A group of Republican Minnesota legislators have come together to challenge the constitutionality and efficacy of Governor Tim Walz’s statewide small business shut down.
On Sunday, Walz ordered all restaurants, bars and similar public gathering spaces like movie theaters and other entertainment facilities to close shop from March 17 through March 27 in an effort to quell the spread of COVID-19. He also lowered the standards one has to meet to qualify for unemployment benefits.
Now, the constitutionality of Walz’s recent actions is under scrutiny by a group of Republican lawmakers who say the governor has overstepped his authority, and that his emergency executive order unfairly targets small businesses.
“While we understand the necessity of Governor Walz to lead in this time of crisis, that leadership should not be unilateral and unchecked,” State Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said, per the Star Tribune, Thursday.
“For example, the Governor’s action to unilaterally change Minnesota statutes regarding unemployment insurance does not appear to pass constitutional standards,” he added.
Legality aside, other Republican lawmakers feel that Walz’s orders give preferential treatment to large corporations while gutting the bottom line of small, community centered, businesses.
“I’ve had many people reaching out saying this [shut down] is crippling us,” Gazelka said during an interview with WCCO Radio, earlier this week.
Senator Newman pointed out in his press release on the matter that because many of the affected businesses have “high overheads and low margins,” even the relatively short 10-day closure may have a profound negative effect on business owners and their employees, who “rely on their ability to serve customers.”
“The governor overstepped his authority,” he concluded.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz admitted that his administration has not developed a plan to deal with what he calls “deteriorating economic conditions” amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. https://t.co/TkcdLKAazb
— Alpha News MN (@AlphaNewsMN) March 17, 2020
State Representative Mary Franson feels that Walz’s shutdown unfairly targets small Minnesota enterprises. “The Walmarts and Targets of the world get to stay open,” she noted in a now-deleted tweet reported by the Star Tribune. “Small business, the backbone of the economy is shut down.”
Senator Chamberlin who chairs the State Senate Tax Committee has called for the governor to reverse his order, joined by other Minnesota Republicans.
“I am glad that we have been able to work with the governor to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota… but I sincerely, sincerely hope the governor will reconsider his decision to close down most private businesses,” he said.
“Ordering them [these businesses] to close, even for two weeks, will have a disastrous effect not just on our economy, but on thousands of hourly wage earners and small business owners,” he added.
While the full economic impact of Walz’s closures is yet to be seen, what is clear is that thousands of Minnesotans are missing out on much needed wages. Over 72,000 people filed for unemployment this week alone, a number that’s expected to rise, according to the Pioneer Press.
The national unemployment rate may rise as high as 20%, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, reports CNN.