Republicans didn’t attempt to revoke Gov. Tim Walz’s COVID-19 emergency powers during Thursday’s special session, but they did introduce a bill to reform peacetime emergency laws.
A motion to consider the bill, carried by Rep. Barb Haley, R-Red Wing, was rejected in a vote of 73-60 in the DFL-controlled House.
“The governor has enjoyed unprecedented powers and in a lot of cases left the Legislature out of the process,” Haley said during a press conference before Thursday’s special session, the sixth of the year.
“Right now, as you know, the only way for us to end an executive order is to end the peacetime emergency altogether, which would end all of the executive orders, and that is not my goal,” she added.
Under Haley’s bill, the governor would retain his ability to issue executive orders during peacetime emergencies “with the full force of the law for 30 days.” After 30 days, the Legislature would have the option of rescinding or making changes to individual executive orders.
“Without any changes in the process, the only option available to us would be to end those powers altogether,” Haley elaborated. “All we are trying to do is get the Legislature a seat at the table again.”
“We believe this bill simply gives the governor some breathing room, frankly,” she continued. “If the Legislature does not like an executive order, an executive order that’s having negative impacts on some of our constituents and might have issues that we want to change, this just gives us the opportunity to weigh in.”
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been shut out of the process.
“Minnesota businesses and legislators of both parties were really left in the dark. It really demonstrates the governor’s unwillingness to work both with the Legislature and with folks who are impacted the most by these executive orders,” he said, commenting on the governor’s new restrictions on bars, restaurants and private gatherings.
“Getting a briefing from the governor’s office isn’t the same as being involved in the process, and that’s how the Legislature feels as well,” Daudt added.
In a turn of events, the GOP-controlled Senate decided against taking a vote to overturn the governor’s peacetime emergency, a departure from the last five special sessions.
“We’ve made it pretty clear that we don’t think you need emergency powers to deal with the virus,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said in an interview Thursday morning with MPR.
“The surge is here. It’s absolutely serious,” he added. “People need to pay attention to it, but we don’t think the governor has to do it by himself. We would prefer to work with him.”