LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Two legislators in the Michigan House of Representatives, Rep. Lori Stone (D-Warren) and Rep. Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield) sat in the third-floor gallery of the Michigan House yesterday, secluded from the rest of the legislators because they were sick. They were there in order to repeal the state’s Right-to-Work law and also to restore prevailing wage rates.
Both Democrat Representatives voted for the pro-labor bill package which included two House bills and two Senate bills. They also voted for two other bills while they were there and Rep. Hoskins additionally introduced Resolution 59 which urges the U.S. government and Michiganders to strengthen ties with Taiwan.
An anonymous staff member of a legislator sent Michigan News Source photos of the two Representatives in the gallery, including an unmasked Stone.
Amber McCann, spokesperson for the House Democratic caucus, has confirmed that Hoskins tested positive for COVID-19 but said that Stone had tested negative and was “sick with something else.”
A recent tweet by Hoskins shows him standing behind Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on March 16th as she signs the expansion of the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act into law to include LGBTQ+ protections.
Although a photo of Hoskins and Stone in the House Gallery on Tuesday shows them more than six feet apart, Stone is seen several times without a mask in the close vicinity of Hoskins.
Repealing Michigan’s Right-to-Work laws have been a top priority for Michigan Democrats and with a slim majority in the house, this was not the first time this term that Democrat lawmakers have voted in the gallery after receiving a COVID-19 diagnosis.
The Detroit News reported at the end of January that Rep. Natalie Price (D-Berkley) cast a vote in the gallery of the Michigan House a day after testing positive for COVID-19 in order to pass an increase to the Earned Income Tax Credit and vote on some additional legislation.
Rep. Veronica Paiz (D-Harper Woods) also tested positive for COVID-19 in February and sat in the House gallery for hours over two days in order to vote for important legislation the Democrats wanted to push through. She had stayed away from other lawmakers but MLive reports that she was seen “interacting with staff and security.” Additionally, the Detroit News reported about “school groups at times filing in and out around her.”
The website that defines the House of Representatives COVID-19 protocol says that they follow the CDC guidelines regarding precautions for staff with COVID-19 – which includes individuals staying home for five days after testing positive.
The protocol goes on to say “The House encourages members to follow the same precautions and provides an alternative voting mechanism for the House Chamber to assist with compliance” and says that individuals who do not feel well should not visit the Capitol or House Office Building.
House Republican Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Township) sent a letter to House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) after the events on Tuesday for a clarification on the chamber’s COVID-19 policies. He wrote, “It can’t help but feel as though the rules have changed to help pass controversial votes by slim margins before artificial deadlines for political reasons. That would be deeply disappointing, given how gravely this illness can impact lives. It is important that this chamber clearly lay out our policies and take them seriously.”
The Michigan House of Representatives has 110 members. The Democrats hold a narrow majority in the House and every vote counts. They hold 56 seats and the Republicans hold 54.
In order to vote, the lawmakers can vote electronically from their phones but have to be somewhere within the House chamber to do so, not necessarily on the floor.
McCann had said previously about lawmakers showing up with COVID-19, “We would encourage lawmakers to follow CDC guidelines and all the policies and procedures of the House … but there are limits to what kinds of enforcement can be taken, because they’re not, technically, employees of the body.”
Michigan Rep. Cam Cavitt (R-Cheboygan) has also tested positive for COVID-19 but is following protocols and has not showed up in the House chambers to vote while he’s been sick. He released a statement yesterday after Stone and Hoskins showed up sick to vote. He wrote, “While tomorrow marks the end of my recommended quarantine, I stayed home today after recently testing positive for COVID-19. My wife is a nurse, so I know firsthand the dangers certain people face with COVID-19. I also know the correct protocols so I can respect those who are more vulnerable. I’m following the official House guidelines for those who test positive for COVID-19.”
He went on to say, “Democrats in the majority, on the other hand, are blatantly ignoring these rules, and putting employees, staff, and guests in danger just to rush through yet another partisan vote. The House guidelines, set in place by Democrat Speaker Joe Tate, follow CDC guidance and instruct those who test positive for COVID-19 to remain at home for at least five days. Yet, two Democrat legislators who are currently COVID-positive are in the state Capitol today, sitting near students and mingling with both the public and fellow legislators.” (note: Michigan News Source has no confirmation that Stone has received a positive COVID-19 test result).
Cavitt continued, “Republicans have been under constant belligerent fire from Lansing Democrats ever since the start of the pandemic for unjust reasons, such as holding session or allowing legislators to choose whether they wear a mask or not – even while perfectly healthy. Today’s display is completely hypocritical and deliberately dangerous. Legislators should not put kids or the public in danger, and that’s what Democrats are doing at this moment.”
Although the Democratic legislators don’t appear to be following CDC or Michigan House COVID-19 protocol, reports show that Republicans have been. In addition to Cavitt’s adherence to the policies, it’s been reported that in August of last year, after two state senators were infected with COVID-19, McCann said that the Republicans in the GOP-led legislature followed the recommended health guidelines and postponed sessions and committee hearings in order to follow protocol and allow individuals to get tested and received their results.