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Virus Outbreak Minnesota
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz wore his buffalo plaid cloth mask during questions at a press conference to announce statewide mask mandate Wednesday to help slow the spread of COVID-19. (Star Tribune via AP)

Bar Buzz: Appeal coming in emergency powers case

A group of GOP lawmakers plans to appeal the lawsuit they lost in state District Court lawsuit on Tuesday, in which they tried to have Gov. Tim Walz’s peacetime emergency powers declared unconstitutional.

The 13 lawmakers are part of a group that included a coalition of small businesses called the Free Minnesota Coalition. In court on July 16, they argued that Walz exceeded his constitutional authority when he issued a mask mandate, closed small business and prevented schools from holding classes.

Ramsey County District Court Judge Thomas A. Gilligan, disagreed in his ruling Tuesday, granting the governor’s motion to dismiss.

The petitioners “provided no evidence that the executive orders are, ‘beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law,” the judge wrote.

Conversely, the governor’s executive orders have a “‘real and substantial relation’ to the preservation of public health and the spread of COVID-19,” Gilligan ruled.

“The COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an act of nature that provides the governor with the basis to declare a peacetime state of emergency in Minnesota,” he added. Therefore, the judge concluded, the governor acted within the authority granted him by the Legislature.

“The judge’s ruling in this case is not what we hoped for, but we certainly planned for this outcome,” said Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal. “There will be an appeal of this case to the Court of Appeals because the merits of the lawsuit are undeniable.”

A major component of the group’s lawsuit, Munson said in a written statement, is that current law only allows the Legislature to terminate an emergency declaration, not approve one. But in three special sessions this summer, both chambers have voted on resolutions to terminate the governor’s authority. Only the Senate has approved them, so they’ve had no effect.

Nonetheless, according to Munson, “This amounts to an unconstitutional legislative veto. Only the governor should have the power to veto. Even liberal states such as California and Oregon have recognized this basic fact.”

The rejected lawsuit is one of several currently working their way through the courts. All of them challenge the governor’s pandemic powers.

“The Minnesota people cannot sit still while our constitutional rights are destroyed,” said Rep. Cal Bahr, R-East Bethel.

Other GOP lawmakers who are party to the lawsuit include Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa; Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg; Rep. Shane Mekeland, R-Clear Lake; Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria; Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton; Rep. Joe McDonald, R-Delano; Rep. Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley; Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe; Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska; Sen. Mike Goggin, R-Red Wing; and Sen. Andrew Mathews, R-Princeton.

Their appeal has yet to be filed. Their attorney, Erick Kaardal, could not be reached for comment.

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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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