ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Walz on Friday, Feb. 12, said he'd again extend Minnesota's peacetime emergency to fight the coronavirus, setting up one year of his enhanced authority and irking Republican lawmakers who have mounted efforts to roll back Walz's directives.
After the order gets a green light from the state's Executive Council Friday night, it will keep in place dozens of directives that have allowed the state to scale up testing capacity and to deploy the Minnesota National Guard, as well as to temporarily require Minnesotans to stay at home unless completing essential tasks and limit various sectors of public life.
And the extension will allow the governor to continue issuing emergency orders without the approval of the Legislature.
It was March 13, 2020, that Walz issued his first executive order declaring a peacetime emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Friday's announcement came as the existing emergency was set to lapse over the weekend and as new COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths trended downward in the state, while the number of Minnesotans vaccinated against the disease inched upward.
“We are still in this emergency,” Walz said. “If I don’t want hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans to be evicted, if I don’t want my ability to order PPE and to shift the National Guard to give vaccines, all of that would end if the emergency orders that are being used by 49 out of 50 governors are brought back.”
Walz has urged leaders in the divided Statehouse to codify some of the protections and authorities laid out in the executive orders as part of a pathway to ending the peacetime emergency. That would mean the changes would be put in state law and that means they wouldn't lift if the state of emergency expired.
But Republicans have opposed some of the governor's orders and have sought to end the peacetime emergency so that they could be more actively involved in drafting the state's COVID-19 response.
"Continuing to go it alone with emergency powers and universal control over the dials is unwise," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said in a news release. "It leaves Minnesotans without clear expectations for future changes affecting their livelihoods and ability to support their families."