Governor Tim Walz went a step too far yesterday when issuing Executive Order 20-04 which closes all bars, restaurants, and other places of "public accommodation". Citing Minnesota Statutes 2019, section 12.21, subdivision 3(1), Walz proclaims he has the authority to infringe on the rights of private citizens. Constitution be damned!
The spirit of the Minnesota Constitution is embedded in Article 16: "The enumeration of rights in this constitution shall not deny or impair others retained by and inherent in the people."
Walz and politicians in St Paul must understand that the rule of law in this state is the Constitution, not some vague statute that power hungry Governors can use to trample rights. If the Governor has the right to do whatever he sees fit, then what is the point in a Bill of Rights? Can he then use this vague power to set curfews, limit our speech or ban our firearms?
Many will argue that the Governor's right to carry out such an order is inherit in the system of licensing and regulation of private businesses. After all, it's the state of Minnesota that issues liquor licenses to establishments. But this is a gross exaggeration of power. The government issues drivers licenses to citizens. Using that logic, would they have the right to ban all citizens with government issued drivers licenses from owning a vehicle?
Is it good to avoid bars and restaurants?
In order to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it's generally a good policy for individuals to avoid places with more than 10 people, especially if they live or come in contact with someone in a high risk class (elderly or chronic health issues). The risk is much lower in rural areas in Minnesota that are not affected by the virus. We should let these business owners make the call.
It's not too hard to understand the severe economic repercussions of this order. Thousands of low income, service workers will be out of a job for months to come and restaurants owners who are already in a cutthroat business, will have several months of negative cash flow.
Action 4 Liberty believes the Governor went too far and does not have the right to tell private businesses to shut their doors. In this crisis, politicians have become authoritarian and our Constitution has been trampled. Walz should send out advisories instead of orders. It's good to share the wisdom of the scientific community. But once we've gone against the rights of the people, we've gone too far.