The Potluck

Senate Republicans signal decreasing tolerance for Walz executive orders.

By: - March 19, 2020 12:32 pm

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka

Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, signalled that his GOP caucus is running out of patience with Gov. Tim Walz’s continued use of executive orders to manage the COVID-19 crisis. 

“While we understand the necessity of Gov. Walz to lead in this time of crisis, that leadership should not be unilateral and unchecked,” he said in a statement Thursday. 

Gazelka cited Walz’s unilateral broadening of unemployment insurance, which he said, “does not appear to pass constitutional standards.”

The unease comes amid a declaration of peacetime emergency and a series of Walz executive orders that have shuttered restaurants and bars among several other actions to stem the outbreak of COVID-19. 

Former government lawyers say the constitutional issues are dicey, especially if and when the legislative branch decides to challenge Walz’s peacetime emergency powers. The Legislature can rescind those powers in 30 days. 

Gazelka added: “Senate Republicans would prefer to work with the governor within the legislative process where we can facilitate testimony, oversight and ultimately approval of his actions.”

The majority leader, who is the top Republican in state government, said the Senate GOP is working with public health officials to determine how to safely conduct legislative business. 

Walz released an executive order Monday that allows workers to collect unemployment benefits if a medical authority ordered them to avoid contact with others; have been instructed not to come to work due to an outbreak of a communicable disease; or, are missing work because their children’s school or child care facility is closed — provided the worker made “reasonable effort” to obtain an alternative.

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children