Hello, friends. I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on some of the recent news regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.
Yesterday, the Minnesota House convened to vote on historic legislation to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill, known as HF 4531, appropriates $330 million of taxpayer money.
I voted “No” on HF 4531 because the bill is fraught with problems.
First, this bill was rushed through the legislature in a profoundly broken process. While certain measures had to be taken to prevent members and the public from getting sick, leadership placed all its emphasis on, “getting a bill done.” Our open meeting laws were flagrantly and obviously avoided. Numbers showed up out of nowhere, even at the last minute, such as the $11 million to bail out the tribal casinos. Legislators were told these measures were “necessary,” without full explanations of why or even where the money was going to come from.
Secondly, I have serious disagreements with parts of the bill and its entire approach. This bill looks out for government first, not the people of Minnesota. Most of the “relief” in the bill is allocated for government to continue to function. The help for people this bill provides isn’t really help at all. Minnesotans will be poorer, more indebted, and more dependent on government programs after this is over. We should be looking at ways that the states and even the federal government are freeing people from regulatory red tape to solve their own problems to get through this crisis.
Thirdly, this approach privileges large business over small business, and organizations over individuals. This is fully displayed in how the childcare piece of this bill is structured. "Big childcare” and its chains and corporate childcare centers are significant beneficiaries of this bill. If you don’t believe me, you can simply read the op-ed piece from Wednesday’s StarTribune by Chad Dunkley, the CEO of New Horizon Academy. This bill directs all childcare grants through our flawed childcare subsidy system, which we spent all last session talking about with multiple legislative auditor reports. Even the food shelf portion of the bill gives granting authority to a single large non-profit association of food shelves. The message this bill sends is, ‘big business and big government will work things out. And small businesses, here’s a loan that you’ll struggle to pay now that we’ve effectively killed your business.’
Let me be clear, I believe this is a real crisis. But it is a temporary one and we are doing long term damage to the Minnesota economy in the way we are approaching relief. We don’t know the extent of this crisis. We may be taking action that is unnecessary and has significant costs in the short, medium, and long term.
Chapter 12 of Minnesota statutes exists to grant temporary authority to the Governor to solve immediate problems. However, irresponsible state legislators are making Chapter 12 a permanent feature of our government.
As such, I voted against HF 4531.
HF 4531 demonstrates that the priorities and values of far-off, liberal politicians in St. Paul are misguided.
For example, last year the Minnesota Legislature allocated roughly $273 million in total for all agriculture spending and farmer support for the 2020-21 biennial budget. Yet the same legislators now spend over $330 million on grant programs, bureaucracy, and new funds in a single year. This is just wrong.
Speaking of new funds, $200 million of the $330 million allocated in HF 4531 is placed in the newly created, “COVID-19 Minnesota Fund.” However, when the legislators voted to create this fund, they also placed ten state legislators on a special commission to approve grants from this fund. Additionally, Minnesota Management and Budget may spend money from this fund without approval from anyone if they spend less than $1 million per transaction.
This approach totally lacks transparency and honestly. These legislators have effective decided they know better and have pre-empted the representative capacity of the other 191 members of the Minnesota Legislature. They have decided they do not need input from constituents of those 191 districts. Effectively, these individuals have made themselves “Super-Legislators.” These are the kind of swampy political maneuvers that should also make Minnesotans sick.
As the Governor’s “Stay at Home” order goes into effect tonight, I want to direct your attention to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) link which allows individuals to determine whether their job or business is exempt from the Governor’s executive order.
Here is the link: https://mn.gov/deed/newscenter/covid/business-exemptions/
Furthermore, below is a link to my caucus’ resource page which contains a great deal of helpful information in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Resource page link: https://airtable.com/shrOReP6x3ZhExBIw/tblFtvtveaRilVkNs?blocks=hide
If you have any questions regarding COVID-19, please don’t hesitate to contact me or my office. My email address is Rep.Steve.Drazkowski@house.mn. Additionally, please reach out to my Legislative Assistant, Luke, with any questions. Luke’s email is Luke.Sprinkel@house.mn. Emailing is the fastest way to get in contact with me. Contact me anytime with questions or concerns.