Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Summer Solstice has been celebrated and we are now officially into another Minnesota summer!
During the summer months, I hope to keep you updated on legislative-related issues of interest.
A one-week special session came to a close early Saturday morning as the House, Senate, and Governor Walz, unfortunately, were unable to agree on several issues including a bonding bill, police reform, and federal CARES Act funding for our local communities and counties.
Of the issues that went unresolved, I am most disappointed about the failure to pass federal CARES Act funding. This simple “pass through” funding bill ultimately fell apart because Governor Walz forced House Democrats to add unrelated provisions from his supplemental budget request to what was originally a clean bill.
Here’s the background:
In the week leading up to special session, all four caucuses reached an agreement to distribute the $841 million in CARES Act Funding passed by the federal government specifically set aside for local units of government. The Senate passed the bipartisan compromise bill on Tuesday 62-4. Surprisingly, as the Session was in its closing days, Governor Walz intervened by insisting on amending the clean bill with unrelated spending provisions that had not been agreed upon.
I do not know how else to describe this: Governor Walz’s meddling in the legislative process directly blew up the agreement.
Communities and counties in our area would have received well over ten million dollars in federal funding through this bill. This funding helps pay for COVID-19 testing, COVID-19 response for hospitals, PPE for front-line workers, financial support to local businesses, and will help keep our local governments solvent as they deal with extra expenses as a result of the pandemic.
This is federal money that was approved by Congress in the early days of the pandemic and should have been released to local governments weeks ago. Governor Walz has the ability, using his emergency powers, to directly issue these funds. I would hope he would do so in conformity to the formula agreed upon by the legislature.
If not, this will be a priority again in the next Special Session.
On Thursday, the House voted on the DFL majority’s police reform legislation. Following the horrific death of George Floyd, I believe every legislator wanted to pass measures directly addressing this tragedy. There were provisions on the Senate side and the House side that had broad support across party lines like the duty to intercede, banning chokeholds, and changes to arbitration so departments can fire officers who violate laws and training standards.
Unfortunately, instead of working to build consensus, Majority members in the House opted to load up their police reform bill with several highly controversial provisions that made it nearly impossible to support. I was disappointed that, when given the opportunity to pass bipartisan bills, the House took an "all-or-nothing" approach, and decided nothing was better than passing things both sides agreed on.
There was no agreement on a bonding bill between the House, Senate, and Governor but I remain hopeful.
The bonding bill requires 3/5s support in the House for passage and House Republicans have made it clear that Governor Walz needs to begin working with the legislature on a transition plan from unilateral emergency powers to regular, legislative order before we will entertain a bonding bill.
This past week, the governor indicated in a press conference that he was ready to begin working in that direction. If he follows through, we may well be in a position to approve a bonding bill in the next Special Session.
On the heels of this last session, I would hope pre-agreement on these major issues will be resolved before the start of another session. Then, a one- or two-day session is all that would be required to pass legislation that has bipartisan support. In the meantime, I will continue to work toward agreement on all the above issues, particularly ending the Governor's emergency powers so that the legislature can once again be on equal footing as a co-equal branch of government.
I urge local businesses to apply for a newly created Small Business Relief Grants program administered through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The program provides $10,000 grants to small businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees are eligible. Half of the funding will go to businesses in Greater Minnesota and a half to businesses in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area, as required by law.
The application period will begin on Tuesday, June 23, and close at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 2. To be eligible, businesses must have a permanent physical location in Minnesota and be majority-owned by a permanent resident of Minnesota. Businesses must be able to demonstrate hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Additional eligibility requirements and application information can be found online at DEED’s Small Business Relief Grants page.
I also want to draw your attention to two programs set up by the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation to assist businesses and local units of government located within the Taconite Tax Relief Area.
The Taconite Area Business Relief Loan Program provides 2% interest loans of up to $40,000 to be used as working capital or any legal purposes for eligible businesses.
Cities, townships, or tribal units of government located within the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation service area are eligible to apply for a grant through the Taconite Area Community Relief Grant Program of between $50,000 and $400,000.
Visit this website for more information and to apply: https://mn.gov/irrrb/covid19-relief/
There is much uncertainty about when or if there will be another special session in the coming days, weeks, or months. I will be sure to keep you updated on any information as it becomes available. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns you may have. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4936 or via email at email@example.com.
Have a great week,