The House has passed temporary rules governing the upcoming biennium, including a pared-down committee structure and a provision that allows remote operations as necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The eight pages of temporary rules were approved on a 129-3 vote Thursday, a day after they were approved by the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee.
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) said the temporary rules are designed to allow the House to begin operations. Next week, the rules committee will meet to consider permanent rules for the biennium, he said.
“This is simply to get us started,” he said.
The temporary rules establish 31 House committees and divisions, down four from the last biennium. They also allow the House to continue operating remotely throughout the entire biennium, though Winkler said the goal remains to resume in-person operations when safe to do so.
All members and staff will still be required to wear a mask any time they are present in the House Chamber, a committee hearing room or any other space where legislative business is conducted.
A pair of Republican amendments were not added.
Republicans said they think it’s shortsighted to eliminate the division during a pandemic that has disproportionately affected aging populations and long-term-care facilities. DFLers said the new House Human Services Finance & Policy Committee will cover such issues.
Rep. Kristin Robbins (R-Maple Grove) offered an amendment that would have ended the rule allowing the House to operate remotely after May 18. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said its passage would have been a show of “good faith” that Democrats intend to return to in-person operations as soon as possible.
Winkler said the rules as proposed don’t require remote operations and that it’s premature to say it will be safe to gather come May.