In first special session after election, Gazelka says Senate won't hold vote to end Walz powers

It comes as the COVID-19 crisis escalates.

Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has said it's unlikely the Senate will hold a vote during Thursday's special session to bring an end to Gov. Tim Walz's emergency powers.

The GOP-led Senate has voted to end Walz's COVID-19 peacetime emergency during the last several special sessions, only to be blocked from doing so by the DFL-led House.

Lawmakers will return for the sixth special session in a row Thursday – the first since the Nov. 3 election – and Gazelka told MPR that it's unlikely another vote will be held to end Walz's powers, saying they've already made it clear they are opposed to them.

Instead, the GOP will propose "more focused" powers for the governor in a peacetime emergency, more details of which are expected to be announced Thursday morning.

"The surge is here," Gazelka told Wurzer Thursday. "It's absolutely serious. People need to pay attention to it."

During the election campaign, the Minnesota GOP railed against Walz's use of emergency powers, with Gazelka and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt at the forefront of the party's "Contract to Open Up Minnesota" campaign to lift restrictions on businesses and gatherings imposed during the pandemic.

Since then, despite the existing restrictions, COVID-19 has surged to the point that Minnesota posted a record 56 single-day deaths on Wednesday, with hospitalizations now approaching 1,300.

The about-face has been criticized by some Democrats, among them Sen. Matt Little – who lost re-election to his Lakeville seat on Nov. 3, and who tweeted: "With the election behind us, the pandemic is real now. This level of crassness falls below any moral standard."

Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent was more conciliatory.

The Minnesota GOP retained control of the Senate on Nov. 3, but despite the GOP flipping several House seats, the DFL retained control of the House with a reduced majority.

One move that is expected to be made by the Senate is the GOP proposing a DFLer becomes Senate president.

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That move is expected to be taken in anticipation of Sen. Amy Klobuchar being given a role in the Biden Administration, and there are talks it could lead to Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan being appointed to fill her seat.

The GOP wants to avoid the same situation that happened when former Lt. Gov. Tina Smith was appointed to fill Al Franken's seat following his resignation. In such a situation, the Senate President is appointed to the role of Lt. Gov., which at the time saw GOPer Michelle Fischbach appointed to serve under DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, triggering a special election in her Senate district.

Should Flanagan become a U.S. Senator, it would put the GOP in a position of having to defend a special election in the seat of current Senate President, Jeremy Miller, when it holds only a 34-33 majority after the election. 

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