Minnesota court hears arguments in lawsuit against governor’s COVID-19 restrictions
The Free Minnesota Small Business Coalition says Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders during the coronavirus pandemic unlawfully restrict civil liberties.
A Minnesota small business owner told “Fox & Friends Weekend” on Sunday that Gov. Tim Walz left “small businesses suffering” and that is why she and other business owners sued the governor.
The lawsuit accuses the governor of overstepping his authority over his use of emergency powers in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Gov. Walz said that we're a nonessential business, when he left other businesses like Walmart [and] Target open,” Larvita McFarquhar, who was one of several business owners challenging a series of executive orders from Walz that forced them to temporarily shut down, said.
McFarquhar, who owns a restaurant as well as a dance studio and gymnastics center, went on to say that all three of her businesses were forced to close because of the governor’s orders and she “couldn't make an income or living doing anything.”
“The governor has acted like a drunk monarch because he has not been following any of the rules,” McFarquhar’s attorney Erick Kaardal said.
“Rather than working with the legislature, the agencies and the judges, he’s just doing his own thing.”
“He issued 75 executive orders,” Kaardal continued, adding that “he’s issuing them like a tissue.”
“It’s just ridiculous,” he said. “We can't even keep up with him. He refuses to work with anyone else. It's a lack of leadership.”
Minnesota small businesses and lawmakers challenging Walz’s executive orders during the pandemic are claiming that Walz has been out of control by taking measures that they claim unlawfully restrict civil liberties.
The Free Minnesota Small Business Coalition, which includes leading individual businesses and several state legislators, claims that Walz’s orders amount to improper legislative action and that the statute that allows emergency declarations for an “act of nature” does not apply to a pandemic.
The statute under which Walz issued his orders authorizes peacetime emergency declarations in a number of situations, including acts of nature, which is the category Walz claims justifies the orders. The coalition, however, argued in a court filing earlier this month that the law does not permit restricting civil liberties, and that the law itself violates Minnesota’s constitution because it lets the governor usurp lawmaking power that belongs to the state legislature.
The restrictions include limits on the number of people who can gather in both indoor and outdoor settings, as well as which businesses can be open during the pandemic. The plaintiffs argue that the restrictions are improperly overbroad.
On Sunday, Kaardal said that “an hour-and-a-half oral argument” took place “before the judge and the judge was considering our arguments that the governor under our constitution has to work with the legislative branch, work with the agencies, even work with the judges in these kind of situations.”
In a statement sent to Fox News on Saturday Walz said, “The virus has forced the state to take drastic action to keep Minnesotans safe, but it’s action that is within the governor's authority. It is also in line with federal guidance and similar to what many other states are doing.”
In response to the statement, Kaardal had a message for Walz: “The Minnesota constitution is different, governor.”
“Governor Walz, you have to work with the legislature, you have to work with the agencies and you have to work with the judges,” he continued. “You can't do it all on your own and to ignore these legal limitations you're acting like a monarch. It’s not good. You have got to stop now.”
He went on to say that his client “has some good ideas … on how to have these regulations work better, but you're not listening.”
“You're not listening to anyone,” Kaardal said.
McFarquhar explained some of her ideas, which included reopening safely “so everyone can thrive as a small business owner.”
“We don't like being smushed down, not knowing what to do, what’s going to happen next,” she said.
She went on to say that the most important thing to do to reopen safely is “cleaning.”
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison supported Walz, asserting that the executive orders are proper.
"I stand behind the legality and constitutionality of the governor's executive orders and will strongly defend them in court," Ellison said in a statement to local news outlet KSTP when the challenge was brought in May. "That said, this lawsuit is a distraction from what we all need to be focused on — fighting the pandemic."
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The lawsuit seeks an injunction blocking Walz from exercising any further power under the emergency declaration statute.
Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.
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