported that Whitmer has repeatedly referred to the trip as being strictly personal, which means the nonprofit funds were used improperly, perhaps illegally, according to Michigan Rising Action.

“501(c)(4) groups are social welfare organizations and are not allowed to pay for personal expenses for officials,” the group said in a news release. Michigan Rising Action is itself a 501(c)(4) nonprofit.

Whitmer finds herself in a bit of a pickle, since if she claims a legal justification for using the nonprofit funds for the trip it would indicate she did other activities in Florida aside from tending to the alleged needs of her father.

“Today’s revelations that Whitmer’s non-profit paid for her personal trip to Florida is shady and makes it clear why she tried to hide the trip and cover up who paid,” said Tori Sachs, executive director of Michigan Rising Action.

“Either Whitmer’s Florida trip was for a legitimate 501(c)(4) purpose, in which case the C4 could pay for it, or it was personal, in which case a C4 can’t pay for it. Whitmer’s personal use of her 501(c)(4) account funds must be investigated.”

Any such investigation would have to be undertaken by the Internal Revenue Service, which under a Biden administration would likely attempt to provide cover for Whitmer, a Democrat. Efforts to find out who else was on the Florida trip went without an answer.

News of a possible probe by Michigan House Republicans indicates they are at least looking into Whitmer’s travels, which actually came to public attention on April 19, however has been drawing increasing scrutiny—and criticism.

According to The Detroit News, Michigan Transition 2019 chartered the private jet on March 12, and returned to the state capital of Lansing on March 15, according to a memo from Whitmer’s chief of staff JoAnne Huls.

That group spent nearly $28,000 on travel over the first 14 days of May, which apparently also covers the two March flights to and from Florida. Whitmer’s payment of $855 for the roundtrip private jet flight amounts to about 3% of the total price tag for the flights, the News said.

Of course, Whitmer’s office used the coronavirus as an excuse for flying on a private jet as opposed to commercial.

“Due to ongoing security and public health concerns, we made a decision to use a chartered flight for this trip,” Huls wrote in a memo.

“The governor’s flight was not a gift, not paid for at taxpayer expense and was done in compliance with the law.”

Still, nobody from Whitmer’s office was able to explain why the nonprofit was in any way involved with funding the flights.

Whitmer has claimed she performed official duties while in Florida caring for her father, however would not specify exactly what she did.

Under federal tax law, nonprofits are prohibited from a practice called inurement, which involves the use of nonprofit income or assets to benefit an individual who has a close relationship to the tax-exempt organization. That information was provided by the Legal Information Institute at the Cornell Law School.

During the same Monday morning press call regarding the flights, Johnson raised the question if there were other people on the plane, and what the purpose was for the nonprofit spending money on travel to Florida.

In a 2019 tax filing, the nonprofit said their mission was “to operate for the promotion of civic action and social welfare by promoting the common good and general welfare of the residents of, and visitors to, the state of Michigan.”

“If truly, indeed, the whole purpose of that flight was to transport the governor, then we have legal issues in play here.”

The same jet Whitmer used is also typically shared by what the News called “three of Michigan’s most prominent political donors.”

Those donors include the Nicholson family of PVS Chemicals, the Moroun Family of the trucking company Central Transport, as well as the Cotton family, which used to run Meridian Health, The Detroit News wrote.

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