With a May 18 date for adjournment and a working weekend in store, here are some of this week’s headlines from the Capitol.
The big news of late is Gov. Tim Walz announcing he is lifting the state's Stay at Home order effective Monday, while also laying out plans to allow the re-opening of bars, restaurants, churches, and other businesses in the coming weeks.
I appreciate the steps the governor has announced in re-opening our state and people who vocalized their opinions deserve credit for influencing this progress. On the other hand, there are some glaring holes in the governor's decisions, especially in regard to churches and bars and restaurants that are not allowed to get back to business on Monday.
The governor said his commissioners will be working on plans to allow these businesses to more fully open on June 1, but this is something they should have been doing all along to make for a more efficient transition. Now these businesses are going to miss at least two big weekends, including Memorial Day, and that’s revenue they desperately need.
So, yes, it is good more businesses are opening May 18, but it seems like better preparation could have improved the process by allowing more operations to safely re-open their doors sooner.
As for news from the floor, it was good to see two ag-related bills pass the House Wednesday.
An omnibus agriculture bill approved by the House focuses on providing resources to farmers in crisis, farm and grain bin safety, and retail food handlers (PPE for small grocery providers).
The bill provides an additional $40,000 to support rural mental health outreach and expands allowable uses to include suicide prevention training and adolescent mental health awareness programs. Farm suicides and mental health crises have been on the rise over the last decade.
The portions related to farm safety were spurred by the surge in grain bin deaths in Minnesota over the last year. The appropriation is for $125,000 and modifies the existing farm safety program to include outreach and development. Of the appropriation, $75,000 is to be used for grants to farmers to improve grain bin safety, with the remaining $50,000 to be spent on outreach regarding farm safety and the development of a device-based application that would be used to alert people in the event of an emergency and shut down augers. House Republicans members were very skeptical of the device-based app, both in terms of practicality and purpose.
Click here for video of me speaking of support of this bill on the House floor.
The House approved a bill this week which extends the deadline for farmer-lender mediation to occur and prevents lenders from taking action on affected property to Dec. 1, 2020. The goal is to protect farmers who are in dire financial straits to seek a remedy before their land or assets are acted upon by creditors.
Here is a link to me speaking in favor of this bill on the floor.
Look for more as we make our way through the end of the 2020 session and, as always, your input is welcome.