Republican lawmakers in the Minnesota Senate are playing politics with the public’s health. That’s the only way to interpret the GOP-controlled chamber’s continued dismissal of Gov. …
Republican lawmakers in the Minnesota Senate are playing politics with the public’s health. That’s the only way to interpret the GOP-controlled chamber’s continued dismissal of Gov. Tim Walz’s top commissioners.
Under the state’s constitution, the Senate must consent to top gubernatorial appointments. For decades in Minnesota, such consent was almost automatic as most lawmakers opted to give the governor the right to select his or her own team. That’s a traditional right that the state Senate is flouting as part of the GOP’s continuing temper tantrum over Gov. Walz’s emergency declaration over the coronavirus.
Gov. Walz’s declaration is hardly out of the mainstream. Of the 50 governors in the U.S, 49 have similar declarations in place. That’s because it’s the only effective way for states to deal with the pandemic, and that’s particularly true in Minnesota. Our divided Legislature can’t agree on much of anything. Despite a months-long regular session, the Legislature failed to do even the basics, including passing a much-needed bonding bill. As we’ve reported in recent weeks, the Republican-led Senate refuses to pass a supplemental funding bill which, among other things, would help to save 60 good-paying state jobs at the correctional facility in Togo.
And we’re supposed to rely on senators to agree with the DFL-led House on how the state’s schools, businesses, and public facilities are supposed to respond to the pandemic? Republicans still can’t even agree whether or not the coronavirus is a Democratic and media hoax, as their own president stated for months— even though we now know he was told the virus was extremely dangerous and easily transmissible through the air. The GOP, from the White House on down, has zero credibility when it comes to the coronavirus and they certainly aren’t going to agree to the kind of sensible and science-based recommendations and orders issued by Gov. Walz.
Gov. Walz, like leaders around the world, was handed a difficult situation. Yet, rather than denying the dangers even as the cases mounted, Gov. Walz has instituted a well-designed policy that has helped to balance the public health issues with the economic and educational implications. Republicans in the Senate are clearly bothered that a large majority of Minnesotans give Gov. Walz high marks for his handling of the pandemic. Ousting his picks for state commissioners, such as Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley and Labor and Industry Commissioner Nancy Leppink, is pure politics, designed to undermine the governor and the work of his administration.
Governors, just like presidents, are given emergency powers for exactly these kinds of situations. They allow the governor to focus state resources on a response and adjust policy quickly based on rapidly evolving conditions. The Legislature would struggle to find agreement on such matters in the best of times, with just one party in control. With a divided Legislature, and a GOP that appears increasingly hostile to science and sound public health policy, it would paralyze the state’s response to the pandemic. Minnesota can’t afford such an outcome. It’s critically important that the state gets the response right. If there’s ever a time to set aside politics, this is it. Lives, literally, hang in the balance.