The Legislature recently met in special session to complete unfinished business from the regular session, address ongoing challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and advance police accountability and criminal justice reform legislation. We made progress in a few areas, but Senate Republicans chose to adjourn the session without a compromise on several key pieces of legislation. Their decision to walk away from efforts to find a compromise was disappointing.
I remain committed to working across the aisle to enact meaningful change. Should Governor Walz call the Legislature back for another special session, I will fight to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of all Minnesotans.
The first bill we passed during the special session will assist small businesses impacted by COVID-19. This legislation created a $62.5 million fund for small business grants, with a focus on businesses with 50 or fewer employees. The bill includes $60 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and $2.5 million from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Emergency Loan Program. With grants of up to $10,000, it will help our local businesses weather these difficult times. More information about these grants is available here.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Minnesotans are calling for stronger police accountability measures and criminal justice reform. In response, the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus put forth the Minnesota Police Accountability Act of 2020, a strong package of legislation with three distinct goals: reclaiming community oversight, reforming accountability, and reimagining public safety. We passed this legislation in the House, but the Senate adjourned without taking up the bill.
Governor Walz recently unveiled a plan to distribute $841 million in funding from the federal CARES Act to Minnesota’s cities, counties, and towns. Governor Walz’s plan utilizes the per-capita formula that legislators developed during the special session. Based on that formula, Maplewood will receive $3 million, White Bear Lake will receive $1.9 million, Mahtomedi will receive $605,000, Willernie will receive $40,800, and Birchwood Village will receive nearly $66,000. These funds, which will be distributed on a rolling basis, will help our local governments continue providing the services Minnesotans count on.
Centers that provide job training, mental health resources, and other services for people with disabilities have been hit hard by the pandemic. Many had to close to protect the vulnerable Minnesotans they serve and are now facing budget shortfalls. Governor Walz and the Legislature have provided flexibility so more work can be conducted via telemedicine, but more needs to be done to assist these critical facilities. I am committed to working on this issue in future legislative sessions.
Several new laws took effect on July 1, including the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act. This legislation provides emergency access to insulin and makes the lifesaving medication more affordable long-term. The Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act, which requires drug manufacturers to make their pricing information public, also went into effect at the beginning of the month. Both new laws hold drug manufacturers accountable and will help drive down skyrocketing costs. You can read about all of the laws that took effect here.
AARP is seeking input on how our state can do a better job supporting Minnesotans as we age. They are inviting people who are 45 years old or older to complete a community survey, which is available here. The feedback they receive will inform the work of the Governor’s Council on an Age Friendly Minnesota, a group working to coordinate action across state agencies and make Minnesota a move livable state.
I hope you and your family had a safe and healthy Fourth of July weekend. As we celebrate our country’s birth, I hope you’ll join me and take a moment to reflect on how far we have to go to ensure that everyone in America has an opportunity to thrive. For more on that, read my latest “Legislator Lingo” column here.