Gov. Tim Walz announced Friday that he will convene a third special legislative session in order to extend his emergency powers yet again.
Walz first declared a peacetime emergency on March 13 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, with each emergency expiring after 30 days, meaning this week’s special session will mark the fifth extension of his emergency powers.
Under Minnesota law, the governor must convene both the House and Senate if he wishes to extend a peacetime emergency when the Legislature is not in session. Walz did just that in both June and July after the regular session concluded.
“As long as the COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to Minnesotans, it is my duty to work to provide our state with the tools we need to fight this,” Walz said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and rapidly evolving, and we can’t let our guard down.”
The special session will start at noon on Wednesday, Aug. 12, less than 24 hours after the polls close in Minnesota’s primary election.
June’s special session cost an estimated $108,000 in lodging, mileage, and other per diem expenses for traveling lawmakers.
State law doesn’t require the Legislature to vote in favor of extending an emergency declaration, but only grants lawmakers the option to cancel an emergency with a majority vote from both the House and Senate.
Republican lawmakers have unsuccessfully attempted to end Walz’s peacetime emergency on at least four occasions.
“The emergency is not over,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said. “As the upcoming fall brings new unknowns in the COVID-19 pandemic, we are committed to acting quickly to keep Minnesotans healthy, safe, and informed during this public health crisis.”
Lawmakers won’t return to St. Paul for a regular session until January of next year, meaning the governor theoretically could call four more special sessions.