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Time to End One-Man Rule

Minnesota’s Constitution establishes a republican form of government in which legislative power resides exclusively in the House and Senate. The powers of the Governor are enumerated in Article V of the state’s Constitution. Issuance of executive orders is not one of the Governor’s enumerated powers.

Beginning in 1951, Minnesota’s Legislature has empowered the Governor to declare emergencies and to issue orders, as specified in Minn. Stat. Sec. 12.21, in response to such emergencies. These powers were conferred on the Governor because emergencies–floods, tornadoes, and so on–can require immediate action. The executive is inherently able act faster than the legislature, and in any event, Minnesota’s House and Senate are usually not in session and therefore not in a position to act promptly in response to a natural disaster or other emergency.

Neither Minnesota’s Constitution nor Chapter 12 of the Minnesota Statutes contemplates that a Governor will declare a permanent emergency and claim dictatorial statewide powers–in effect, martial law–as a result. Once an initial emergency has passed, it is the legislature, not the Governor, that has the constitutional authority to determine public policy.

Minnesota’s Governor Tim Walz declared an emergency in response to the COVID-19 epidemic on March 13, 2020. The Governor’s subsequent orders have been breathtakingly broad, literally requiring all Minnesotans to remain in their homes except as permitted by their self-appointed ruler to engage in normal activities. The alleged “emergency” declared on March 13 continues, even though COVID currently accounts for nowhere near 10 percent of all hospitalizations in the state.

As of this writing, Minnesota has been held hostage to Governor Walz’s one-man rule for 224 days. This is an outrageous abuse of the Governor’s powers under Section 12.21. Minnesota’s Constitution was never intended to allow one-man rule, indefinitely. The state of “emergency” under which Minnesota has labored for more than seven months must end. Now.

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