Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state legislature have agreed on a budget proposal that includes language banning health officials from enforcing mask mandates in schools and preventing state public agencies from enforcing vaccines on employees or customers.
"The director or local health officer shall not issue or enforce any orders or other directives that require an individual in this state who is under the age of 18 to wear a face mask or face covering," the 1,000-page budget states in one section.
The language could mean that health officials’ mask mandates for K-12 students in areas such as Oakland and Wayne counties could be null and void. Instead, mask mandates would be left in the hands of school boards and districts.
Whitmer has indicated she will sign the budget in time for the Oct. 1 deadline, when the new fiscal year begins.
"The governor has demonstrated that she believes that local health departments and local school boards should be involved in these decisions," says Oakland County Executive David Coulter, Click on Detroit reported. "I agree with that and any opportunity to remove us from that would be a huge mistake, and I would certainly hope that she would not support that."
The $70 billion budget deal would also prevent Michigan public agencies from enforcing vaccine mandates on employees and customers, allocate $2.2 billion in higher education funding, $50.7 billion for state agencies and programs, as well as $17.1 billion for the school aid budget.
"I am thrilled that the legislature and I were able to come together to agree on a bipartisan budget," Whitmer said in a statement, according to MLive. "Our collaboration is a testament to what’s possible when we work together and put our families, communities, and small businesses first."
The budget comes after Whitmer faced criticisms for her handling of the pandemic last year, including enacting some of the strictest lockdown orders in the country.
Large protests formed in Lansing last year, with one protest seeing people carrying rifles and other long guns into the state capitol building and shouting at legislators over extended stay-at-home orders.