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.
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.
To protect progress and keep Minnesotans safe, several safety measures will remain in place, including:
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.
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 in the next tier group are also eligible, including:
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and phone number at the Capitol is 651-296-4308. Feel free to be in touch any time.