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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Dean Urdahl (R)

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Signs of progress in re-opening our state

Thursday, May 14, 2020

By Rep. Dean Urdahl

I am receiving many emails and calls each day about the present crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting orders by Gov. Tim Walz.

First, let me emphasize that we need to re-open our state while putting safety first. I believe it is possible to do both. Gov. Tim Walz’s announcement lifting the state’s Stay at Home order on Monday and creating a pathway toward re-opening of restaurants, churches, and other businesses in the coming weeks is a sign of progress.

The governor made many appropriate unilateral decisions in his early orders. Decisions had to made quickly and he acted. It is my contention the time has come to end the emergency powers and scale back executive orders, which now near 60. The urgent decisions have been made and it is time for the governor and the Legislature to work together for the well-being of the state. 

Legislative authority must be returned to the Legislature, restoring the balance of power in our representative system of government. Minnesotans deserve to know they have local representation. That said, the people of Minnesota, working with local legislators to voice their concerns during this time, have had a positive impact in causing the governor to understand the issues and begin re-opening our state. I greatly appreciate your work in this regard.

A bonding bill hangs in the balance during the final days of the 202 session. This affects me directly because I’m the ranking member of the bonding committee. I want to see a bonding bill get done. 

But we also have to regain equal governing status with the governor. I have voted twice on the House floor to end the emergency power decrees. Each time, those efforts were voted down. I have made dozens of calls and email requests of the governor and his departments, in which I conveyed requests from the public and my advocacy for constituents. I have supported a resolution to enable churches to re-open. It failed as well.

I am co-author of a bill with Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen to re-open businesses and also have co-authored a bill to return penalties for violations of the shutdown orders to misdemeanors and not gross misdemeanors, which carry a higher fine and jail time. Given the landscape, I doubt that either can pass the House, although the first bill, carried by Sen. Scott Newman, did pass in the Senate.

I share the frustrations that many of you feel. It is frustrating that the governor is able to continue issuing these orders without legislative input. I will continue to work with my colleagues to maintain public safety in a way that gets Minnesota moving again.