Anniversaries often recognize momentous occasions. Wedding dates often come to mind, particularly a couple’s 25th or 50th commemoration.
On March 13, Minnesota will note the anniversary of what has become a very controversial decision. It is the date Governor Walz utilized emergency powers to better respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Back then, little was known about the coronavirus. The governor believed models that predicted 74,000 deaths just in Minnesota if we did nothing, and more than 50,000 deaths if he shut down the state.
It’s safe to say these predictions were way off. And it’s also safe to say the “emergency” phase of this pandemic ended months ago in Minnesota. Despite this, the governor has resisted all calls to relinquish this power.
Four times this past week – bringing the total to 16 times in the past year – House Republicans voted to end the governor’s one person rule over Minnesotans through his emergency powers. However, the Democrats are the majority party in the House, and not one of them voted with us, keeping Governor Walz’s unilateral authority in place.
Why do I believe it is time relinquish his control? Let’s look at the facts. Nearly 70% of senior citizens in Minnesota – the group most at risk from COVID-19 – have been vaccinated. Vaccine eligibility has been expanded in the state. Hospital intensive care bed use in Minnesota is at its lowest rate since last July. The virus is still with us and will be forever as all viruses are, but we are no longer in a state of emergency. Far from it.
Emergency powers were meant to be used for an immediate response over a short period of time. If the legislature was not in session and a city was leveled by a tornado and needed state assistance, that is the perfect time to use emergency powers. Last March, when Minnesota had no idea what it was facing with COVID-19, it was also an acceptable use of emergency powers. One year later, however, we know much more about the coronavirus, and our population is educated about prevention and getting vaccinated to prevent its spread, yet the governor and the House majority have done nothing to take back this power.
Too many Owatonna and Waseca residents and businesses have been operating under restrictions for nearly a year. It’s time the governor brings forward a plan that gives them hope, and it’s also time for his unilateral rule to end. Whether we are under emergency or not, all of us will still have the options to social distance, wear masks or even remain home, but it would then be up to each of us and not Governor Walz.