The Minnesota Senate passed a bill last week that would require the governor to obtain legislative approval before extending any future peacetime emergencies.
The bill, authored by Sen. David Osmek (R-Mound), passed Friday in a vote of 36-31, but failed to advance in the DFL-controlled House before the legislative session expired Sunday night.
Under current law, the governor can extend a peacetime emergency indefinitely for 30 days at a time, which Gov. Tim Walz has done twice during the coronavirus pandemic. State law only grants the Legislature the option to cancel an emergency declaration with a majority vote from both the House and Senate.
Senate File 4519 would have changed that by requiring the governor to acquire legislative approval when extending an emergency declaration beyond 30 days.
“I have repeatedly heard from my constituents that ‘enough is enough.’ Who do we trust our health and safety to? One Governor? Or the most trusted people in our communities like our bankers, teachers, ministers, doctors, and neighbors?” Sen. Bruce Anderson (R-Buffalo) said in a statement.
“This legislation brings the two legislative bodies together to restore the balance of the branches of government and assist the governor throughout future peacetime emergencies for the health and safety of our constituents across Minnesota,” he added.
The bill would also require the governor to give legislative leaders a notice of three days if he plans to extend an emergency declaration when the Legislature is not in session. The bill prohibits the governor from canceling an emergency order and issuing a new one for the same emergency in order to avoid seeking legislative approval.
Republican lawmakers in the House unsuccessfully attempted on three occasions to cancel Gov. Walz’s current emergency declaration.
In the neighboring state of Wisconsin, the state’s Supreme Court overturned the governor’s stay-at-home order earlier this month because he didn’t consult with legislators before extending the order.
Minnesota’s current emergency declaration was extended May 13 for an additional 30 days.
“Our government is built on the concept of the balance of power between our three branches of government, but as we’ve seen with the recent use of the peacetime emergency by Gov. Walz and his executive branch, the governor has had nearly total control over Minnesota and our policies regarding COVID-19 without the oversight of the Legislature,” Osmek said of his bill.
“While I respect the idea of maintaining emergency powers to react to immediate threats, there becomes a point in time where it affords the executive too much power to circumnavigate our democratic process and destroy any sense of transparency and accountability Minnesota had in place,” he added.
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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 Capitol” by McGhiever. CC BY-SA 4.0.