Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka speaks during a press conference on Jun 2, 2021. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer.
Senate and House Republicans are clashing with DFL Gov. Tim Walz over his emergency powers and calling on him to lift his eviction moratorium, taking their dispute public on Wednesday amid private budget negotiations.
Walz last month announced a broad budget deal with legislative leaders hours before the regular legislative session adjourned. Since then, working groups of select lawmakers have been meeting privately, negotiating the specifics of a $52 billion two-year budget.
The press conference by Republicans is one of the first public updates about the state of budget negotiations and signals that Republicans are still at odds with Walz over his use of emergency powers to manage the pandemic.
Under the budget agreement signed by Walz, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, and House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, all policy disputes need to be resolved by Friday in order for lawmakers to return and pass the budget during a special session tentatively scheduled for June 14.
“We will figure it out,” Gazelka said, assuring lawmakers will pass a new budget before July 1 when a partial state government shutdown would be triggered.
More than 38,000 state employees have received layoff notices as state government leaders begin planning for a potential shutdown.
The fate of a number of policies is still unclear as the country’s only divided Legislature continues debating disparate priorities: for Republicans, they include Voter ID, the rollback of new emission standards and ending Walz’s emergency powers. For Democrats, they include paid family leave, expanding voting rights and legalization of recreational marijuana.
Hortman on Friday signaled that many policy priorities for both Republicans and Democrats were likely to end in disappointment as a compromise would likely push off contentious policies to a future legislative session.
Gazelka said lawmakers should be prepared to stay as long as necessary in a special session to pass a budget, leaving open the possibility that a special session could drag on if stalemates over the budget and policies continue.
The GOP legislation would terminate Walz’s ability to call a peacetime emergency, which would vastly limit his powers to manage a public health emergency, but the bill would allow the health department to declare an emergency for the purposes of qualifying for federal aid. It would also allow Walz to oversee procurement and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Because the legislation would terminate the peacetime emergency, it would void many of Walz’s executive orders, including the eviction moratorium.
Walz’s office said it had identified “a number of holes and issues” with the GOP proposal, saying it would lead to the immediate evictions of people who fell behind on their rent during the pandemic.
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