Senate hears legislation that curbs governor's emergency powers

Senate lawmakers passed a similar bill last session with bipartisan support by a vote of 36-31.

Minnesota Legislature File Photo.jpg
The Minnesota Senate convenes at the state Capitol in St. Paul. (Forum News Service file photo)

The Minnesota Senate’s State Government Finance & Policy Committee heard Tuesday, Feb. 9, legislation intended to reassert a fair balance of governing power between the legislative branch and the executive branch during future states of emergency.

The bill would require the governor to obtain legislative approval to extend any emergency declaration beyond 30 days. This differs from current law, which allows the governor to extend a peacetime emergency indefinitely for 30 days at a time and only grants the legislature the option to cancel emergency powers with a majority vote of both the House and Senate.

“Minnesota families are depending on the legislature and the governor to work together to find solutions that keep them safe and help our state emerge from this pandemic,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, stated in a news release. “What they do not expect is for Minnesota to continue to operate as we did at the start of the pandemic where one person uses their authority to craft one-size-fits-all solutions to be the law of the land.”

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka


“As we edge closer to the one-year mark of Governor Walz’s emergency powers, I once again find myself asking why he refuses to give them up and work with the legislature,” Gazelka furthermore stated “What measurement indicates when the governor will relinquish his authority? What goal remains to be attained? The governor must recognize that these powers were never intended to be used to this length. We must reach a compromise and show that together we are committed to keeping residents safe and getting Minnesota back on track.”

Senate Republicans introduced the same legislation last session where it passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 36-31. Walz has offered to end his emergency powers, but only if legislators agree first to pass a list of his demands.

Other provisions included in the legislation:

  • The bill requires the governor to give three days’ notice to the majority and minority leaders of each body if they intend to extend a peacetime emergency when the Legislature is not in session.

  • The bill prohibits the governor from canceling an emergency order and issuing a new declaration for the same emergency in order to avoid approval by the Legislature.

The bill clarifies that if the governor declares two peacetime emergencies concurrently, the same legislative approval of any extension past 30 days is required for the second emergency.

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