The Legislature is set to adjourn on Monday and a working weekend is in order. The big news of late is that Gov. Tim Walz announced he is lifting the state’s stay-at-home order, effective Monday. He also set out plans to allow the re-opening of restaurants, churches, and other businesses in the coming weeks.
Minnesotans have been patient for two months now and the governor’s shutdown has gone on long enough. I hear from countless constituents every day who are expressing more and more frustration over the governor shutting down our state and their concerns are valid. The citizens who have been working with legislators to relay their opinions to the governor should be commended because they have influenced his decision to start developing a path forward.
That said, while loosening up the stay-at-home order is a positive step, another month of living under the governor’s emergency powers and unilateral decisions remains concerning. The governor needs to do a better job of allowing the Legislature to legislate instead of Minnesotans being subject to one person ruling by executive order. Much work remains in getting our state fully re-opened and safety remains a priority.
Scenarios from the governor’s own administration show we need to do a better job of protecting people in nursing homes and, at this point, reports indicate approximately 537 of our state’s 663 Covid-19-related deaths have occurred in assisted-living or long-term care facilities. We can do better for our loved ones while allowing our society to function.
The House approved two ag-related bills this week, including an omnibus package which provides resources to farmers in crisis, farm and grain bin safety, and retail food handlers (PPE for small grocery providers).
The bill provides an additional $40,000 to support rural mental health outreach and expands allowable uses to include suicide prevention training and adolescent mental health awareness programs. Farm suicides and mental health crises have been on the rise over the last decade.
The portions related to farm safety were spurred by the surge in grain bin deaths in Minnesota over the last year. The appropriation is for $125,000 and modifies the existing farm safety program to include outreach and development. Of the appropriation, $75,000 is to be used for grants to farmers to improve grain bin safety, with the remaining $50,000 to be spent on outreach regarding farm safety and the development of a device-based application that would be used to alert people in the event of an emergency and shut down augers. House Republicans members were very skeptical of the device-based app, both in terms of practicality and purpose.
The House also approved a bill this week extending the deadline for farmer-lender mediation to occur and preventing lenders from taking action on affected property to Dec. 1, 2020. The goal is to protect farmers who are in dire financial straits to seek a remedy before their land or assets are acted upon by creditors.
A group of legislators sent a letter to Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker of the Minnesota Department of Education this week, urging her to rescind the recent guidance banning graduation ceremonies statewide.
The letter follows guidance Ricker issued on May 8, removing the careful planning conducted by school leaders and parents regarding safe graduation ceremonies.
It makes absolutely no sense to issue a universal order when we have so much variation between schools across our state. This approach ignores the thoughtful deliberations and plans schools have already put in place to protect students and guests. It is time to trust our local officials to know what is best for their communities. In any case, I want to say congratulations, Class of 2020!
As always, I encourage you to please contact me with questions or opinions on any issue. You can reach me at 651-296-4378 or firstname.lastname@example.org.