Executive Council approves 30-day extension of governor's emergency powers

Rebecca Omastiak
Updated: April 14, 2021 08:18 PM
Created: April 14, 2021 08:08 AM

Gov. Tim Walz requested a 30-day extension of emergency powers Wednesday morning and it was unanimously granted by the five-member Minnesota Executive Council. It's the 13th time he's requested a 30-day extension under state law since first declaring a state of emergency in March of 2020.

During the executive council meeting, Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm outlined the reasons why the extension is needed to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic..

"The case for extension of a peacetime emergency is again very straightforward and compelling," she told the council. "Case growth per 100-thousand on a rolling seven day average is three times our high-risk threshold once again. Hospitalizations and ICU admissions are trending up. We tripled the number of beds in use for COVID care from early March until now."

Walz acknowledged the lawmakers who wrote the emergency powers nearly a century ago probably never envisioned an emergency this long.

"I don't know if they could have anticipated a 14-month ongoing emergency," he said. "So I think those are valid discussions."

The governor and health commissioner say emergency powers allow them to create vaccination centers and testing sites faster than under normal state contracting regulations.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says there should be more checks and balances on the powers that the governor and an executive council made up entirely of Democrats.

"The vast extensiveness of the emergency powers into every area of many people's lives is what we've been passionately opposed to," Gazelka said this week. "And a lot of states have emergency powers but...the governor's used it much more broadly than many other states."

The executive council has unanimously approved the extension of emergency powers 13 times. The Senate has voted to end the powers several times, but the DFL-controlled House has not voted to end them. It would take a vote of the executive council or both chambers to end the emergency powers.

"From building a vast testing network to control the spread of the virus, to standing up vaccine clinics virtually overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic has demanded swift action from state officials," Walz said. "As we work to outpace the spread of variants by getting the vaccine to Minnesotans across the state, we cannot afford to lose speed."


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