Minnesota Senate Passes Change to Require Legislative Approval for Future Peacetime Emergencies

On Monday, the Senate passed on a tripartisan vote of 38-29, legislation to reassert a fair balance of governing power between the legislative branch and the executive branch during future states of emergency. The bill, chief-authored by Senator David Osmek (R-Mound), would require the executive branch to obtain legislative approval to extend any emergency declaration beyond 30 days. 

Senate File 4 differs from current law, which allows the executive branch to extend a peacetime emergency indefinitely for 30 days at a time and only grants the legislature the option to cancel emergency powers with a majority vote of both the House and Senate. 

“For over a year now, one person in Minnesota has made decisions on laws, created laws, and imposed imprisonment and financial punishment on Minnesotans that have disobeyed those laws without the input of the legislature and the people’s elected voices in government,” said Sen. Osmek. “This behavior completely undermines Minnesota’s coequal balance of powers and has afforded one man nearly total control over our state.” 

“Emergency powers are meant to react to immediate threats, which we can agree we’re past now. Despite this, the Governor continues to hold his authority. Clearly, Governor Walz is now stretching the authority further than the original authors intended. This legislation helps define the window of ‘emergency,’ making it clear that after 30 days, it’s time to work with the legislative branch. Minnesotans expect more of their government. They don’t want czar-like leadership. They want cooperation and common ground solutions that will make Minnesota a better and safer place. S.F. 4 helps us get back to that.” 

“We’ve learned a lot from how we manage emergencies over the last year. One thing that has been made clear is one-man control is not helpful for prolonged periods,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake). “In the beginning, emergency powers made sense to help us flatten the curve, stand up supply chains, and prepare our hospitals and clinics for a potential surge. And Governor Walz worked with the legislature to explain the need and purpose for each decision. However,” Sen. Gazelka continued, “with the balance of power shifted to the executive, the trust needed to work together has completely eroded. Forty states are looking at changes to emergency powers. This bill puts the legislature back at the table to find common ground, mutual agreement, and better serve the entire state.” 

Minnesota is not alone in the effort to review and change emergency powers. According to the National Council on State Legislatures, 40 states are considering measures to limit executive authority and power. This same change in Minnesota was proposed at the end of the 2020 legislative session and passed the Senate with bipartisan support. The House failed to vote on the measure.  

Other provisions included in the legislation: 

  • The bill requires the Governor to give three days’ notice to the majority and minority leaders of each body if they intend to extend a peacetime emergency when the legislature is not in session. 
  • The bill prohibits the Governor from canceling an emergency order and issuing a new declaration for the same emergency in order to avoid approval by the legislature. 
  • The bill clarifies that if the Governor declares two peacetime emergencies concurrently, the same legislative approval of any extension past 30 days is required for the second emergency. 

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Watch the press conference with Sens. Gazelka and Osmek previewing the bill before floor session.

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