The dust is settling on a one-week special session the Legislature recently conducted. While there were achievements such as approving a Minnesota Small Business Relief Grants Program and a slimmed-down education policy bill, major issues including the distribution of relief to local governments, public safety reform and bonding remain unfinished.
Much of the holdup is linked to work on a bill that would release $841 million in federal CARES Act funding to local governments. The four legislative caucuses reached a compromise on how those funds should be distributed and the Senate overwhelmingly approved that language in a clean bill. Instead of following suit and approving the bill as it was and sending the relief on its way, House Democrats (at the urging of the governor) added extra funding for their projects to the bill.
That broke the deal that had been agreed upon by House and Senate Republicans and Democrats, derailing the bill and delaying and/or jeopardizing the bill relief funds.
The Pioneer Press reported: “There wasn’t much controversy from lawmakers about allocating the money to local governments; on Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Senate passed such a plan 62-4. However, it became mired in controversy after the Democratic majority in the House, at the urging of Walz, a Democrat, tacked on some $152 million in unrelated spending...”
The Star Tribune also reported: “The remaining roadblock stems from a late effort by the House DFL majority to add amendments funding other legislative priorities. Democrats tacked on a list of spending items...”
It is disappointing that unrelated issues interfered with passage of this bill because our local governments need these funds to mitigate financial troubles that have been caused by COVID-19. We in the House minority recognize how important this funding is and will continue working to get the bill passed so we can get these funds in the hands of our local governments as quickly as possible.
This is not meant to be partisan, it is just the facts.
The death of George Floyd brought to a head some issues that need to be addressed regarding criminal justice and public safety in general. We need reform that will allow us to make improvements while continuing to fully support our various branches of law enforcement. I do not support efforts to defund these agencies we depend on for protection.
Provisions with bipartisan support were proposed during the special session, from the duty to intercede, to banning chokeholds and providing departments with greater recourse when officers violate laws and training standards.
But, instead of working to build consensus on these areas of agreement, the House majority pushed partisan proposals and rejected good faith offers that included bills they personally had written. It’s disappointing that, when they were given the opportunity to pass bipartisan bills, they took an “all-or-nothing” approach, deciding nothing was better than passing things that had full agreement.
As the House Republican lead on bonding, I have been heavily involved in assembling a capital investment bill to fund construction projects throughout our state. We have been working to prepare a bill that funds our priorities, with a heavy focus on infrastructure, so a proposal worthy of broad, bipartisan support is ready when the time comes to bring it to the floor for consideration if/when special session(s) take place this summer.
In other news, here are some notes regarding COVID-19 guidance that recently has been issued on a variety of subjects:
Guidance for upcoming school year
A recent announcement from the Minnesota Department of Education indicates schools will not receive final guidance from state officials on how to plan for the upcoming academic year until late July. For now, 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.
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.
Until next time, your correspondence always is welcome and let me know how I can help.