Walz: No special session if Malcolm’s job is at risk

Gov. Tim Walz
Gov. Tim Walz speaks at a press conference on Aug. 10. Walz said Tuesday he would not put Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm in the position of facing a vote by the Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate to fire her.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News file

Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday he is rethinking plans to call a special legislative session next month, after a senior Senate Republican told a Capitol rally that he's ready to oust the state's health commissioner.

The special session had been planned to approve special bonus pay for essential pandemic workers. The Legislature set aside $250 million for the bonuses, and a special committee of lawmakers has been working on a plan for how to divide it up.

On Saturday, Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said at a rally against mask and vaccine mandates that he would like the GOP-controlled Senate to oust Jan Malcolm, the Walz administration's point person on COVID. 

Abeler and other Republicans have been critical of Walz's emergency powers and public health restrictions, and Abeler said, “It seems the only language the governor understands is the removal of another commissioner.”

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At the State Fair Tuesday, Walz was asked whether he would consider not calling a special session if Malcolm’s job were at risk. 

“Yes, it would give me pause,” Walz said. “I am not going to lose in the middle of a spike of the delta variant at a time when school is starting, the absurdity and recklessness and quite honestly the dangerous talk that you would get rid of the state's top health advisor and leader makes no sense. So I'm not going to put her in that position.”

Walz also said claims by Abeler at the Saturday rally that vaccines had killed hundreds of Minnesotans are unfounded and untrue.

“This type of reckless behavior in terms of those types of gatherings for short-term political gain is something I had never witnessed,” Walz said. “It worries me deeply.”