The following information can help you better understand what the executive order issued March 13 means for cities.
Gov. Walz signed Emergency Executive Order 20-01, “Declaring a Peacetime Emergency and Coordinating Minnesota’s Strategy to Protect Minnesotans from COVID-19” on March 13. The executive order creates many questions for Minnesota city officials, and while this is a rapidly changing situation, the following information can help you better understand what the executive order means for cities. The League is monitoring the situation closely and will provide updates in regard to city operations as needed.
Q: What is a peacetime emergency?
LMC: The Minnesota governor has the authority to declare a peacetime emergency up to five days, with the possibility to extend for an additional 30 days, in consultation with the Executive Council (Minnesota Statutes, section 12.31). A peacetime emergency authorizes the governor to exercise certain powers and duties provided by statute in a more efficient manner. When an emergency is declared, the governor may provide emergency aid as dictated in Minnesota Statutes, section 12.36.
Q: What should a city do in response to the executive order?
LMC: Cities should follow their local emergency management plans and work with the state when requested. More information on emergency management can be found in the Handbook for Minnesota Cities Chapter 12: Public Safety and Emergency Management.
In addition, cities should follow the recommendations from the Minnesota Department Health (MDH) and review MDH’s guidance on social gatherings when it considers the services and events it offers. At this time, the declaration does not specifically call upon cities to take any additional action.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has information on Implementation of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission.
Q: Should our city still hold public meetings?
LMC: Cities should review the recommendations from the Minnesota Department Health related to public meetings. Minnesota Statute, section 13D.021 grants cities the authority to hold meetings via telephone or other electronic means during a health pandemic or emergency declared by the governor, if the mayor, chief legal counsel, or chief administrative officer of the city determine that an in person meeting is not prudent.
Q: If our city holds a meeting by telephone or other electronic means, what steps does the city need to take?
LMC: Pursuant to Minnesota Statute, section 13D.021, cities will need to ensure:
- All members participating in the meeting, wherever their physical location, can hear one another and can hear all discussion and testimony.
- All members of the public present at the regular meeting location can hear all discussion and testimony and all votes of the members, unless attendance at the regular meeting location is not feasible due to the health pandemic or emergency declaration.
- At least one member of the body, chief legal counsel, or chief administrative officer is physically present at the regular meeting location, unless unfeasible due to the health pandemic or emergency declaration.
- All votes are conducted by roll call, so each member’s vote on each issue can be identified and recorded.
Cities should work closely with their city attorney if they conduct meetings by electronic means.
Q: What does this mean for city public safety officials?
LMC: As part of an emergency declaration, pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 12.33, the governor may authorize and direct the police, firefighting, health, or other force of a political subdivision, including cities, to go to the assistance of another political subdivision, and to take and use the personnel, equipment, and supplies of those cities where needed. At this time, the League is not aware of any plan by the governor to direct city public safety officials.
Q: Will our city be reimbursed?
LMC: If the governor were to direct the use of city resources, there are provisions in state law for the state and other political subdivisions to reimburse the costs incurred by a city as part of responding to a peace time emergency, including the creation of a public health response contingency account to be disbursed by the state commissioner of health. Cities should track any such costs incurred and more information will be provided on reimbursements in the future.
Q: Where can I find more information on how to respond to the pandemic?
LMC: You can find additional information and updates from the following resources:
- LMC webinar “Preparing Local Government for COVID-19” materials
- Minnesota Department of Health, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus (COVID-19)