Gov. Tim Walz extended the state's peacetime emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic for another 30 days, triggering a fourth special session of the Minnesota Legislature.
The Friday special session could feature another political fight over the DFL governor's use of executive powers. Republicans who control the state Senate want Walz to end the emergency and work with the Legislature on Minnesota's coronavirus response.
"The virus is real and serious. AND the Governor no longer needs unilateral powers to battle it," Senate Republican Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, tweeted last week. "[Minnesota] is best served by the Governor working with the legislative body as an equal partner."
The governor's office has argued that the emergency status, which has been used in all 50 states, allows officials to respond quickly to the pandemic. Dozens of executive orders, covering everything from an eviction moratorium to regulatory relief to the statewide mask mandate, would expire if the emergency ended.
"While Minnesota has taken life-saving action, the threat of COVID-19 remains," Walz said in a statement. "It's imperative that we have the tools necessary to respond to this rapidly evolving virus quickly and decisively in order to safeguard the health and well-being of each and every Minnesotan."
The special session, triggered by Walz's decision to extend the orders, is meant to give legislators the opportunity to override the governor and end a state of emergency themselves. Such efforts have passed the Senate but not the DFL-controlled House in previous summer sessions.
In addition to the debate over the emergency powers, Friday's session could spell trouble for some top officials in the Walz administration. Senate Republicans are weighing whether to hold confirmation votes on several agency heads appointed by the governor. The upper chamber voted to oust Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Nancy Leppink last month.