Updated 4:30 p.m.
With a special session coming up mid-month, Republicans in the House and Senate are pressing DFL Gov. Tim Walz to end the emergency powers he first declared over a year ago, but a spokesperson for Walz says the powers are still needed.
The Republicans say the COVID-19 emergency is over and Walz should no longer be able to take action on matters without legislative consent. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said Wednesday that there were Republican bills introduced last month, including one passed by the Senate, that would end the emergency in an orderly way.
“We have a path to dramatically reduce emergency powers,” Gazelka said. “There could be some other directions. Our preference would be that we remove them totally. But if it just focuses on the things that receive the federal money, specifically related to COVID, that would be a good thing.”
Rep. Barb Haley, R-Red Wing, said a bill she has authored would take away emergency powers but still allow the governor to distribute vaccines and receive federal money.
“The emergency is over. We’re going to provide the governor the things he needs to do to manage COVID, and we’re going to restore the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government.”
A spokesperson for Walz pointed out that 44 out of 50 states are still in a state of emergency, and that Walz has rescinded many of his emergency orders, including limits on business capacity and the statewide mask mandate.
“Gov. Walz is committed to working with the Legislature and finding bipartisan solutions to improve the State’s response to emergencies, said Walz spokesperson Teddy Tschann. “Unfortunately, the proposal put forward by Minnesota Republicans is not a serious plan – it would slow down vaccination, jeopardize hundreds of millions of dollars in hunger relief, and end the eviction moratorium overnight with no plan to provide an off ramp for renters or landlords as we come out of the pandemic.”
Lawmakers will address the emergency powers that Walz wants extended during the special session, where they’ll also need to finish the budget work uncompleted last month. A budget bill is needed by the end of the month to avoid a government shutdown.
Gazelka said working groups are trying to reach agreements on individual budget bills ahead of the special session. The spending targets were set two weeks ago.
“We will stay back until we’re done. We’re not going to just be in for a day. We’re going to make sure we get it done,” Gazelka said.
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