Happy Mother’s Day Weekend/Fishing Opener Weekend in Minnesota!
My dear mom passed away several years ago but, on Mother’s Day, I get to celebrate my two beautiful daughters-in-law/mothers of my grandchildren. It is also National Nurses Week which, amid COVID-19, takes on new meaning. We can’t hug you, but we can salute all of you that are in the critical field of nursing and serving on the front lines of this pandemic. Thank you!
In mid-March, Governor Walz declared a peacetime emergency which granted him the powers to move quickly to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, keep Minnesotans safe, and literally, save lives.
As a result, for the last two months, the Governor has been able to take unilateral action without approval from the legislature. While the state’s response is ongoing, the need for swift, unilateral action has passed. It is time for the peacetime emergency executive powers to end and it is time for the legislature to have a role in the decision-making process.
Every day I hear from folks who have tried contacting the Governor’s office but received no response.
While that is understandable with the volume of emails the Governor gets, it underscores the need for more legislative involvement in these important decisions.
The Governor, with approval from the five-member Executive Council (Governor, Lt. Governor, Auditor, Secretary of State and Attorney General), can renew his powers every 30 days. Governor Walz exercised this option in mid- April. The current 30-day extension will end next Wednesday, May 13th and it is our sincere hope the Governor will not move toward another extension.
As we look to the future, Governor Walz must begin working with the legislature as we safely reopen Minnesota while also protecting the most vulnerable. We support continued efforts to combat and respond to this pandemic to keep people safe, but now that we have ramped up hospital capacity, built up our PPE supplies, and have a clearer picture of this crisis, we can work together moving forward.
Working with the Governor to transition from Executive Powers to shared governing will likely mean one or more special sessions as the 2020 regular legislative session concludes on May 18th. That is ok.
If we have learned anything through this pandemic, it is the need for flexibility.
Minnesota’s Constitution makes clear that the state legislature is a co-equal branch of government. In many ways, we are the branch of government closest to the people and the people’s voice must be considered when responding to this crisis. For those reasons, the legislature must have a role in determining our path forward. I stand ready to work with Governor Walz on responding to the needs of the state of Minnesota during this uncertain time.
A week ago House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, speaking on behalf of House Republicans, announced that we would not negotiate a bonding bill until the Governor moved from a unilateral decision-making mode under the current Executive Powers to a collaborative working arrangement with the legislature.
I want to see a bonding bill this year, as do most of my colleagues, but I fully support Leader Daudt’s decision as the bonding bill must originate in the House and requires a super-majority vote. It is the only leverage we have to encourage the Governor to work with us. If the Governor allows his Executive Powers to end next week, as they should, we can resume work on a bonding bill for 2020.
On Tuesday, Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) released a budget update to give lawmakers and the public a better understanding of how the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted the state’s economic outlook.
The February Forecast predicted a $1.5 billion surplus. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent shut-down of our economy, revenue collections have either decreased or been delayed and emergency spending has increased. Minnesota is now projected to have a $2.4 billion deficit.
States across the country have already started taking action to adjust to our new economic reality and Minnesota will have to do the same. There will be difficult decisions in the weeks and months to come – particularly as bills seeking to increase spending continue to come before the House.
Earlier this week Governor Walz issued an executive order that lifts some restrictions on doctors, dentists, and veterinarians to perform elective surgeries and procedures.
This is a small step forward and is welcome news for many folks that have had to put surgeries on hold. Yesterday, during his briefing, the Governor hinted that small retail businesses would be next on his list to fully re-open. Thanks to all retailers who have joined us in appealing to the Governor’s sense of fairness here. Why should Wal-Mart be able to sell shoes when Bender’s Shoes are forced to be closed?
We continue to appeal the same case for our campgrounds. Memorial weekend is generally the beginning of the summer camping season and our campground owners are being left in the dark. As one campground owner remarked, “Why is it ok for motel rooms to turn over daily, but not ok for a camper to pitch his/her own tent, sleep in his/her own sleeping bag, clean up the campsite and leave”?
The current pandemic is a serious threat and requires a focused, smart strategy based on sound data.
Let’s not allow fear to get in the way of sound decision making and good old common sense.
Please enjoy your weekend, as always, stay in touch!
Talk to you soon,