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Select committee formed to continue work on pandemic response following session

Aircraft from the Minnesota National Guard fly by the Capitol May 6, in recognition of medical workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic response. Photo by Paul Battaglia

A Select Committee on Minnesota’s Pandemic Response and Rebuilding will allow the House to continue conversations about the COVID-19 pandemic, even after wrapping up its regular legislative session, which must end May 18.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) announced the committee’s formation in a media availability Tuesday morning.

It will focus on responses to the pandemic and ways to rebuild in its wake, she said.

“This is a pretty new event, that’s kind of on the scale of a world war, and so we will examine the … bigger issues about how a pandemic moves through a society, and the way that people react to that,” Hortman said.

This would include a review of what has been done at the state and federal levels, by both the executive and legislative branches, and an assessment of what else might need to be done, she said.

House DFL Media Availability 5/12/20

“There really is no playbook,” Hortman said. “It’s not entirely clear what the work is that the Legislature should be doing, what the work of the executive branch (is) … we need to step back and kind of look more broadly at the role the Legislature can play.”

The committee will assess whether policy changes are needed to address issues like worker safety and workers’ rights, Hortman said. Its first meeting will be the week of May 18 and will focus on workplace safety for Minnesota’s nurses. It will continue to meet on an “as-needed basis.”

Other possible subjects include education and the re-opening of schools, the pandemic’s impact on the Iron Range, and issues unique to border communities.

The committee’s standing membership will include:

The committee will also include five additional members – three DFLers and two Republicans – to be determined by each meeting’s specific focus.

Winkler called the committee “An important step forward … allowing us to be more thoughtful and broad,” than the House committee schedule typically permits.

“There is a level of urgency and a real test for Minnesota’s political system to see if we can start to grapple with the scale of this situation,” he said.

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