Emergency! explicated

As anticipated, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz declared a peacetime emergency yesterday by executive order for the sixteenth month in a row (the fifteenth by renewal of his original order). He let on that the end is in sight — somewhere over the rainbow.

Walz’s current 30-day renewal is not as egregious as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s entry into the sixteenth year of his four-year term, but it as about as willful. By contrast with Abbas’s reign, Walz’s comes with a pretense of legality. We will have to settle for that.

The relevant statute limits the circumstances under which the governor is delegated the power to declare an emergency: “A peacetime declaration of emergency may be declared only when an act of nature, a technological failure or malfunction, a terrorist incident, an industrial accident, a hazardous materials accident, or a civil disturbance endangers life and property and local government resources are inadequate to handle the situation.” Declarations are limited to 30 days, but can be renewed under the same circumstances.

We have long since emerged from the emergency, though not in the world according to Walz. This is how Walz framed it yesterday in Executive Order 21-24 — i.e., renewal number 15 (I think):

Widespread vaccination has fueled our recent success and allowed us to lift restrictions. The COVID-19 Peacetime Emergency has allowed us to establish a best-in-class vaccination program to reach people across Minnesota. We lead the Midwest in our progress toward full vaccination. Over 2.9 million Minnesotans have received at least one dose of vaccine, over 2.6 million Minnesotans have completed a full vaccine series, and over 90 percent of those over the age of 65 are fully vaccinated. With children as young as age 12 now eligible to receive the vaccine, emergency authority is particularly essential for the quick, equitable, and safe distribution of vaccine necessary to protect our community and economy. While vaccination progress across the state is encouraging, emergency authority allows for nimble outreach to communities where rates are lagging. The State Emergency Operations Center continues to provide ongoing support to local governments, and—as the continued appropriation of significant public funds to fight the pandemic plainly shows—local resources remain inadequate to address the threat.

Those of us who have followed Walz’s statements on the epidemic in Minnesota can hear an echo of his true voice in this paragraph. It is akin to his public blather — full of sound and fury signifying, not nothing, but rather the speaker’s liberty to say anything.

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