Minnesota Senate passes bill requiring legislative approval for peacetime emergencies

Monday, the Minnesota Senate passed a bill that would require legislative approval for future peacetime emergencies.

The Senate approved the bill 38-29. It isn’t expected to be approved in the House of Representatives.

The bill would require a majority of both chambers to approve the governor’s request for a peacetime emergency for it to be extended by 30 days. Currently, a peacetime emergency can be extended by 30 days unless a majority of both chambers vote to cancel it.

Minnesota Republicans have said Gov. Tim Walz has used his emergency powers to unilaterally rule during the pandemic. Walz has said the emergency powers simply allow for a quicker response to the pandemic and vaccination efforts. The governor has also publicly said he’d be willing to drop the peacetime emergency if lawmakers passed legislation that covered what the emergency powers are used for.

"We’ve learned a lot from how we manage emergencies over the last year. One thing that has been made clear is one-man control is not helpful for prolonged periods," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said. "In the beginning, emergency powers made sense to help us flatten the curve, stand up supply chains, and prepare our hospitals and clinics for a potential surge. And Governor Walz worked with the legislature to explain the need and purpose for each decision. However," Sen. Gazelka continued, "with the balance of power shifted to the executive, the trust needed to work together has completely eroded. Forty states are looking at changes to emergency powers. This bill puts the legislature back at the table to find common ground, mutual agreement, and better serve the entire state."

"We are still in the midst of a global pandemic with good news coming every day. This is not the time to play partisan politics with Minnesotans’ lives. Senate Republicans have continued to say that they have not been included in these processes after numerous attempts by Governor Walz to work through this pandemic together. With no response or counteroffer by the Senate Republicans to the governor’s proposed path to ending his emergency authority, Governor Walz has continued to make these hard choices to protect Minnesotans and has effectively avoided worse outcomes," Minority Leader Susan Kent, DFL- Woodbury, said. "Senate Republicans have said for the past 10 months that the emergency part of the pandemic is over. They were wrong then and they are wrong now, as we still need to remain vigilant during this public health crisis. As conditions improve and the governor continues to turn the dial and lift restrictions on businesses, some executive orders will remain important: a moratorium on evictions, a ban on price gouging, a mask mandate, and orders that ensure Minnesota continues to be among the nation’s leaders in vaccine distribution. If Senate Republicans oppose those specific policies, they should say so."