Updated: October 12, 2020 06:42 PM
Created: October 12, 2020 11:46 AM
Gov. Tim Walz on Monday signed an executive order extending Minnesota's COVID-19 peacetime emergency.
"My top priority remains the health and safety of Minnesotans," said Walz. "As we watch cases rise dramatically in states around us, we must double down in our efforts to protect Minnesota from the spread of COVID-19."
Walz's office said the emergency gives the state flexibility in responding to issues from the pandemic. It provides protection against evictions and wage garnishment, expedites procurement power for personal protective equipment, allows the state to implement strategic reopening phases, implements a statewide mask mandate, and covers working condition protections and economic relief.
"The next stages of this virus will continue to present a challenge, especially to underserved communities," added Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan. "By extending the peacetime emergency, we have quick access to the tools we need to keep Minnesotans safe."
The order was approved by the Executive Council.
The only thing that could have prevented the emergency powers from continuing would be the Minnesota Legislature. On Monday, the Republican-controlled Senate did vote 36 to 31 to end the powers with one Democrat voting with Republicans. However, the Minnesota House voted 69 to 64 to not even take up the issue which means the powers will continue.
"We were here just a month ago having this same conversation discussing the fact that while this is serious it is no longer an emergency," Deputy Minority Leader Anne Neu, R-North Branch, said during a debate over suspending House rules to allow a vote. "That is our position. This is no longer an emergency, it's serious, not an emergency. That was a month ago and yet we continued the emergency powers, the emergency declaration."
Democrats argued in favor of continuing the emergency powers.
"To eliminate the peacetime emergency today without suitable or well-articulated alternative would only jeopardize the health, safety and immediate and long-term economic security of our fellow Minnesotans," said Rep. Hunter Cantrell, DFL-Savage.
Although the House and Senate disagreed over emergency powers they are close to final agreement on a $1.35 billion bonding bill. The House will be back in session Tuesday and Wednesday working on it and the Senate will come back on Thursday.
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