Gov. Tim Walz recently filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought against him regarding his use of emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawsuit was filed on May 28 by four members of the New House Republican Caucus, the Free Minnesota Coalition, and at least eight businesses across the state. The complaint argues that the governor does not have the authority to “suspend the constitutional rights of Minnesotans.”
Another argument in the lawsuit claims that Minnesota law does not authorize the governor to invoke emergency powers for public health purposes.
Additionally, the lawsuit argues that all of the governor’s coronavirus-related executive orders are illegitimate because the statutory authority he relied upon (Minnesota Statutes 12.31) is unconstitutional. The statute is unconstitutional because it authorizes a legislative veto on the extension of peacetime emergencies, but the Minnesota Constitution does not provide for legislative veto powers.
The lawsuit also accuses Walz of violating the “non-delegation doctrine,” since his executive orders are an “exercise of pure legislative power without judicial oversight.”
Nine additional Republican lawmakers added their names to the lawsuit last month after Walz extended his peacetime emergency declaration for another 30 days.
The courts ordered the Walz administration to provide legal justification for its actions no later than June 18. According to Republicans, Walz did not address many of the arguments presented in their lawsuit, but claimed that his actions were constitutional because the pandemic was an “act of nature” rather than a public health crisis.
On behalf of the governor, Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit last week.
In a statement released on the eve of Independence Day, the New House Republican Caucus said Minnesotans now find themselves “in the strange position of celebrating our freedoms when many of them have been taken away, not by COVID-19, but by the actions of our government in response to COVID-19.”
The statement continued:
On March 13, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Waltz issued Emergency Executive Order 20-01 declaring a peacetime emergency under Minnesota Statutes 12.31. Since then, the Governor has issued 76 peacetime emergency executive orders, dealing with nearly every facet of the daily lives of Minnesotans personal and working lives. He has mandated the closure of businesses resulting in the destruction of livelihoods and has selectively allowed others to open only under an immense regulatory burden, threat of fines, and worse.
But apart from the economic impact of these actions by Governor Walz is the way that they have impacted our civil liberties. The Governor has dictated how and where we can gather, in churches, high school graduation ceremonies, weddings, and funerals.
Now, months after anti-COVID 19 measures were first put in place, a funeral still has more restrictions than a big box store. Elective surgeries were postponed for months (except for abortions) with continuing impacts on the lives and well-being of Minnesotans.
In question is not merely the Governor’s leadership during this crisis but also the legal construct upon which his emergency powers are based. Chapter 12 of Minnesota Statutes and particularly 12.31 are unconstitutional. This is not a partisan view, as the law and changes to it were passed under both DFL and GOP legislatures and administrations. But these laws are fundamentally flawed because they conflict with basic concepts enshrined in the Minnesota constitution: strong statements about the separation of powers, the prohibitions of one branch usurping another’s powers, the delegation of powers, and that there is no legislative veto. If these parts of the constitution have been re-interpreted in practice so far as to be meaningless, we have a much bigger problem as a state and a free people.
For these and other reasons, we joined a lawsuit challenging these injuries to our rights and freedoms. We also challenged the Governor’s attack on the Legislature and the Judiciary by usurping the powers granted to those institutions in the Minnesota Constitution. As legislators, we are especially aware of the Governor’s ability to extend his powers because of the partisan division between House and Senate, all the while complaining that the Legislature isn’t enacting policies he wants when he calls it into session. Arguments about the Legislature’s inability to act in a timely manner misrepresent the truth when the Governor can call it back into session any time and has been able to do it when he wants his powers extended another 30 days.
We have just submitted our response to Attorney General Keith Ellison’s motion to dismiss with these and other arguments and hope to see our view sustained in the courts.
On the eve of this Independence Day, Governor Walz has announced that he is contemplating mandating the wearing of masks by all healthy Minnesotans despite the mixed evidence that they have done anything to prevent the spread of COVID. He’s already told us why wearing masks is important – as a show of solidarity that we are complying with health regulations. Americans reject propaganda and empty symbolic gestures. They value reason, logic and authenticity. We trust that those qualities will guide us through this dark chapter in our state’s history.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Minnesota State Representatives Steve Drazkowski, Cal Bahr, Tim Miller, and Jeremy Munson” by Minnesota State Representatives Steve Drazkowski, Cal Bahr, Tim Miller, and Jeremy Munson; and “Gov Tim Walz” is by Gov Tim Walz.