Governor Walz's Continued Emergency Powers is an Abuse of Power

By Glen Wallace

If we take as a given that the issuance of the emergency orders by the Governor constitutes a suspension of the State Constitution, then there needs to be sufficient exigency to justify the suspension. However, exigency is a concept that applies to circumstances involving time critical situations where the normal course of following the legal statutes will likely result in loss or serious injury to life or property. If a law enforcement officer sees someone struggling inside their house because of, for instance, a fire or intruder, that officer would presumably have exigent justification to forgo with the usual requirement to acquire a search warrant before entering the victim's house without their permission. But in those sorts of instances, the only reason that justifies not acquiring the warrant is that there is insufficient time to follow the process required to get the warrant. Now let's look at the current emergency declaration by the Governor. While there may have been a case that could be made just prior to the peak in the virus outbreak that there was insufficient time for the legislature to pass laws restricting businesses operation and mandating masks for citizens in an effort to mitigate the outbreak and 'flatten the curve', as I write this it has been nearly two months since the declaration and the curve has been flattened and there has been more than enough time for the State House and Senate to pass any laws restricting businesses and mandating masks. We are supposed to be living in a representative democracy, not a dictatorship. While some may argue that since the legislature hasn't passed any laws to mitigate the epidemic, then the emergency measures should stand. I would counter that that is not how the system is supposed to work according the state constitution. While a benevolent dictatorship may be an ideal form of government in theory, a representative democracy has instead been set up because there is no reliable way to ensure that a dictatorship stays benevolent or becomes benevolent in the first place due to a lack of checks and balances against abuse of power by the dictator. And the only way to prevent a dictatorship from forming in the first place is to limit the power of the executive branch of government by placing the power of law making into the hands of the elected legislative branch while allowing the executive branch limited veto powers and limited emergency powers. While the limitation of veto powers are, fortunately, expressly written in terms of a defined veto proof majority in the legislature, unfortunately, the limitation on emergency powers by the executive branch don't seem to be as clearly expressed. The Governor can then effectively nullify the whole legislative system by declaring an emergency and get away with it, if there is no checking of that declaration by those in a position to do so by using their own good judgement in determining that the Governor has overstepped his bounds of authority for the reasons I have stated above. If it is not clear what those bounds are regarding a declaration of emergency powers, let me restate that the emergency orders should only last so long as it is of exigent necessity until the legislative branch has a chance to make any laws on the matter. And our representative democracy is not set up as a system whereby the Governor gets to issue the law of the land and if the legislature doesn't pass any laws to the contrary, the Governor's edict stands. No, the emergency order should only stand for as long as it would take for the legislature to pass a law on the issue at hand. Otherwise, the Governor could just continually issue emergency declarations on a whole variety of matters and completely subvert and bypass the legislature and the constitution. Additionally, it should not be up to the Governor to decide at his pleasure when the emergency orders be lifted. The orders should automatically be lifted after a short period of time. Similarly, an exigent circumstance that allows an officer to enter a home without a warrant does not give law enforcement an indefinite right to keep entering the home into the future. Even if law enforcement wants to reenter the home to do a search for evidence, they would have to wait for a proper search warrant to be issued. One short exigent period does not justify the suspension of a state or national constitution. But that is exactly what Governor Walz has done regarding his emergency declaration regarding the coronavirus epidemic -- he has suspended our constitutional rights and bypassed the requirement of the house and senate to pass a bill that the Governor can then sign before it can become a law of the land. The Minnesota House and Senate have had more than ample opportunity to pass laws restricting businesses in their hours of operation and customer spacing and capacity and mask requirements, but they have not done so. Allowing the emergency orders to stand at this point constitutes a suspension of the state constitution, an abuse of power by the Governor and a dereliction of duty by those with the power to overturn the emergency orders.