I wanted to send my weekly update early this week, as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 situation and passed important insulin legislation yesterday. In addition, I’ve heard from many of you regarding the Governor’s extension of the Stay-at-Home orders and his Peacetime Emergency Powers and wanted to let you know how I’ve responded.
THE MINNESOTA HOUSE PASSED HF 4556 THAT CONTINUES TO ADDRESS MINNESOTA'S RESPONSE TO COVID-19
HF 4556 includes many policy provisions. The legislation will help protect struggling farmers by extending dates for Farmer/Lender mediation, expand access to telemedicine, and ensure that Minnesotans are covered as they normally would be if they receive care at an alternate treatment site. It includes changes to allow Minnesotans to apply for a marriage license remotely, ensures public officials can participate in remote meetings or hearings (similar to current law for military members), and eases certain deadlines in response to COVID-19. It also will ensure Commercial Drivers Licenses and out-of-state licenses will continue to be valid while in-person appointments are restricted. The bill also implements provisions of the federal CARES Act including coverage of COVID-19 testing as part of our ongoing response to the pandemic. In addition to these policy measures, the bill includes one important allocation to provide $1.25 million dollars to Second Harvest Food Bank, which will help ensure needed funding for our food shelves and allow them to purchase milk and other protein products from our state’s farmers.
INSULIN COMPROMISE REACHED
After months of work, the legislature came to a compromise agreement that makes insulin more affordable for all Minnesotans and ensures that insulin is available in emergency situations. HF 3100 ensures that an emergency monthly supply of insulin will be available for $35 at all pharmacies and those in need will be connected to long term resources or insurance coverage. These insulin affordability programs will be supported by the manufacturers. I was pleased to vote on this bi-partisan bill to provide life-saving assistance for those in emergency situations.
WHEN WILL WE RETURN TO NORMAL?
There's a tremendous amount of frustration right now in our community over the Governor's extension of the Stay at Home order until May 4th. Every day I hear from families and small businesses whose lives have been turned upside-down.
We all share a common goal of protecting the health and safety of Minnesotans during this COVID-19 crisis. But many of you have already asked when Minnesota is expected to re-open. I share your concern about the severe economic impact that the mandated closures are having on our economy and personal livelihoods. I want you to know that my fellow legislators and I have been pushing the administration on a daily basis, asking for exemptions, flexibility, and common sense. If there are businesses that can protect the safety of employees and customers, we should allow them to operate.
It's frustrating that Governor Walz has indicated that decisions on reopening Minnesota will be left to just a handful of his own commissioners. Minnesotans want to work together. We want to do our part to protect the health of our families and our neighbors. And we also want decisions that impact thousands of businesses and millions of Minnesotans to be made in an inclusive and transparent manner. That means including members of the public, business leaders, health care experts, and legislators—who are the ones communicating every day with our constituents, and who understand the unique needs of our districts—in the planning process for the reopening of Minnesota’s economy.
The latest modeling information provided this week by experts at the Minnesota Department of Health and the University of Minnesota indicates that we can begin the process of bringing our economy back, while still protecting the vulnerable and continuing to observe social distancing. If we can avoid three more weeks of economic devastation without an increase in ICU demand or deaths, we should let the data guide our work and have the conversation about the process to allow people to return to work safely.
To that end, House Republicans brought forward a resolution yesterday that would have moved the process forward. Our approach aimed to keep in place important measures to protect veterans, small businesses, and law enforcement as our response to COVID-19 continues. Some of you wrote to me requesting that we simply end the Governor's Emergency Powers Declaration (which he extended until May 13th); this would cause significant disruption and would have eliminated some important COVID-19 measures. This is why we needed to do this in a way that's smart and recognizes that this crisis has not come to an end. Unfortunately the Minnesota House majority did not agree and voted against the proposal.
You can rest assured I’ll keep pushing for common sense and transparency in Minnesota’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, so that we chart the best path to overcome the pandemic, and expedite a safe return to work.
WORK IN PROGRESS…
I continue to respond to your phone calls and emails about your worries and concerns. I know that many of you are still waiting for answers on your Unemployment Insurance claims or your application for small business loans.
We are working with the agencies to expedite answers for you. The other issues that I have heard from you about that are still being worked on are as follows: opening golf courses, allowing restaurants to sell wine and beer with takeout food orders, and possible changes to business sales tax and property tax due dates.
Stay positive, stay healthy and stay connected,