State Republican leaders continue to attempt to throw sand in the gears of the state’s well-oiled emergency powers system, which has allowed Gov. Tim Walz to adeptly manage the COVID crisis.
The Senate Republican majority would effectively handcuff a chief executive in times of emergency with partisan gridlock. A plan proposed by GOP Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound, would require both houses of the Legislature to approve plans to extend the governor’s emergency powers. The current system allows extensions of emergency powers unless both houses vote to end them.
While Senate Republicans have tried numerous times to end the powers, a DFL-controlled House has not gone along.
The Republican plan falls short on a number of counts. The state’s system of emergency powers already provides a check against the governor’s power. The state’s Executive Council, made up of the attorney general, the state auditor, secretary of state, the governor and lieutenant governor, by law are charged with approving executive orders.
All the members are Democrats, and if Republicans want a check against the governor’s power, they should get elected to those positions.
The system was set up for emergencies. The Legislature is set up as a slow, deliberative process that simply would be unable to agree to anything in an emergency. It can barely come to agreement in times without emergencies.
Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has threatened to use the proposal as leverage in end-of-session budget negotiations between Walz, the House and Senate. That’s another bad idea.
It amounts to Republicans holding funding for schools, roads and health care hostage while it tries to do an end-run around the election process.
Walz has made significant efforts to include Republicans in his emergency powers plans. He has also built constituencies among business and other typically Republican groups for his plans to attack the COVID crisis.
Walz hasn’t been perfect in all his emergency powers acts. But he has done well, as evidenced by the recoiling of COVID in Minnesota.
We don’t need to change the system of emergency powers. It works. It balances the interests of the governor and legislative branches and has the check of the executive council. The system works well for whoever is governor.