Research & Commentary: Minnesota Legislature Considering Action to Stifle Gubernatorial Power During a State of Emergency

Published February 14, 2022

The Minnesota legislature has introduced House File 1515, a bill that would create legislative oversight of gubernatorial powers concerning emergency proclamations.

During the pandemic, many Americans saw their respective governors wield unprecedented power with seemingly unlimited emergency declarations. This overnight shift in governance, coupled with a plethora of governors who abused their pandemic emergency powers, has left several states reevaluating the statutes in their constitutions pertaining to emergency provisions and powers granted to the governor during a state of emergency. With HF 1515, Minnesota is no exception.

House File 1515 stipulates that if the governor declares a peacetime emergency, he or she must immediately notify the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as the Speaker of the House.

The legislation also states that a peacetime emergency must not last for more than five days unless extended by resolution of the executive Council, for up to 30 days. Further, an order or proclamation declaring, continuing, or terminating an emergency must be timely, publicly declared, and appropriately filed with the secretary of state.

Furthermore, the legislature may terminate a peacetime emergency extending beyond 30 days. In addition, should the governor determine an extension for the peacetime emergency declaration is necessary when the legislature is not in session, the governor must immediately issue a call to convene both houses of the legislature.

If the governor finds it prudent to extend the peacetime emergency for more than 30 days, the governor must immediately report the rational and specific legal authority for each order or rule in effect to all legislators. Additionally, any aforementioned orders and rules will expire on the 37th day of a peacetime emergency unless ratified by a majority vote of each chamber of the legislature.

This change to the current Minnesota peacetime emergency statute is paramount to prohibit governors from excessively extending their state of emergency timelines, as we so often saw throughout the pandemic. Giving the Minnesota legislature oversight of the process of emergency proclamations and emergency powers affords constituents a voice pertaining to mandates that deeply affect their lives. After all, elected senators and representatives are how citizens make their voices heard and concerns known. Excluding the legislature is no different from excluding citizens.

Simply put, HF 1515 restores the authority of the legislature as a co-equal branch of government.

Throughout 2020, The Heartland Institute developed a set of principles that legislators could reference when governors began abusing their newfound powers, which include:

  1. Resolutions to immediately nullify an emergency proclamation.
  2. Time duration of an emergency order (renewed by legislature).
  3. Pass a resolution that requires the governor to call a special session to approve of an emergency proclamation if the legislature is out of session.
  4. Permit an interim committee, or group of legislative leaders, to extend or reject emergency proclamations.
  5. Impose specific limits to executive authority during an emergency proclamation. (i.e., restrict the governor from unilaterally closing businesses, closing houses of worship, etc.)

There is a clear appetite among lawmakers in Minnesota for restraining their governor’s emergency powers, thereby creating safeguards to prevent future gubernatorial tyranny under the guise of emergency declarations. Co-equal governance, checks and balances, and the decentralization of power are bedrock principles of American democracy. Yet, these fundamental principles have been AWOL in Minnesota since the pandemic.

Fortunately, lawmakers in the Gopher State are beginning to stand up to gubernatorial overreach by reasserting their rightful place as a much-needed check against the executive branch.


The following documents provide more information about executive authority in a state of emergency.


Testimony Before The Georgia House Committee on Judiciary, Scoggins Subcommittee, On House Bill 358, Restoring The State Legislature’s Role In Emergency Management 

Testimony Before the Georgia House Judiciary Committee regarding legislative and executive authority in a state of emergency.

Andrew Cuomo Is Just a Governor, Not a God

Cuomo has issued multiple statements in an attempt to quell the backlash and frustration of New Yorkers and lawmakers in Albany to no avail.

Governors, Not Gods – A Heartland Institute Webinar

The Heartland Institute hosted a webinar on Aug. 27, 2020 for state legislators to discuss how they can rein in governors, who wield seemingly unlimited powers in the wake of COVID-19. For many months, Americans have been abhorred by out-of-control governors who have imposed draconian lockdowns, which have decimated small businesses and people’s livelihoods. For instance, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been roundly criticized for his heavy-handed and ineffectual response to the coronavirus outbreak in New York, which has drawn substantial blowback. Cuomo has also attempted to coverup his disastrous policy of forcing elderly patients with COVID-19 to return to nursing homes, where they spread the deadly diseases like wildfire among New York’s most vulnerable. As the days grow shorter and the temperatures dip lower, now is the time to begin exploring oversight over dictatorial governors and restore power where it rightfully belongs: With we the people, not I the governor.


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the Budget & Tax News website, The Heartland Institute’s website, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database.

The Heartland Institute can send an expert to your state to testify or brief your caucus; host an event in your state; or send you further information on a topic. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance! If you have any questions or comments, contact Heartland’s Government Relations department, at [email protected] or 312/377-4000.