Greeting Friends & Neighbors,
Earlier this week, I shared with you a letter sent to Governor Walz that I authored concerning Executive Order 20-09. Yesterday, Thursday April 30th during the governor’s news conference, he announced that indeed restrictions on elective surgeries will be modified. Earlier in the week, Governor Walz authorized health care workers who were not licensed in Minnesota to practice in Minnesota. At the same time, health care facilities and their staff from all across our state have been laying-off or furloughing employees for lack of work. We should all be in agreement that restoring health care access to all Minnesotan’s is a move in the right direction. Of all industries serving Minnesota, the health care industry is clearly the most qualified to carry on its business with the safety and protocols necessary to prevent the risks of spreading the Covid-19 virus to its patients. It is welcome news to begin dealing with the health anomalies of all Minnesotans. Bringing our health care workers back to full employment and begin relieving the backlog of patient cases that have been accumulating since Executive Order 20-09 was issued.
On other news, Governor Walz has extended the “stay in shelter” order to May 18th, for an additional two weeks. That day is also the scheduled end of the 2020 legislative session.
I have received enumerable email messages and calls demanding an end to the Peacetime Emergency Declaration. Whether you agree or disagree with the governor’s actions and the powers provided to him, I will describe for you State Statute 12.31 which grants the executive special powers resulting from such a declaration.
Upon the declaration of a peacetime emergency by the governor, the governor is granted five (5) days special powers through executive orders to take action for a peacetime emergency. Most emergencies have dealt with weather related emergencies such as floods, tornados, and blizzards. A few decades ago, the National Guard was mobilized in southern Minnesota to secure continued operation of critical infrastructure of our food supply chain. Covid-19 has exposed weaknesses in Minnesota law.
After the expiration or lapse of five (5) days, the governor’s emergency declaration ends unless he asks for an extension of time which may be granted by the executive council for an additional 25 days. The executive council is comprised of all of the state constitutional officers. The legislature may intervene by revoking peacetime emergency powers of the governor and the executive council while in session, by passing a resolution revoking those powers which requires a majority vote by members in both the senate and the house. Resolutions do not require the signature of the governor.
Any peacetime emergency declaration and requests by the governor for extension(s) thereof, which may expire when the legislature in not in session, the governor must first, call the legislature back into session to provide the legislature an opportunity to revoke such a request. Three resolutions have been brought before the House of Representatives during these past two weeks to end the peacetime emergency. None have been fully heard or discussed, all having failed on procedural votes blocked by the majority to waive the rules to permit debating or discussing them.
Having examined Mn. Statute 12.31, the powers afforded the executive branch are written in such a manner that the co-equal branches of government and the consent of the governed through its representatives are not equal in this circumstance. The Covid-19 issue and the extensions of time having been granted to date have exacerbated a fundamental flaw in the statute as written.
I have introduced H.F. 4592, which aims to restore a balance of power between our constitutionally designed co-equal branches of government with the consent of the governed through its representative government. In a nutshell, the major change I am proposing would require an affirmative vote of both chambers to extend additional extensions of time for powers afforded the governor AFTER the first 30 days as now written. We can all agree that emergencies require swift and expedient action. The first part of the current legislation does provide special powers for up to 30 days and beyond as we have now discovered.
H.F. 4592 would change the procedures after the first 30 days and restore greater balance of power to supposedly co-equal branches of government. I do not consider it likely that this legislation will get any legs this session, but strongly believe that we have discovered a statute that could be greatly abused into the future. Every legislator should be on record of voting in the affirmative to suspend the liberties afforded under our constitution.
I hope that this explanation of how Minnesota Statute is written demonstrates the weakness of the legislature to intervene during an emergency declaration.
Rep. Jerry Hertaus