Legislature revokes Walz’s emergency powers

Walz said as recently as Friday that he would hold on to his powers until August 1.

The House unanimously supported ending the governor's emergency powers. (Sen. John Jasinski/Facebook)

After more than 450 long days, Gov. Tim Walz’s COVID-19 peacetime emergency will come to an end Thursday.

The House and Senate voted early Wednesday morning to strip the governor of his emergency powers as part of a larger budget bill. The amendment to end the emergency received unanimous approval in the DFL-controlled House.

“Ending emergency powers is a legislative prerogative,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, whose party has voted dozens of times to revoke Walz’s unilateral authority.

“The governor has held onto these powers far too long and used them far too broadly. We’ve been clear that we were going to end these powers, so I’m not surprised Walz tried to outmaneuver us — but he does not get to say he let them go. The emergency is over because the Senate and the House said so,” he added.

Shortly before the House took a vote on the proposal, Gov. Walz announced that he would end the emergency powers himself, claiming it was part of his plan all along.

“The peacetime emergency also made Minnesotans eligible for federal hunger-relief funding for 15 months. Our agreement with our federal partners to extend those benefits for Minnesotans, coupled with the thoughtful plan outlined in the House Democrats’ amendment to wind down the emergency response in state government, means that we can close this chapter of our history and celebrate the brighter days ahead,” Walz said in a press release.

Gazelka, however, had a different version of events.

“Our Republican-led Senate had already voted to end Walz’s emergency powers, and after intense negotiations with the House, they were about to do the same — against the governor’s wishes. With his hand forced, the Democratic governor announced in an 11:40 p.m. news release that he would end them himself,” Gazelka said in an email.

Walz said as recently as Friday that he would hold on to his powers until August 1. The governor first declared a peacetime emergency in March 2020 and has extended his powers 15 times.