Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, outlined his caucus’ legislative priorities Friday as the legislative clock winds down to Sunday night, this session’s deadline for bills to pass.
Gazelka said his priority is to cut spending now given the state’s projected $2.4 billion budget deficit. He said public sector unions should forego across-the-board salary raises contained in several labor contracts that still require legislative approval, but Gov. Tim Walz and House DFLers have pushed for their ratification.
“I’m hoping they realize we are serious about that,” Gazelka said, saying state workers should shoulder some of the economic pain more than 600,000 unemployed Minnesotans are feeling.
He said foregoing raises would also help stave off potential job cuts in state government.
Senate Republicans will also continue pressing for a tax bill that would defer tax payments for small businesses, as well as exempt farm equipment purchases from state taxes.
Gazelka also reaffirmed his optimism that a major public infrastructure will come together before lawmakers adjourn on Monday. He said he expected the bill to be north of $1 billion, roughly half what the House DFL is proposing.
New Supreme Court Justice
Walz on Friday also appointed Nobles County District Court Judge Gordon Moore to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Moore will replace retiring Justice David Lillehaug, who will step down on July 31. Lillehaug was appointed in 2013 and announced his retirement last year after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
The finalists for the post included Court of Appeals Judges Diane Bratvold and Jeffrey Bryan, and Chief Deputy Attorney General John Keller. Gordon Moore is a former Nobles County Attorney and has also served on the local school board.
“Judge Moore has been a public servant in Southern Minnesota since his days serving on the local school board,” Walz said in a statement. “Supreme Court Justices decide some of the most pressing and significant questions of our time, and the feedback from Judge Moore’s peers was resounding: he is a brilliant jurist and a leader in his community. He has spent his career working hard for the people of Southern Minnesota, and he will bring a fair and respected voice to the Minnesota Supreme Court.”
Senate GOP passes bill to curb Walz emergency power
Minnesota Senators voted Friday on a bill that would give the Legislature more input on Gov. Tim Walz’s peacetime emergency declarations.
The bill, authored by Sen. Daivd Osmek, R-Mound, would require the Legislature to approve any extensions to a governor’s 30 day peacetime emergency declaration. Republican lawmakers have increasingly criticized Walz’s continued use of executive powers during the state’s peacetime emergency. The legislation passed largely on a party-line vote.
Under current statute, the Legislature can vote to end a peacetime emergency after 30 days. The bill would amend the law to instead require a majority of the House and Senate to approve any extensions.
“What it says is instead of the legislative branch being a passive group or a passive part of a peacetime order, that we are active,” Olmek said.
“[Walz] has taken the advantage of the Dmeocrat control in the House. As long as he keeps them on his side he can have emergency powers as long as he wants,” Westrom said.
Sen. Nick Frenz, DLF-North Mankato, opposed the bill, claiming the immediate nature of emergencies like the current pandemic require immediate action from the governor. Frez also called the provision a “poke in the eye” to Walz, noting the bill would most likely fail in the Democrat-majority House.
Sen. Matt Little, DFL-Lakeville, also questioned whether the bill would require approval from the Legislature to declare another state of emergency for a resurgence of COVID-19 later on.