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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Nathan Nelson (R)

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Rep. Nelson Legislative Update

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Good morning,


On Tuesday, state lawmakers approved legislation that continues to address the COVID-19 crisis we're facing in Minnesota.


This bill helps protect struggling farmers, expands access to telemedicine, and ensures that Minnesotans are covered as they normally would be if they receive care at an alternate treatment site. 


It also 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. 


Worth noting: the CARES Act passed at the federal level includes a number of provisions aimed at helping Minnesota respond to COVID-19. This bill implements provisions of the CARES Act including coverage of COVID-19 testing as part of our ongoing response to the pandemic. 



You'll recall last week I discussed the frustrations many in our district are having in regards to the Governor's decision to extend the stay-at-home order until May 4. This response prompted emails from a number of you, ranging from 'we need to get back to work tomorrow' to 'Governor Walz is simply doing what he thinks is best to keep us all safe.'


There are very real concerns on both sides of this debate. But at the same time, we need to begin discussions as to how and when we are going to let people get back to normal - and that process should include more than Governor Walz and his advisors.


We all share a common goal of protecting the health and safety of Minnesotans. The latest modeling information provided this week by experts at the Minnesota Department of Health and the University of Minnesota indicates that by protecting the vulnerable and continuing to observe social distancing, we can begin the process of bringing our economy back. 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 that conversation.


Also on Tuesday, the Minnesota House voted on a resolution that would have done just that. Our approach aimed to keep in place important measures to protect veterans, small businesses, and law enforcement as our response to COVID-19 continues. Simply ending the Governor's Emergency Declaration would cause significant disruption — so we tried to do this in a way that recognized that this crisis has not come to an end. Unfortunately, the House majority did not agree and the proposal failed.


Those who oppose re-opening in any fashion have told me they object to economic reasons being the driving force behind the idea. While I have certainly heard from business owners who are tired of sitting on the sidelines, I have also heard from a number of others with mental and physical health concerns - folks who have been unable to speak to their counselor during these trying times or get an allergy shot as the pollens are firing up. While we should all work to protect each other from COVID-19, it's undeniable that this is taking on a toll on our physical and emotional well-being as a result of the current closures.


Each week we are finding solutions that allow Minnesotans to perform everyday tasks in a safer and intelligent way. For example, in the bill we approved Tuesday, we're allowing a couple to apply for a marriage license electronically rather than having to make an in-person visit. We're not letting perfectly good food go to waste by requiring Second Harvest Heartland to purchase surplus protein.


Most people are displaying a great deal of common sense in responding to this pandemic. We all recognize the problem isn't going to end tomorrow, but the process of determining how Minnesota can begin (safely) moving again must start soon, and those discussions should include other leaders - legislators, the public, business, and health experts - in addition to the governor and his advisors.


Be well,