(St. Paul, MN) – The Minnesota Senate convened for the fourth special session of the year last Friday, where two events on the Senate floor were highlights of the day. The first was the precedented Senate vote to end Governor Walz’s extension of emergency powers, which passed for the fourth time this year with a vote margin of 36 to 31.
Senator Mark Koran (R-North Branch) commented on the fourth resolution to end emergency powers, stating, “Special sessions are becoming redundant, but as long as Governor Walz would like to keep emergency powers, we must gather. I do not believe the Governor should be making unilateral decisions while the Senate displays readiness to lead on legislative issues. The legislature was elected to do this job, and do it well. That is why I continue to vote against the continuation of absolute executive power.”
The second central portion of the day was the confirmation vote on two of Governor Walz’s appointed commissioners. Commissioner Joseph Sullivan of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) passed through votes quickly and was confirmed. In contrast, a bipartisan vote removed Commissioner Stephen Kelley from his role as the Minnesota Department of Commerce head. A litany of reasons for the Commissioner’s removal were cited on the Senate floor, including his lack of experience in the insurance regulatory field, weaponized regulations against business, market conduct exam discrepancies, and changing the law through consent decrees, rather than through the legislative process.
“The legislature steps in when Commissioners lack in either ability or practice while running state departments. Commissioner Kelley, though competent in many areas, unfortunately displayed a lack of engagement with portions of his jurisdiction,” noted Senator Koran. “There is also a culture problem at the Department of Commerce. The Governor and Commissioner Kelley were informed of this issue, agreed to fix it, and subsequently did not improve it. The result was that many regulated businesses expressed hesitation to make complaints for fear of retaliation. State agencies are present to serve Minnesota, not intimidate them. I hope that the Department of Commerce will be able to make necessary changes under new leadership.”
Should Governor Walz seek to extend his powers in October, the legislature will convene once again next month.