State Representative Paul Torkelson, of Hanska said on Thursday that Minnesota is nearing an unwanted anniversary: one full year since Governor Walz was given emergency powers.

Last year, the Legislature gave the governor this authority allowing him to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic more quickly, as much was unknown about the future impacts of the coronavirus. Since then, Torkelson said the governor has fully embraced the one-person rule power he was granted, and even though the emergency portion of the pandemic is over, his emergency powers remain fully intact.

The Governor’s Office recently announced that nearly 70% of senior citizens in Minnesota – the group most at risk from COVID-19 – have been vaccinated, which means vaccination eligibility has now expanded in the state and is another big step towards herd immunity.

Despite this Torkelson said the Governor continues to insist that we are still in the “emergency” phase of our response to the pandemic, even though variants of COVID-19 have been circulating in Minnesota for more than six weeks and cases have continued to drop.

House Democrats who previously voted to end the powers prior to last November’s election are no longer doing so, continuing to enable the Governor’s unilateral authority and refusing to restore the legislature as a Constitutional co-equal branch of government.

Meanwhile, those who own or work in restaurants, movie theaters, bars, event centers, salons, entertainment venues continue to operate with significant restrictions.

“Other states have recognized that with vaccinations on the rise, that the process of returning to normal can begin,” Torkelson said. “Minnesota should be doing the same thing, and that can only happen if the emergency powers end.”