Dear Freinds and Neighbors,
A one week special session has ended, and we're likely to see another very soon.
You'll recall we returned to the Capitol because Governor Walz wanted to extend his emergency powers for another 30 days. A vote to end these powers did receive bi-partisan support in both the Senate and the House - but not enough votes to pass. The Governor now has extended his Emergency Powers until July 12th. It is expected that we will be called back into another special session then, when the Governor can seek to have these powers further extended.
So what was debated during our special session? Here's a review of some of the more notable items.
Small Business Grants Bill Passed
As a member of the House Jobs & Economic Development committee, I have been advocating for additional relief for small business owners. Our plan passed by both bodies and will provide grants (rather than loans) to small businesses that were forced to close due to Governor Walz' executive orders was approved. The bill provides $30 million in grants for Greater Minnesota and $30 million for metro area. Each awarded grant will be up to $10,000. Applications will be accepted by DEED until July 2, after which grantees will be selected by lottery. To apply, click here.
COVID-19 Funding for Counties, Cities, and Towns
The federal CARES Act has allocated approximately $841 million for COVID-19 funding to be distributed to Minnesota counties, cities, and towns. The legislature has been working on how this gets allocated for weeks. The legislative caucuses (Republican and Democratic leadership in both the House and Senate) had an agreement in place to distribute these funds immediately. Unfortunately the House majority - on the Governor’s urging - chose to alter this agreement and tack on nearly $300 million in additional spending - unrelated to COVID - that would increase our state’s deficit as added to this bill.
Because of this, both the House and Senate adjourned without this needed COVID funding being distributed to our cities and counties.
Here’s roughly what this would have meant for our local units of government:
Goodhue County- $5.6 million
Wabasha County- $2.6 million
Red Wing - $1.2 million
Goodhue - $87,000
Lake City - $390,000
Wabasha - $189,000
Cannon Falls - $310,000
Our counties and cities are in desperate need for this money and I will continue to urge this CARES funding passage - without “add-ons”.
The aftermath of George Floyd's death has led to calls for police reform. Demands to defund and abolish police are extreme responses to a tragic situation. However, recent protests underscore the need for changes to make sure all Minnesotans feel safe in their communities and can trust law enforcement to treat them with respect and dignity.
Provisions with bipartisan support were proposed during the special session, from changing the arbitration process, to the duty to intercede, to banning chokeholds and providing departments with greater recourse when officers violate laws and training standards. In the end, they did not become law.
I want to make sure that reasonable reform to help restore public trust and police accountability is accomplished without government overreach and unintended consequences. Doing so could result in harm to overall public safety and to the very police officers that put their lives on the line to protect us each and every day.
The reality is that while we may have stalled on some issues, there are enough areas where we could find common ground on police reforms that I believe will be able to complete that work in a bipartisan fashion.
Guidance for upcoming school year
A recent announcement from the Minnesota Department of Education indicates schools will not receive guidance from state officials on how to plan for the upcoming academic year until late July. I have coordinated feedback sessions with our area superintendents so that they could provide their input and ideas on this process.
As of last week, state officials have told school districts and charter schools to plan for three possible scenarios in the fall:
- All children return to school buildings and in-person classes.
- No children return to school buildings for in-person classes. Instead, all students will engage in distance learning.
- Employ a hybrid of these two options with both in-person classes and distance learning.
State officials say a final decision at the end of July on what to expect for the upcoming academic year. I have heard that waiting until late July to make a decision on the coming academic year is impractical for our school districts and brings many logistical concerns. I will continue to push the MDE to finalize their direction as soon as possible and allow flexibility to our local districts.
Visitation guidance for long-term care facilities
To prevent outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Center for Disease Control provided direction related to restricting visitation.
The Minnesota Department of Health indicates “The Minnesota Department of Health recognizes how the effects of isolation can have serious impacts on the health and well-being of residents in LTC facilities. At this time, we believe the risk of COVID-19 transmission in LTC facilities and the need for family, partner or close friend interaction can be balanced under certain conditions.” Click here for more information.
Youth sports set to resume
The Minnesota Department of Health has put forth guidance regarding resuming youth sports and strongly recommends the following timelines for all ages:
Games/scrimmages – both within teams and between teams:
- June 24 or later for outdoor sports
- July 1 or later for indoor sports
- Full team practices for all sports
- June 24 for indoor and outdoor sports
The guidance from MDH also outlines preferred times for games and urges teams to not share equipment, fans to social distance and travel to be kept to a minimum.
Staying in touch
As always, if you have questions or concerns regarding any issue, please contact me. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-8635.