House District 55A Rep. Erik Mortensen (R-Shakopee) co-sponsored articles of impeachment against Democratic Gov. Tim Walz on Feb. 8, along with two other state legislators.
In a news release sent Monday, Mortensen called the governor’s executive orders unconstitutional.
The articles come after Mortensen, a freshman lawmaker, has spent months maintaining Walz’s emergency powers are a breach of power.
Last spring, the Legislature approved Walz’s implementation of peacetime emergency powers to buy time for testing and hospital bed capacity, and to keep COVID-19 numbers at bay. Since then, the governor’s emergency powers have been a source of contention between House Republicans and Democrats, and in his first few weeks in office, Mortensen’s voice has been at the helm of that discussion.
The impeachment resolution, which faces long odds in the DFL-controlled House, includes five articles of impeachment.
Two of the articles accuse Walz of failing to respect the separation of powers outlined in the state constitution by creating “new laws” with his executive orders and setting penalties for violating them.
The other articles charge that he has violated Minnesotans’ rights to the free exercise of religion; that he illegally seized private property by closing businesses and halting evictions; and that he harmed Minnesotans by delaying elective medical procedures.
A spokesman for the governor said Walz’s executive orders have repeatedly been upheld in court when their legality has been challenged, adding that courts rather than legislators determine what is constitutional.
It’s not the first time Mortensen, a freshman lawmaker, has made the news for opposing Walz’ executive orders.
In November, shortly after his election, Mortensen sent a letter inviting Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison to his Shakopee home for a “freedom celebration” in defiance of the then-recent COVID-19 restrictions.
In December, Mortensen toured five bars and restaurants across the state that were open for indoor seating despite Walz’s executive order to remain closed.
Since Jan. 11, Mortensen has been the chief author of several other COVID-19 related bills, including a bill to end Walz’s peacetime emergency powers; the suspension of governor and legislative salaries while restrictions are still in place; and immunity for individuals or businesses that fail to comply with executive orders.
Mortensen has not responded to a request for an interview with the newspaper about his first few weeks in office, but he told Action 4 Liberty President Jake Duesenberg in a live Facebook video from Jan. 28 that Walz is on a “power trip.”
“It doesn’t get any more anti-democratic than one person subverting the entire legislature and making all the rules,” Mortensen said in the same video.
Senate District 55 DFL Chair Bryan Casey told the newspaper he thinks Mortensen “has not led in a responsible manner” and that his handling of the pandemic is “insulting” to those who have lost loved ones to the disease.
“The fact that Representative Mortensen felt he should use his position to try to remove Governor Walz’s executive powers is mind boggling,” Casey wrote in an email to the newspaper, though he cautioned that the opinion is his own and not necessarily the official position of the DFL party.
Recently-elected Scott County GOP Chair Anne Meurer said she’s pleased to see the articles of impeachment hit the House floor, and she likened Walz to an “omnipotent dictator.”
“(Walz) is desperately trying to prevent Minnesotans from seeing the economic devastation and the toll his orders are taking on people’s mental and physical health,” Meurer wrote to the newspaper.
Former Scott County GOP Chairman Joseph Ditto said he is “thrilled” with Mortensen’s actions in his first few weeks in office.
“I’m not normally happy with politicians, but so far he’s said what he’s going to do,” Ditto said. “He’s pretty effective for a freshman.”
Casey said he wishes Mortensen would work more with locally-based groups and officials instead of statewide partisan groups such as Action 4 Liberty, adding “he needs to work collaboratively with the community.”
Mortensen was joined in the resolution by Reps. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) and Jeremy Munson (R-Lake Crystal).
Additional reporting by Nick Woltman with the St. Paul Pioneer Press.