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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Joe McDonald (R)

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Legislative update

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Star Tribune

Greetings,

The House is set to adjourn at midnight on Monday, yet today was a rather quiet one with very little activity on the floor. Meetings are expected to take place throughout the weekend and a lot of business remains, so it will be interesting to see if the pace picks up the next three days.

Most of the attention these days is on the governor announcing he is lifting the state’s Stay at Home order Monday. He also set out plans to allow the re-opening of restaurants, churches, and other businesses in the coming weeks.

This news is pleasing to some because it will allow a number of Main Street businesses to start rebuilding from the losses they’ve suffered after being forced to shut down for two months, albeit with some restrictions still in place.

On the other hand, the re-opening of our state is not coming nearly soon enough for churches, bars, restaurants, salons and others that still are not able to open their doors until at least June 1. I hear from these people every day and, as a small-business owner myself, I share their plight. Here is a quick video of me expressing those sentiments on the House floor this week.

If it is of any consolation, citizens who have reached out to the governor should be commended because he is finally listening to us and we have influenced his decision to start developing a path forward … even if it’s slower than many of us would like.

In other news from the House this week: 

Class of 2020

I am part of a group of legislators that sent a letter to Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker of the Minnesota Department of Education this week, urging her to rescind the recent guidance banning graduation ceremonies statewide.

The letter follows guidance Ricker issued on May 8, removing the careful planning conducted by school leaders and parents regarding safe graduation ceremonies.

It makes no sense to issue universal, statewide guidance when we have so much variation between schools across our state. It has been called a one-size-hurts-all approach. Regardless, it ignores the thoughtful deliberations and plans schools have already put in place to protect students and guests. It is time to trust our local officials and families to know what is best for their communities.

Ag. finance bill

The House approved two ag-related bills this week, including an omnibus package which provides 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.

Farmer-lender mediation

The House also approved a bill this week extending the deadline for farmer-lender mediation to occur and preventing 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.

Look for more news as we we come to the end of the 2020 session and, as always, let me know how I can help.

Regards,

Joe

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