The Executive Orders have legal effect; many Minnesotans have been cited for violating them, including the owner of a saloon in central Minnesota who dared to challenge the restrictions on his business. For the most part Minnesotans have accepted the governor’s Orders as a necessary component of preserving public health and safety. However, over the past 30-45 days a growing number of people are questioning how far the governor can go in implementing new Executive Orders, which have the effect of a duly promulgated law, albeit a law that was not created by the Minnesota Legislature nor even one resulting from normal public rulemaking. Here’s the thing: the Minnesota Constitution vests the authority to promulgate new laws solely in the legislature, subject to a possible veto by the governor if he disagrees with what has been passed. In addition, the governor, through his executive branch agencies, has the authority to promulgate rules to implement existing statutory authority, but those rules must go through a public review process and are subject to court review, all of which takes time.
The authority exercised by Governor Walz has, thus far, superseded all traditional checks and balances imposed by the Constitution. A growing number of legislators are objecting to this usurpation of authority by the governor but, thus far, have not been able to muster sufficient bipartisan support to rein in his actions. Furthermore, no Minnesota court has yet issued a ruling enjoining Governor Walz from acting unilaterally under the Peacetime Declaration. This is likely due, at least in part, to the structure of the law which authorizes the governor’s actions, but also the unease that would attach to any court order that could unintentionally contribute to the spread of the virus.