Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (center) speaks to reporters Wednesday.


MN Senate Majority Leader Gazelka: ‘It’s over’


Similar words have been stated before by Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake. But on Wednesday, nearly three weeks after Gov. Tim Walz lifted Minnesota’s statewide mask mandate, they had an unusually resonant ring. Said Gazelka:

“You cannot say that the emergency is not over. It’s over.”

At a press conference Wednesday with House and Senate GOP leaders, Gazelka, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and others rolled out a bill that they said provides an “offramp” to Walz’s COVID-19 emergency powers.

Daudt said the governor’s powers are no longer needed. Nor is the state’s eviction moratorium or requirements that students wear masks, he said. Daudt went so far as to suggest that one possible reason Walz has yet to voluntarily surrendered his powers is “the grip that the teachers union has over the governor.”

The state Department of Education, however, gives a different explanation. The CDC has provided no clear guidance on mask-wearing in school settings, the department says on its website. However, updated guidance for schools and summer camps is expected to come out soon.

The Republican bill would allow Walz to continue COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, but it otherwise would end his other outstanding emergency authority and existing executive orders.

Sen. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, said the draft legislation ensures there would be “a tangible offramp to the eviction moratorium,” while allowing the state to spend federal financial aid that has been allocated to Minnesota.

Rep. Barb Haley, R-Red Wing, has pushed for months to end the governor’s emergency authority, largely out of concern for the economic damage done to small businesses like health clubs and gyms. Speaking to reporters at the Capitol Wednesday, she said of the draft bill:

“Our proposal allows for a safe and orderly end to these powers while returning the legislature, the voice of the people, to its status as a co-equal branch of government. This is a good-faith proposal and I hope the governor will work with us to end this state of emergency and finish the budget well ahead of the July 1 shutdown date.”

In response to a reporter’s question, however, she acknowledged that the GOP-sponsored bill lacks Democratic support in the House, especially among caucus leadership. Without that support, it has no chance of passage.

But were the bill to pass, the governor’s COVID-19 emergency powers, first announced on May 13, 2020, would terminate the day after enactment.

Watch the full press conference here:




A joint GOP House-Senate press statement released after the press conference notes that the MN Senate has voted to end emergency powers eight times since May 2020. House GOP members, meanwhile, have attempted unsuccessfully 19 times to bring the matter to the DFL-controlled House floor for a vote.

At the time of this writing, DFL leaders had offered no response to the GOP proposal or press statements.

Walz is expected extend his emergency powers by another month on June 14. That’s the same day a special session to finalize the state government budget is expected to start.

Draft legislation

Here’s the full text of the bill Republicans proposed Wednesday. It does not yet have formal House or Senate file numbers.


Subdivision 1. COVID-19 response powers. The state’s COVID-19 public health​ response is governed by this act, as of the effective date of this section. The powers granted​ to the governor under Minnesota Statutes, chapter 12, do not apply to the COVID-19​ infectious disease outbreak unless explicitly authorized by this section or subsequent​ legislative enactment.​

Subd. 2. Public health disaster declaration; eligibility for federal assistance.
(a)​ Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, the commissioner of human services, in​ consultation with the commissioner of health, may declare a public health disaster if the​ commissioner determines that the state must take action to protect the public health, including​ providing public health services or enforcing existing health and human services laws, as​ part of the state’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 infectious disease outbreak.​

(b) A public health disaster declared under this section must support the efforts of the​ Department of Human Services to maximize and maintain the following federal benefits:​

(1) emergency allotments under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program;​
(2) blanket waivers enacted by the United States Department of Health and Human​ Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services;​
(3) waivers under section 1135 of the Social Security Act;​
(4) waivers under section 1915(c) of the Social Security Act, including appendix K;​
(5) funding under the Stafford Act related to noncongregate sheltering; and​
(6) federal Medicaid and basic health program funding.​

(c) During a public health disaster declared under this section, the commissioner of​ health may coordinate, allocate, distribute, and manage vaccine doses, therapeutics, and​ testing to respond to COVID-19.​

Subd. 3. Emergency procurement. During a public health disaster declared under this​ section, the governor may exercise the powers authorized by Minnesota Statutes, section​ 12.36, for procurements related to the distribution or administration of COVID-19 vaccines​ and testing supplies.​

Subd. 4. Expiration. A public health disaster declared under this section expires on the​ earlier of the following dates:​

(1) the date the commissioner of human services determines the public health disaster​ declaration is no longer necessary; or​

(2) the public health emergency issued under section 319 of the Public Health Service​ Act expires, subject to renewal by the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services.​

EFFECTIVE DATE. This section is effective the day following final enactment.​


Consistent with Minnesota Statutes, section 12.31, subdivision 2, paragraph (b), the​ peacetime emergency declared by Executive Order No. 20-01 issued March 13, 2020, is​ terminated.​

EFFECTIVE DATE. This section is effective the day following final enactment.​


Session/Law logo by Kirk Anderson