Rep introduces bill that would imprison governor for unilaterally declaring emergencies

The objective is for the bill to become effective immediately if it is passed.

Left: Rep. Erik Mortensen/Minnesota House. Right: Gov. Tim Walz/Minnesota Governor's Office.

Rep. Erik Mortensen, R-Shakopee, introduced a bill that would take away the governor’s power to unilaterally declare a peacetime emergency or to issue executive orders that are treated as law.

The Unilateral Emergency Powers Repeal Act, HF 2204, would require a two-thirds majority vote from the House and Senate to declare a peacetime emergency.

In an email, Mortensen said, “By unilaterally declaring emergency powers, Walz completely eradicated our republican form of government and started becoming the supreme lawmaker of the land.” This bill would take away that ability.

Second, HF 2204 would not allow the governor’s executive orders to be treated as law, in the event that the Legislature does declare an emergency.

“The purpose of executive orders is for a governor to direct government agencies and workers, not to order citizens to do or not do something,” Action 4 Liberty said in a statement regarding the bill. “Unfortunately, Walz has treated executive orders as a power similar to that of a king.”

The bill clarifies that issuing “orders that carry the full force and effect of law” is a power granted only to the legislative branch.

“Nothing in this chapter authorizes the governor or the state director” to create laws unilaterally, the bill reads.

Next, Mortensen’s legislation implements jail time for a governor who violates these rules. For overstepping his powers, the governor would be subject to a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail.

Currently, the law on emergency powers punishes citizens who violate executive orders with these penalties, but HF 2204 reverses the punishment.

The bill also reasserts the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and prohibits the governor from infringing on those rights.

“In case the courts have any question about what a governor can or cannot do during an emergency, we spell out the rights that are protected,” Mortensen wrote in an email.

Mortensen previously introduced articles of impeachment against Walz and legislation that would suspend the governor’s pay while his restrictions on businesses remain in place.

“In the last year we’ve been locked in our homes, had our economy shut down, been forced to wear masks and watched as COVID-positive patients were brought into nursing homes. All because one man decreed it from St. Paul,” Mortensen added.

Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, has signed onto the bill as a co-author. The objective is for the bill to become effective immediately if it is passed, which is unlikely in the DFL-controlled House.