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Gov. Tim Walz
A petition, filed in Ramsey County District Court by the four-member New Republican House Caucus, seeks to enjoin Gov. Tim Walz from enforcing his existing COVID-19 peacetime emergency orders or issuing any new ones. Photo: Pioneer Press via AP, Pool

Bar Buzz: Legislative group joins small businesses in suing Gov. Walz

The four-member New Republican House Caucus has joined a coalition of small businesses to sue Gov. Tim Walz over his peacetime emergency orders.

The lawmakers on Thursday joined with the Free Minnesota Small Business Coalition and 10 individual small businesses in a writ of quo warranto petition, demanding an injunction against the governor.

The same businesses filed with the Minnesota Court of Appeals last month seeking a declaratory judgment that several recent Walz executive orders were unconstitutional. But its petition was denied Tuesday, attorney Erick Kaardal said.

The new petition, filed in Ramsey County District Court, seeks to enjoin Walz from enforcing his existing COVID-19 peacetime emergency orders or issuing any new ones.

The litigants claim that Walz exceeds his authority by performing legislative functions without oversight judicial or legislative oversight. They also claim he violates the peacetime emergency statute, Chapter 12, by invoking it for a public health crisis—a use they claim is unauthorized.

Finally, they charge that the controlling statute is itself unconstitutional, because it unconstitutionally grants the Legislature the right to veto extensions of peacetime emergencies after 30 days. “There is no Minnesota Constitution provision authorizing legislative vetoes,” the group’s petition says.

In a press release Thursday, the four lawmakers argued that at root they think Walz lacks the authority to suspend Minnesotans’ constitutional rights.

“Governor Tim Walz’s suspension of our constitutional rights should alarm every Minnesotan,” said Rep. Cal Bahr, R-East Bethel. “Constitutional rights are not conditional permissions handed down to the people by government officials. No individual, including Governor Walz, is allowed to suspend our God-given rights.”

The small GOP sub-caucus has been among the Legislature’s more strident forces when it comes to opposing Walz’s peacetime authority. Several times, the group led attempts during the recent session to overturn Walz’s peacetime powers through House floor resolutions, all of which were defeated.

On April 14, Bahr told House members that instead flattening the curve and postponing the peak of COVID-19 infections until July, the state should move the peak “as close to current as possible so we can get on the backside of this.”

On the day Bahr spoke those words, 2,162 Minnesotans were infected with the coronavirus and 79 had died. As of Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Health reports that 22,947 Minnesota COVID-19 cases have resulted in 967 deaths.

“It’s a head-in-the-sand and ignorant problem analysis,” Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park said of Bahr’s statements at the time.

In addition to Bahr, the New House Republican Caucus includes Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa), Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, and Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal.

The four lawmakers in the petition have launched a GoFundMe account hoping to raise at least $20,000 to cover their legal expenses. Any money in excess of that will be used to help the small businesses cover their legal fees, the group said.

By the time this story went to press, they had already raised more than $10,000 in a little over 24 hours.

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About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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