Minnesota’s legislative process is deliberative by design. It often spares us from bad ideas becoming law.
Which is a key reason why it is so unsettling to see one person – our governor – rule via executive order for nearly 11 months and counting under the peacetime emergency powers. But much has changed in that span and, while the governor’s decision to rule through executive orders may have been warranted at the start, the days of needing instant action have passed.
It is time to return to our representative system of government. We owe it to Minnesotans to have all 201 legislators involved in the decision-making process instead of having one person call all the shots. The fact we are nearly one month into the 2021 legislative session makes it an even greater opportunity to restore the Legislature as the co-equal branch of government that it is under our state’s Constitution.
Numerous movements have been made to conduct a vote of the full House on whether the governor’s emergency powers shall continue, but the majority has blocked these efforts each time. The governor may retain his emergency powers so long as the Legislature does not revoke them and there is no practical legislative recourse barring a change of heart from the House majority.
While the governor has issued more than 100 executive orders this past year, emergency powers are not the only way the legislative process is being circumvented. It also is taking place as the governor seeks to use the administrative rule-making process to mandate California’s auto-emission standards on vehicles sold in Minnesota. This movement is taking place without the benefit of the legislative process to examine the issue and ask the tough questions such a dramatic change deserves. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency may have scheduled a few public information sessions to discuss the governor’s initiative, but this is no substitute for a complete set of legislative hearings.
If the governor believes our state should adopt California’s car standards, he should bring the issue to the Legislature because there are many aspects of concern. First, industry experts indicate this move would raise the cost of vehicles in Minnesota by $1,000 or more.
Furthermore, by following California’s regulations, we would be the only state in the Midwest ceding its car standards to bureaucrats 1,700 miles away in Sacramento. Minnesotans’ voices would be silenced as we follow orders from a state halfway across the country that is known for having the nation’s most polluted air.
While it appears electric cars will play a significant role in the future of our auto industry, the pace at which growth in that sector occurs should be dictated by consumer appetite and action on the free market.
Whether we are debating masking policies for youth sports or adopting California’s regulatory regime, the legislative process was designed to ensure all Minnesotans have a seat at the table. Many Minnesotans, especially those not represented by Gov. Walz’s metro base, feel like their voice and concerns are not being heard, and rightly so.
If the Legislature continues to abdicate its responsibilities as a co-equal branch of government, Minnesotans will not have the full benefit of the representative government described in our state Constitution. Restoring legislative power will not only result in better policy but will also give Minnesotans more confidence that their voices are heard.