press release

News from Progress Michigan

April 23, 2020

Contact: Sam Inglot,

Progress Michigan Considers Lawsuit to Stop Dangerous Legislative Meeting

Hundreds of thousands of Michigan citizens could lose voice in the legislature

MICHIGAN — Progress Michigan may pursue legal action against Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey if they continue to threaten representative democracy for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders by forcing legislators to come to Lansing without proper safety precautions that allow for real debate and a true legislative process. 

“It’s critical that Michigan residents have a healthy, full-functioning legislature to serve as a check and balance in state government and that can’t happen if they’re risking their health because they’re forced to go to session while Chatfield and Shirkey refuse to make accommodations to protect their safety. We will pursue legal action if Chatfield and Shirkey continue to endanger the health of legislators, which in turn silences the people’s voice they were elected to represent,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “Lee Chatfield and Mike Shirkey have failed to provide an option for the legislature to meet safely, have real discussions, and maintain a legitimate legislative process despite options being out there to do exactly that. By setting up a situation where lawmakers—many of whom are older, may have underlying health issues, or family members susceptible to infection—must either risk their health or give up their voice in the legislature, Chatfield and Shirkey are effectively engaging in voter suppression tactics by shutting the door to amendments, voting, dialog and dissent in the legislative process. Elected officials should not have to choose between their health and representing their constituents.”

In early April, a number of state representatives refused to attend session out of concern for their health. One lawmaker, Rep. Issac Robinson, has already passed due to COVID-19 and two others have tested positive. Why Chatfield and Shirkey have not made accommodations for the legislature to safely meet remotely — as has been proposed by House Democrats and done effectively by a number of other states — means they’re willing to risk the health of their colleagues or silence the voice of their constituents so they can continue their political power games during a global pandemic. 

 “Across the state, businesses and local governments have been able to meet and function through Zoom calls and virtual meeting places, all of which can be open for the public to view. Why can’t the legislature? Lee Chatfield and Mike Shirkey are not dictators, and they do not hold all the power of how our democracy should function—despite what they might believe,” Scott continued. “We will do whatever we have to do to protect the voices of Michigan citizens from the authoritarian power grab by Chatfield and Shirkey. Everyone in Michigan deserves a voice in the legislature.”