Gov. Walz's made 102 executive orders this year. What do they do?
Gov. Tim Walz signed his 100th executive order on Monday, nine months after his first one of the year.
The first executive order on March 13 declared a peacetime emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a harbinger of what the rest of the year would bring.
Walz renewed that iniorder nine times and filed 102 executive orders as of mid-December.
Some orders closed schools and businesses for weeks. One suspended evictions. Others changed how health care is provided in the state.
The orders provide a record of how a historic pandemic progressed in Minnesota and how the state tried to mitigate infections as the novel coronavirus surged across the world.
When Walz established emergency powers, there were 1,600 cases of COVID-19 nationwide, including 14 in Minnesota. Nearly nine months later there are 14.1 million cases in the U.S. and more than 335,000 in the state.
Last year Walz filed 38 executive orders, including one to allow for fuel transportation needed to dry out wet crops and another to establish a Council on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity.
Most of his 2020 orders have something to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. And they came in a flurry with 35 in the first month of the pandemic, slowing from there.
The Legislature has been busy as well, passing 70 laws in regular and special sessions this year. Lawmakers can end the governor's emergency authority if they pull together enough votes.
Walz's use of emergency powers stoked opposition among Republicans, but they didn't have enough support in the Legislature to end his emergency powers.
Here's a summary of what Walz and his team did with ther 99 executive orders.
Change how schools operate — 9 orders
The second order of the year closed public schools. The 19th implemented distance learning, and the 41st extended distance learning. Order 57 allowed schools to teach through the summer using a hybrid model or distance learning.
On July 30, Walz issued recommendations for the current school year, via executive order 82. And on Nov. 5, a 94th executive order gave schools more funding flexibility, allowed teachers to count some prep time toward instructional hours and temporarily raised age limits for some special education services.
As for colleges and universities, the 85th executive order required them to make plans to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, in mid-May, Walz allowed higher educational institutions to bring back students in "critical sectors" such as health care, to complete their degrees.
Close or alter businesses — 15 orders
In mid-March Walz closed some types of businesses, including restaurants, bars, theaters and golf clubs, to reduce community spread of the virus. It was the fourth executive order of the year. Executive order eight clarified the restrictions and the 18th order extended them.
On Nov. 18, Walz again ordered a halt to in-person restaurant dining, social gatherings like weddings and funerals as well as closed gyms with the 99th executive order.
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Between those shutdowns, the state relaxed restrictions with the 74th order, allowed restaurants to use some roads for outdoor dining in order 70 and set a curfew on dining rooms, bars and social gatherings with the 96th order.
Changed health care — 15 orders
The executive office delayed elective surgeries in March, its ninth order, to focus the health care system on the COVID-19 threat. By then, Walz's third executive order had restricted visitors and set new protocols at Minnesota Veterans Homes to reduce the spread of the virus.
Walz called on the Minnesota National Guard to aid with distribution of personal protective equipment early in the pandemic when shortages were widespread. And he called non-hospitals to inventory and preserve all PPE and other vital equipment in late March in case it was needed.
The licensing boards for health professionals were allowed to relax deadlines and continuing education requirements due to the 23rd executive order. Two executive orders allowed out-of-state health care and mental health care providers to serve Minnesotans.
Made new protections and benefits — 9 orders
Walz relaxed provisions in state unemployment insurance law to allow easier access to benefits for the people out of work due to COVID-19. That was executive order five and orders 29 and 102 renewed it.
The state established a forgivable loan program to benefit small businesses with the 15th executive order.
The 50th order suspended wage garnishment for consumer debts. And the 54th took steps to protect workers from unsafe work conditions and retaliation during the pandemic.
Set general safety precautions — 6 orders
A statewide mask mandate took effect in late July with some exceptions, including for children younger than 5. The 81st executive order requires masks in businesses and public offices, on public transportation and for outside workers when social distancing isn't possible.
Prior to that, Walz ordered Minnesotans to stay home in his 20th executive order, which included many exceptions for activities such as essential work and most outdoor recreation. Limits on some outdoor recreation, such as golfing, loosened up in April with the 38th order.
Weddings, funerals and religious services resumed in late May for some time following the 62nd executive order. They're currently limited, along with other social gatherings.
Responded to George Floyd homicide fallout — 10 orders
After a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd on Memorial Day, protests erupted across the state and the world. Some protests escalated and led to unrest and property damage in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
On May 28, Walz activated the National Guard and declared a peacetime emergency to "provide safety and protection to the people of Minneapolis, St. Paul and surrounding communities," according to the document. It was the 64th order of the year.
Walz then implemented a temporary curfew via executive order and renewed it with three subsequent orders. He issued an order allowing metro police to use the services of other law enforcement departments. And he activated the National Guard amid threats of unrest in Clay County in June.
Altered government operations — 10 orders
Walz cut his salary and those of his cabinet members by 10% from mid-April through the end of the year in executive order 36.
Walz ordered the creation of a paid leave program for executive branch employees who can't work because they're caring for children or for other reasons related to the outbreak in the seventh executive order. And the 21st order expanded that policy to include constitutional officers.
Two orders gave flexibility to the Human Services Department during the pandemic and required it regularly report changes to the Legislature. Another two allowed the state auditor to temporarily extend deadlines and make other changes.
Walz allowed licensing boards to modify requirements for peace officers and firefighters during the COVID-19 emergency with the 25th executive order.
Reduced regulations on motor carriers — 13 orders
Walz relaxed weight restrictions on trucks carrying livestock feed and other necessary loads during the pandemic. Other orders loosened the hours of service requirements, while still prohibiting fatigued or ill drivers from operating commercial vehicles.
In 2019 Walz issued eight executive orders relaxing regulations on motor carriers.
Addressed miscellaneous issues — 4 orders
In early April, Walz authorized the National Guard to help with flood mitigation in Marshall County. It was the 30th executive order of the year.
He used two other orders to continue a blue ribbon council on information technology and establish a blue ribbon committee on the Metropolitan Council's structure and services.
And in September Walz activated the National Guard to provide public safety assistance when Vice President Mike Pence campaigned in Minneapolis.
Declare a peacetime emergency — 10 orders
Walz renewed the emergency status and the powers that come with it around the 12th of each month, as required by law.
If both chambers agree, they can vote to repeal the governor's emergency powers. Walz has maintained support of the DFL party, which holds the House.
Walz's 100th order renewed the powers for a 10th time on Monday.
Nora Hertel is the government watchdog reporter for the St. Cloud Times. Reach her at 320-255-8746 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @nghertel.
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