Minnesota small businesses and lawmakers challenging Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders during the coronavirus pandemic are claiming that Walz has been out of control by taking measures that they claim unlawfully restrict civil liberties.
The Free Minnesota Small Business Coalition, which includes leading individual businesses and several state legislators, claims that Walz’s orders amount to improper legislative action and that the statute that allows emergency declarations for an “act of nature” does not apply to a pandemic.
“Governor Walz’s emergency powers are limited, and he is abusing that power over every single Minnesotan by his arbitrary and unfounded dictates,” said plaintiff's attorney Erick Kaardal, who added that Walz is “acting like a drunken monarch.”
The statute under which Walz issued his orders authorizes peacetime emergency declarations in a number of situations, including acts of nature, which is the category Walz claims justifies the orders. The coalition, however, argued in a court filing earlier this month that the law does not permit restricting civil liberties, and that the law itself violates Minnesota’s constitution because it lets the governor usurp lawmaking power that belongs to the state legislature.
The restrictions include limits on the number of people who can gather in both indoor and outdoor settings, as well as which businesses can be open during the pandemic. The plaintiffs argue that the restrictions are improperly overbroad.
“By refusing to take any of the available less-extreme options Walz has placed Minnesotans under his own thumb with his flagrant and unconstitutional curtailing of civil liberties,” Kaardal said.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison supported Walz, asserting that the executive orders are proper.
"I stand behind the legality and constitutionality of the Governor's Executive Orders and will strongly defend them in court," Ellison said in a statement to local news outlet KSTP when the challenge was brought in May. "That said, this lawsuit is a distraction from what we all need to be focused on — fighting the pandemic."
The lawsuit seeks an injunction blocking Walz from exercising any further power under the emergency declaration statute.