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My Point of View: 12 months later, it’s time to terminate governor’s powers

My Point of View by Aaron Farris

On March 13, we marked the one-year anniversary of Governor Walz’s emergency powers. These are the same powers that Minnesota House Republicans have voted 18 times to remove, and the Senate has voted to do the same countless times. When Gov. Walz acquired these powers, nobody could have predicted that he would still have them a year later. For a year now, our elected legislative representatives (Rep. Peggy Bennett and Sen. Gene Dornink) have had no say in the COVID-19 response in Minnesota. The governor’s emergency powers allow him to make decisions unilaterally in regards to shutting down our businesses, how open our schools can be, how to get the most PPE distributed in a short amount of time, etc.

Aaron Farris

To be clear, this is not a column downplaying COVID-19. This is a column supporting the revocation of the governor’s emergency powers. The governor was given these powers at a time when we knew almost nothing about this virus, had no plan to have students in schools and decisions on how to respond to the virus’s developments needed to be made faster than the Legislature could work. However, more than a year after COVID-19 was designated a pandemic, we know much more about the virus, have plans in place to control it, have vaccines being widely distributed and have hospitalization and infection rates plummeting statewide. The positivity rate has been below 5% since Jan. 19. Since Jan. 2, we have not had more than 20 total admissions to the ICU in the entire state of Minnesota. As of today, we have had more than 1.3 million vaccine doses administered in the arms of Minnesotans. It’s time to bring the Legislature back into the decision-making equation. The governor does not need the authority to make instantaneous decisions anymore.

It’s well past time for Minnesotans to get back to safely living our lives. Minnesotans know what to do. The governor may have needed these powers a year ago, but we are 12. Months. Later. I was pleased to see the governor remove some of his restrictions and regulations on our businesses last week, but it’s not enough, and frankly, for many businesses and families, it’s far too late. Instead of loosening restrictions, many of them should be dropped altogether. These restrictions should have been removed months ago by the Legislature. It’s time to restore the Legislature and force the governor to have a dialogue with our elected representatives.

It’s extremely disheartening to see Democrats in the House and Senate continue to obstruct any efforts to rein in the governor’s unilateral control. Before the 2020 elections, a couple of the votes to remove the governor’s emergency powers received bipartisan support from Democrats running in tough races. The ones who survived challenges from their Republican opponents are now back to voting to keep the governor’s powers in place. What changed? Oh yeah — the election’s over with.

I remember a year ago vividly. The uncertainty and fear that surrounded the Coronavirus was experienced by everyone. We knew nothing of a virus that was devastating other countries, and we all knew it was only a matter of time before it arrived in the United States. Fast forward to today. Those of us who are ready to return to life as it used to be in a safe manner, would like to see our legislators be able to take action to make that happen.

In conjunction with voting to terminate the governor’s emergency powers, House and Senate Republicans have put forward proposals that would end the emergency powers outright and put in place a data-driven timeline to get businesses reopened. At the same time that we should be reopening our state, Democrats have put forward outrageously flawed proposals that leave too much power in the governor’s hands and rely on flawed data that would actually slow down our reopening.

Under the governor’s reign of unlimited power, we’ve seen many things happen to our state — none of them good: businesses being kept in the dark, uncertain and struggling, forced to close or adapt to constantly changing arbitrary restrictions. Weddings, funerals, and other events canceled in Minnesota and relocated to our neighboring states like Iowa and South Dakota. A denial of science and data showing we could have students and teachers in classrooms safely. The consequences and harms of distance learning on students, as unintended as they may be, are likely to last for years into the future.

The Legislature must be restored as a co-equal branch of government. In 2020, the residents of Freeborn County sent a clear message about who they want representing them and voting for them. They took the time to do research, think about what they want and go vote. Let’s make our voices matter. Let’s make our votes matter.

Aaron Farris is the vice chairman of the Freeborn County Republican Party. He is the party’s youngest activist and a high school senior.