Gov. Tim Walz will end his COVID-19 emergency powers on Thursday, July 1, a month earlier than planned.
Walz's plan to end his emergency powers, which have been in effect since March 2020, was released Tuesday night, after his administration reached an agreement with the federal U.S. Department of Agriculture to protect emergency SNAP food benefits, a news release says.
After the agreement, Democrats in the Minnesota House introduced an amendment to the state government budget bill that "allows for an orderly transition of the state's current COVID-19 emergency response," the release said.
Walz's announcement came shortly before midnight as the Minnesota Legislature continues to work on a few remaining budget bills in order to avert a government shutdown on July 1. The governor's emergency powers have been a sticking point over the past year, with Republicans in the Senate voting more than a dozen times in favor of ending his powers.
“The COVID-19 peacetime emergency allowed us to respond quickly and effectively to the pandemic this past year. We built testing sites from the ground up, we secured emergency personal protective equipment to protect our healthcare workers on the frontlines, and we developed a nation-leading vaccination program to get life-saving shots into the arms of Minnesotans,” Gov. Walz said. “The peacetime emergency also made Minnesotans eligible for federal hunger-relief funding for 15 months.
"Our agreement with our federal partners to extend those benefits for Minnesotans, coupled with the thoughtful plan outlined in the House Democrats’ amendment to wind down the emergency response in state government, means that we can close this chapter of our history and celebrate the brighter days ahead," Walz said. "I ask our colleagues in the Minnesota Senate to adopt this amendment, help us finish the job, and avoid a government shutdown.”
The House passed the bill, with the amendment, 70-63 early Wednesday. About an hour later, the Senate passed it on a 54-12 vote, sending it to the governor for his signature.
The bill not only ends Walz's emergency powers but also provides funding for various state agencies, boards and commissions, as well as makes a few election provisions and addresses policy issues related to veterans, Session Daily reports.
"The peacetime emergency has finally come to an end, and the Legislature has once again taken back its place as a co-equal branch of government," House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said in a statement. "This move is long overdue and we should now turn our attention to a permanent rewrite of the Chapter 12 statute to make sure that no governor can ever again abuse emergency authority like Gov. Walz has for the past year.
"House Republicans are thrilled that the peacetime emergency has come to an end, but it's clear that emergency powers are in desperate need of reform to strike a proper balance between the executive and legislative branch," Daudt added.
Walz says his deal with the USDA will allow Minnesota to continue to get $45 million in monthly emergency food assistance benefits for more than 575,000 Minnesotans even after the state of emergency expires on Thursday.