Minnesotans deserve a lot of credit for listening to the advice of health experts and social-distancing recommendations from President Trump and the Minnesota Department of Health. Because of our efforts, we have driven down infection rates and given our hospitals time to build capacity to handle a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Despite our best efforts, nearly 600 Minnesotans have died from COVID-19. Our hearts break for these individuals and their families as we are reminded every day that this virus must be taken seriously. That’s why it is so important that we continue to protect seniors, the immunocompromised, and others that are at high risk for severe complications.
In addition to the human cost, the shutdown has also resulted in possibly the worst economic downturn in our lifetime. In addition to hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans unemployed, we also recently received word that Minnesota is facing a $2.4 billion budget deficit.
The economic damage is unsustainable. That’s why the legislature and Governor Walz need to work together to re-open Minnesota in a way that gets Minnesotans working, while also protecting the most vulnerable among us.
For the last two months, Governor Walz has taken unilateral action without approval from the legislature due to the peacetime emergency declaration. While some can argue that the governor needed these powers early in the crisis, the need for swift, unilateral action has passed and it is time for the legislature to have a role in the decision-making process.
That’s why I recently voted to end the governor’s peacetime emergency powers.
The latest example of overreach occurred last week when the Department of Education unilaterally canceled all high-school graduation ceremonies. It makes no sense to issue a one-size-fits-all order when there is so much variation between school districts across Minnesota.
Schools around the state were in the process of establishing creative ways to move forward with graduation ceremonies that respected social distancing guidelines. That progress has now been wiped out by a single decision-maker.
Minnesota’s Constitution makes clear that the state legislature is a co-equal branch of government and is often regarded as the closest to the people. The people’s voice must be considered when responding to this crisis. For those reasons, the legislature needs to have a role in determining our path forward and I stand ready to work with Governor Walz on responding to the needs of the state of Minnesota.
If the governor wants to extend or make new orders, he should do so the way he normally would with approval from the House and Senate. We must work together to chart the state’s path safely and effectively.