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Legislative Update – March 12, 2021

Friday, March 12, 2021

Dear Neighbors,

It’s been another eventful week at the State Capitol with packed committee agendas and frequent hearings. We’ve been working to advance measures that strengthen our communities and help our state recover from COVID. Here’s an update.


New COVID-19 Guidance

New Business & Gathering Guidelines

Today, Governor Walz announced he will be easing restrictions on businesses and social gatherings, with some changes coming on March 15 and others on April 1. Capacity limits for bars and restaurants, salons and barbershops, fitness centers and pools, entertainment venues, youth sports, and religious services will all be increased.

Gatherings:

  • Social gatherings: Up to 50 people outdoors or 15 people for indoor gatherings, both without household limits.
  • Youth sports: Pod size increasing to 50 for outdoor activities. 
  • Religious services: Remove occupancy limit, but social distancing required.
  • Celebrations: Follow venue guidance. 

Small businesses: 

  • Bars and restaurants: Increasing allowable occupancy to 75%, up from 50%, with a limit of 250 people. The limits apply separately indoors and outdoors. Bar seating increases to parties of 4.
  • Salons/barbers: Removing the occupancy limit, but social distancing required.
  • Gyms/fitness centers/pools: Increasing allowable occupancy to 50%, up from 25%. Outdoor classes can increase to 50 people.
  • Entertainment venues: Increasing allowable occupancy to 50%, up from 25%, both indoors and outdoors, with a limit of 250.

Entertainment venues:

  • All venues can open at 50% capacity up to 250 people.
  • Venues with normal occupant capacity over 500 can add additional guests, effective April 1:
    • Seated outdoor venues can add an additional 25% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 10,000 people. 
    • Non-seated outdoor venues can add an additional 15% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 10,000 people.
    • Seated indoor venues can add an additional 15% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 3,000 people.
    • Non-seated indoor venues can add an additional 10% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 1,500 people.

To protect progress and keep Minnesotans safe, several safety measures will remain in place, including:

  • Minnesotans should continue to wear masks.
  • Continue to socially distance. All of today’s guidance requires venues to maintain 6 feet of distance between guests to reduce the spread of the virus.

With more Minnesotans receiving their vaccines and key metrics – like case numbers and hospitalizations trending downward – we’re reaching the other side of this pandemic. Minnesotans – including educators, small business owners, and essential workers – have made tremendous sacrifices over the past year and all Minnesotans need to be commended for their part in helping prevent the spread of the virus. While the finish line is in sight, we need to continue to follow the precautions like wearing a mask around others, social distancing, and getting tested if needed.


Vaccine Update

Now eligible

Earlier this week, the Governor also announced some exciting updates regarding the eligibility of the COVID-19 vaccine. We’ve hit the 70 percent benchmark of seniors getting their vaccine, and now it’s open to new phases, with about 1.8 million people in our state now eligible to get their shots including:

  • Minnesotans with specific underlying health conditions: Sickle cell disease, Down syndrome, those in cancer treatment or immunocompromised from organ transplant, oxygen-dependent chronic lung and heart conditions (COPD & CHF)
  • Targeted essential workers: Food processing plant workers
  • Minnesotans with rare conditions or disabilities that put them at higher risk of severe illness

Minnesotans in the next tier group are also eligible, including:

  • Minnesotans age 45 years and older with one or more underlying medical conditions identified by the CDC
  • Minnesotans age 16 years and older with two or more underlying medical conditions
  • Minnesotans age 50 years and older in multi-generational housing
  • Essential frontline workers: Agricultural, airport staff, additional child care workers not previously eligible, correctional settings, first responders, food production, food retail, food service, judicial system workers, manufacturing, public health workers, public transit, and U.S. Postal Service workers

You’re encouraged to sign up for Minnesota’s Vaccine Connector which will notify you when you’re eligible and connect you with opportunities. We’re still limited by supply, but vaccine distribution pace is headed in the right direction and we’re on pace to have every Minnesotan eligible by May 1.


Agriculture Committee

This week in the House Agriculture Committee, which I chair, we approved the 2021 Agriculture Policy Bill. It includes a few provisions including changes to the Department of Agriculture’s Good Food Access Program, changes to the Bioincentive Program.

Next week, we will hold a hearing on legislation to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a threat to Minnesota’s wild white-tail deer population. In several areas of the state, positive CWD cases have been directly connected to farmed Cervidae. HF 1727 includes reforms to limit and control interactions between farmed and wild deer. The legislation includes new requirements for deer farms including double fencing, registration, reporting, surveillance, and movement restrictions. If a CWD positive case is found on a deer farm, it prohibits the operation from raising farmed Cervidae on the premises for at least ten years. The bill transfers oversight of deer farms from the Board of Animal Health to the Department of Natural Resources. Finally, the bill invests $250,000 in the DNR’s “Adopt-A-Dumpster” program.


Local Legislation

Yesterday, the House Property Tax Division held a public hearing on my legislation to allow Carlton County to impose a half percent local sales tax to fund the construction of a new law enforcement center and jail. If approved by the voters, the county may raise up to $60 million toward this project. The community has recognized the need for a new facility, but it would be extremely difficult to move forward with this project with property tax proceeds alone. I was honored to have Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake and County Commissioner Marv Bodie join me to present the bill.

Last Wednesday, the same panel considered a bill I’ve introduced to allow the city of Cloquet to also impose a half percent local sales tax which, if approved by voters, would fund the renovation and expansion of the Pine Valley Regional Park Project, which would include ski jump repairs, chalet replacement, and infrastructure improvements. The sales tax would also fund the restoration of the Cloquet Ice Arena. Next week, the House Capital Investment Committee will hear my bonding proposal to invest $5 million toward improvements of the water line from Lake Superior to Cloquet and associated electrical, pump station, and reservoir repairs.


Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your viewpoints, feedback, or if I can ever be of assistance. My email address is rep.mike.sundin@house.mn and phone number at the Capitol is 651-296-4308. Feel free to be in touch any time.

Sincerely,

Mike Sundin

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