Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D., Mich.) has taken a back seat to no one in regulating the daily lives of citizens during the era of Covid-19. She’s even trying to make some emergency workplace rules permanent in the Wolverine State. But for her own life, it seems Gov. Whitmer is not exactly a fanatic about following rules when she’s in the passenger seat.
Recently this column noted Ms. Whitmer’s decision to ignore her own warnings against out-of-state travel. Now there are more questions about her mode of transportation. Paul Egan reports for the Detroit Free Press from Lansing:
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating after determining that a company hired to fly Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to Florida is not authorized to operate charter flights.
The possible violation of FAA rules by Air Eagle LLC, the Detroit company that owns the plane Whitmer flew on to visit her father in March, adds a new level of controversy to concerns about the flight.
This new level of controversy relates to questions of both regulation and financing. Mr. Egan reports:
Elizabeth Isham Cory, a spokeswoman for the FAA, said companies that operate charter flights must have a Part 135 certificate issued by the federal agency. Other aircraft companies have a Part 91 certificate, she said.
The Gulfstream G280 Whitmer’s office confirmed she flew on “is not on a 135 certificate and Air Eagle does not have a Part 135 certificate,” Cory said in an email to the Free Press.
Another FAA spokesperson said later on Monday that it is premature to conclude that a violation occurred, but “the FAA is looking into the matter.”
As for the financing, the $27,521 trip was funded by a nonprofit organization controlled by Ms. Whitmer called Michigan Transition 2019, with Ms. Whitmer herself pitching in a token $855, the estimated price of a comparable first-class seat.
There’s also more news on Ms. Whitmer’s rejection of her own government’s travel advisory. It’s not just an issue of deciding to fly to Florida—which she has singled out as a travel risk—but also her government’s guidance on what to do in the event of such travel.
Rod Meloni and Natasha Dado of NBC affiliate WDIV report that a few weeks before her trip, Michigan’s health department released guidance saying, “get tested with a PCR viral test one to three days before you travel.” The WDIV report continues:
Then upon your return to Michigan the guidelines read, “Get tested again with a viral test three to five days after your trip and stay home and self-quarantine for a full seven days after travel, even if your test is negative.”
“If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel,” the guidelines continued.
Yet [three days after her return]… Local 4 News cameras rolled as the governor bypassed the self quarantine and attended a vaccination press conference at Ford Field…
Local 4 News asked the governor’s office why she did not follow her own health department’s guidance and the response was it wasn’t an executive order and she followed all orders.
One would think that, if nothing else, this episode at least has given the governor an appreciation of how difficult it is for Michiganders to live by the standards she has demanded of them. One might even expect that Ms. Whitmer would finally show a measure of regulatory restraint.
One would be wrong on both counts. Taylor DesOrmeau reports for mlive that “the state is working through a process to make permanent its workplace COVID-19 rules, enforced through the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.” Business owners hoping for an end to emergency regulations are now facing the prospect that some burdens will be with them forever. According to the mlive report:
A draft of the permanent rules is available online and closely mirrors the current emergency rules – including requiring masks for workers when they can’t maintain 6 feet of distancing, requiring barriers, mandating daily temperature checks and health screenings of employees and recommending people work remotely when feasible.
Relief from Covid rules may require Michigan voters to create distance between Ms. Whitmer and the governor’s office in 2022.
James Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”
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