(ST. PAUL, MN) – As part of the opening floor session today, Senate Republicans again made ending the Governor’s emergency powers a priority as deaths from COVID hover in the single digits for the tenth day in a row. The resolution to end the emergency powers passed on a vote of 36 in favor to 31 against.
Here’s what Senate Republicans said during the floor debate:
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R- East Gull Lake)
“Yes, there is a pandemic, no, there is no longer an emergency. We had to make sure we had enough protective equipment. As time has gone on, we have put everything in place to respond.
“With the Governor’s emergency powers, he decides alone whether or not schools can open, not the local districts. He alone gets to decide whether businesses are open or not. He can decide that you must wear a mask, rather than just wearing it because you think it’s wise. We need to get back to the place where the House and Senate are on equal footing with the Executive branch.
“We want to work with the Governor. If we keep on this path, the Governor could have emergency powers for a year, and that’s not the kind of authority he should have without the legislative branch giving our position.”
Senator Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake)
“The Governor has used his emergency powers to micromanage every aspect of our lives and caused serious inequities in our communities. The Governor said he needed emergency powers to prepare hospitals. That’s been done. He said he needed 20,000 tests a day. That’s been done. Now he said he needs a vaccine. We can’t hit a moving target. If we can’t end the emergency powers today, when can we?”
Senator Michelle Benson (R- Ham Lake)
“The only reason we’re here today is because the Governor wanted to extend his emergency powers for another 30 days. COVID is still very serious, but emergency power gives the Governor’s decisions the force of law without the benefit of public debate. Minnesotans prefer to be asked to do the right thing rather than to be threatened. I have every faith that if we repeal these powers today, Minnesotans will encourage each other to do the right thing.
Senator Andrew Mathews (R- Princeton)
“It seems like the Governor is going to keep emergency powers unilaterally for the long-haul. I’m disappointed by the characterization that we claim, ‘it’s not a big deal.” We all understand that we still have COVID 19 and we still need to protect ourselves. I don’t recall one person in my district asking me, ‘Senator, help us get back to normal’ I do recall them saying, ‘Senator, let’s get back to freedom.’ And that’s what I’m asking you, members, to join today in doing. The way we’re operating now, with one person making all the decisions for Minnesota is not right, and it’s not freedom.”
Senator John Jasinski (R- Faribault)
“My district wants to know what is going on in St. Paul. They are frustrated. Go back to March when the Governor said there would be 40,000 deaths in Minnesota even if we stay home and self-distance. Today, as you heard, we have 1,504 total deaths. In March he said we were going to need beds for 3,000 people in ICU in July; we have 114. In the last ten days, we’ve had 38 COVID deaths. In the last ten days, we’ve had 73 accidental deaths. We can’t stop everything.
“We have some common sense things we can do to make ourselves safe. But what has been done to businesses has been done by government, not by COVID-19. Decisions to close down businesses, to pick and choose which businesses will survive and which ones will not, and there’s a lot of them out there that are not surviving. That will have a lasting effect on Minnesota.”
Senator Scott Jensen (R- Chanhassen)
“We were told there were two goal posts, depress the peak, and delay the surge. We never intended to authorize dictatorial powers until a vaccine might emerge- if it ever does. We never intended to exclude Minnesotans from playing their role to help all of us get through this. And we never intended to quarantine the well; to take those who are flourishing in health and say, ‘You are going to be stymied. Your business may go bankrupt, your savings may be depleted. You may be desperate to figure out how you’re going to care for your family.’ But here we are.
“We have seen an emergence of dictatorial powers coming from the Governor’s office and his staff. His staff doesn’t have election certificates. We do. As such, Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate are hearing from their constituents that we were elected to lead, and Minnesotans expect us to do so.”