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

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Legislative update

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Minnesota Capitol

Greetings,

As we prepare to honor those brave Americans who fought and died for our nation this Memorial Day weekend, let us not forget exactly what it is they fought and died to protect: Our freedom. Let’s honor the sacrifices they made to protect us and in defense of liberty. Check local listings for smaller ceremonies that may be taking place to recognize our heroes.

In other news:

House adjourns

The House adjourned at midnight Monday as scheduled. A number of “smaller” bills were passed during the final days of session, but a bonding package and a tax bill were not among them. The governor is expected to call legislators back to St. Paul the middle of next month, so work on the unfinished items of business could take place at that time.

Governor’s announcement

On Wednesday, Gov. Walz announced guidance for the next phases of his Stay Safe MN plan. While many of us were optimistic he would provide a clear path toward re-opening Minnesota, his announcement was disappointing to say the least. Owners of bars and restaurants expecting to see their businesses re-open June 1 were given surprising and devastating news. Instead of being given strategies to allow customers back into their businesses and employees to get back on the job, they were told the only way they can get back to business is to serve customers outside. Unfortunately, many of these businesses do not have the ability to accommodate such a demand.

The governor’s guidance includes:

  • Restaurants: Outdoor service only, maximum of 50 customers, masks required, six feet distance.
  • Personal Services (salons, tattoos, barbershops): Six feet distance, maximum 25% of capacity, masks required. 
  • Churches: Services of 10 people or less indoors and outdoors, drive-up services allowed. 
  • Campgrounds: Open with guidance
  • Gyms, personal fitness, yoga: CLOSED
  • Entertainment (bowling, movie theaters, arcades): CLOSED

The slight movement forward is not nearly enough and is filled with inconsistencies that leave you scratching your head. It is now permissible for an unspecified number of people to go to shopping malls and enter stores, so long as no more than 50 percent of the occupancy capacity is reached. Big-box stores have hundreds of people inside at any one time, and large numbers of goods that are being handled and distributed in one store by many people – stock staff, customers, cashiers. Workers are present for many hours per day, often in close proximity.

Meanwhile, churches are limited to a handful of attendees. Something to consider on that note: During WWII, churches all over Europe stayed open for their parishioners during bombing raids. Both sides did everything they could do to avoid hitting churches during those raids, but it was not a perfect science so the risks were always there. Yet the faithful went to church knowing full well that they could die in a bombing raid. That says much about the commitment people have to religion, yet this administration is not making it a priority to re-open our houses of worship. This, too, is highly disappointing.

The governor is dooming bars and restaurants, turning his back on churches, causing Main Street Minnesota to dry up and placed a one-size-hurts-all ban on celebrations to recognize the Class of 2020. I have heard from so many constituents who are disappointed one person’s inconsistent, unilateral decisions are damaging Minnesotans.

With all this said, we legislators and the governor need to do everything we can to keep our loved ones safe in congregate living. 

Veterans Virtual Career Fair

A Veterans Virtual Career Fair is scheduled for 1 to 3 p.m. this Thursday, May 28. The career fair is open to veterans, transitioning service members, currently serving Reserve and National Guard, family members of veterans, and caregivers of veterans. Click here for more information regarding the event, including registration details.

Flexibility for charitable gambling organizations

This week, the Department of Revenue announced it is offering an extension for Lawful (Charitable) Gambling tax payments for organizations affected by COVID-19.

Details for how to submit the requests can be found on the MN Department of Revenue’s website; the due date is May 27. Organizations that request an extension will have until June 22 to make their payments.

Organizations affected by COVID-19 may also request that the Department of Revenue abate late-payment or late filing penalties or interest. Those guidelines can be found here.

These organizations support everything from veterans homes to local food shelves and their ability to raise funds has been severely limited by the closure of bars and restaurants. It is good to see additional flexibility is being provided.

Have a good weekend and look for more news soon, especially regarding if/when we learn more about a potential special session.

Regards,

Joe

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