Gov. Tim Walz has issued 12 executive orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but Senate Republicans think some of his actions aren’t within his constitutional authority.
“While we understand the necessity of Governor Walz to lead in this time of crisis, that leadership should not be unilateral and unchecked. For example, the governor’s action to unilaterally change Minnesota statutes regarding unemployment insurance does not appear to pass constitutional standards,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) said in a recent statement.
Gazelka said Senate Republicans plan to hold “limited committee hearings” in order to provide some oversight on Walz’s executive actions.
“Senate Republicans would prefer to work with the governor within the legislative process where we can facilitate testimony, oversight and ultimately approval of his actions,” said Gazelka. “We are working with health care experts on strict guidelines regarding how we gather, how we protect members and staff, and how we allow for public testimony. Senate Republicans want Minnesotans to know we are here and ready to do our jobs.”
Several other Republicans criticized Walz’s executive action ordering the closure of bars, restaurants, and other places of “public accommodation,” The Minnesota Sun reported.
Attorney General Keith Ellison released a statement Friday defending the governor’s authority during a peacetime emergency.
“As Minnesota’s chief legal officer, I want to assure all Minnesotans that the governor is operating well within his statutory and constitutional authority. The Legislature conferred on the governor the authority and the duty to ‘protect the public peace, health and safety, and preserve the lives and property of the people of the state’ in a time of emergency. That power is not unchecked: the Executive Council, which is authorized and empowered under Chapter 9, is the check on the governor’s emergency powers,” said Ellison.
He argued that Minnesota law allows the governor to “make, amend, and rescind necessary orders and rules” in an emergency, but those orders and rules “do not have the effect of law unless or until they are approved by the Executive Council.”
“As a member of the Executive Council, I have not voted and will not vote for any action I do not believe is authorized under Minnesota law and Minnesota’s constitution,” Ellison added. “I take that duty very seriously. This is why my staff is working hand in hand with subject-matter experts in each agency and the governor’s staff to assure the legality and constitutionality of the governor’s actions during the peacetime emergency.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Minnesota State Capiotl” by Chris Gaukel. CC BY-SA 2.0.