by Jeremy Munson
on June 16, 2020 · Flag
Minnesota State Representatives Steve Drazkowski, Cal Bahr, Tim Miller, and Jeremy Munson have filed a lawsuit to challenge Governor Walz’s authority to declare a peacetime emergency and unilaterally write laws.The Governor usurped the authority of the Minnesota Legislature and the checks and balances provided by the Minnesota Constitution for our three branches of government when he unilaterally declared a peacetime emergency and issued himself the power to write laws with enforcement powers.
On May 28, I, along with Representatives Drazkowski, Bahr, Miller, the Free Minnesota Small Business Coalition, and a number of Minnesota businesses, filed a lawsuit to challenge Governor Walz’s authority to declare a peacetime emergency and unilaterally write laws. Minnesota has three branches of government to prevent the consolidation of power. Using MN Stat. Sec. 12.31, the Governor usurped the legislative process and the checks and balances provided by our three branches, when he unilaterally declared a peacetime emergency and provided himself the power to write laws. He did this assured that with a split legislature his powers would never be taken or limited.
The Governor exceeded his legal authority in three ways. First, the Governor’s executive orders violate Minnesota Constitution’s non-delegation doctrine, because pure legislative power cannot be exercised by the executive branch. Normally, the legislature circumvents the non-delegation doctrine by allowing judicial review of agency rules. However, in this situation, the Minnesota Court of Appeals stated there is no judicial review for the Governor’s executive orders. Therefore, the statutes authorizing the Governor’s executive orders are unconstitutional delegations of legislative power, because the legislature did not allow for judicial review. Second, the Governor’s executive orders are based on a statute that gives the legislature veto powers. However, the Minnesota Constitution does not provide for legislative veto powers, so this provision is unconstitutional. Because the legislature never intended to give the Governor unchecked unilateral power to write laws, this provision cannot be severed, making the entire section unconstitutional. Third, the statute the Governor based his executive powers on does not specify a public health emergency as justification for declaring a peacetime emergency. The statute was written following hurricane Katrina and never intended to give the Governor the power to unilaterally write laws with criminal penalties attached, affecting all of MN for an undetermined and indefinite period of time.
Unlike the specific instances cited in the statute, a public health crisis extends for indefinitely, and the executive orders associated are not limited in scope. This is why, about a week prior to Governor Walz declaring a peacetime emergency, a bill was introduced in the MN House to add specific language to this statute that would allow peacetime emergencies to be declared for a “public health crisis”. This bill died in the House Ways and Means Committee and did not have a Senate companion, yet the Governor declared an emergency anyways and unilaterally expanded his powers. Without declaring a peacetime emergency, he would not have the authority to dictate stay at home orders, or Minnesota businesses and churches close.
If successful, we will end the Governor’s peacetime emergency and his executive orders. The power to write laws and address this public health problem will remain with the legislature. Most importantly, our success will mean there is no consolidation of power and no Governor will be able to unilaterally write laws for a virus which will be with us for years.
People across Minnesota are asking how they can help end the Governor’s unilateral powers. We set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for legal fees and expenses. Any money not used for this lawsuit will be placed in a fund to help small businesses with legal fees. None of the money will be used for political campaigns and contributions are not tax deductible.
All businesses should be allowed to open without double standards. Governor Walz should not be allowed to expand his executive powers, bypass the legislature, and continue the peacetime emergency indefinitely. This authoritarian chapter in MN history should never be allowed again.
Representative Jeremy Munson, 23B