Despite the turmoil that took place this week in Washington DC, here in Saint Paul the 92nd Minnesota Legislature got underway without incident.
With respect to the recent violence that took place at the U.S. Capitol, rioting and mayhem is equally unacceptable whether it takes place in Washington, D.C., or the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
As is usual when new a legislature convenes, the first week is focused on organizational details, including formalizing committee structures, adopting procedural rules, and officially notifying both the Senate and the governor that the Minnesota House is organized and now in session.
Because of COVID-19 precautions we conducted floor sessions with most legislators working online from their offices in the state office building, We spent significant time testing some unique identification technology that protects the integrity of each member’s electronic vote. Voting is still a bit clumsy and time consuming, but its working much better than the remote special sessions, that required lengthy 134-member individual voice roll call votes.
Effective Monday January 11, 2021 Gov. Walz relaxed some of the COVID-19 restrictions again allowing limited indoor dining and other adjustments to various activities. That emergency order can be found here. That action was welcome news and will get us about back to where we were before the Thanksgiving/Christmas restrictions were imposed.
This week I received a significant number of questions and concerns about progress on the COVID-19 vaccination program. Those issues were raised with the governor’s office and the MN Department of Health. MDA Commissioner Malcom and her staff provided a briefing to legislators at the end of the week clearing up some of the of concerns.
Probably the most relevant point made is that when MDA posts the number of vaccine doses on their website that are “allocated” to Minnesota, - that does not mean those allocated doses are actually sitting in Minnesota. Vaccines are shipped to Minnesota on a weekly basis and remains limited to the amount produced and our states’ fair share based on population.
Minnesota’s vaccination priorities and overall plan can be found at this link. While we remain justifiably impatient as to the progress of vaccination program, MDA indicated that two additional vaccine producers are nearing completion of the trial/approval process, which will significantly increase the number of doses available.