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Emergency powers strengthened Minnesota

Resolve differences with good-faith negotiations, not Wisconsin-style court fights.

Last week the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down a mask mandate imposed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, following a challenge to his authority by a major Republican donor. It is another in a punishing series of court losses for Evers and the COVID-battered citizens of his state that included a rejection of his stay-at-home order and his attempts to limit capacity in gathering spaces.

In Minnesota, by contrast, court challenges to Gov. Tim Walz’s authority to wield emergency powers during the pandemic have all failed. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison told a Star Tribune reporter for a recent article that there are “legislative guardrails” but also “court guardrails, and we’ve won every single case because we stayed close to the law and common sense.” More than a dozen judges, appointed by both Democratic and Republican governors, have upheld Walz’s emergency authority.

Keeping that power in place does far more than maintain capacity limits, or require masks, to the benefit of all Minnesotans. Joe Kelly, director of the state division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, says the emergency declaration gives him a broad array of tools and resources that otherwise would be in jeopardy.

Minnesota Republicans should undertake negotiations with Walz to unwind the emergency declarations at the right time, once the worst danger has passed. But it should be done sensibly, cautiously. Walz has said he is willing to turn control of dozens of executive orders over to the Legislature. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, who has opposed Walz’s use of emergency powers, said in an e-mail that he has been meeting regularly with the governor’s office on developing tools for responding to the pandemic.

That’s a good start. Sensible, good-faith negotiations are far preferable to battling it out in court.

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