Gazelka warns against unchecked executive orders

man speaks in front of microphones
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, talks to reporters following the first floor session of the 2020 legislative session on Tuesday, Feb. 11, in St. Paul.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Updated: 6:40 p.m.

The top Republican in the Minnesota Senate is telling Gov. Tim Walz that the Legislature is ready to do its part on matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With executive orders from the governor piling up, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said Senate Republicans are ready to come back into session and pass legislation to respond to the health crisis.

Gazelka said the governor’s leadership is necessary, but it should not be unilateral and unchecked. He said a recent executive order on unemployment insurance, for example, is a change of state statute and does not appear to pass constitutional standards.

“Senate Republicans would prefer to work with the governor within the legislative process where we can facilitate testimony, oversight and ultimately approval of his action,” Gazelka said.

Gazelka said the Senate intends to hold limited committee hearings soon. But first, he said strict guidelines are needed on how to gather, how to allow for public testimony and how to protect the health of participants.

“Senate Republicans want Minnesotans to know we are here and ready to do our jobs,” he said.

In a letter to Gazelka, Minnesota DFL Attorney General Keith Ellison responded to his comments, defending the governor’s actions.

“As Minnesota’s chief legal officer, I want to assure you that the governor is operating well within his statutory and constitutional authority,” Ellison said.

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