Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I spoke on the House floor today about the process to begin getting people back to work and safely re-opening our economy. I continue to advocate to the Governor for a joint plan on testing and safety protocols to get people back to work. To watch, click here.
In this update I want to share that bar and restaurant owners, along with farmers, received some good news with legislation we passed this week as we continue to address issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
BAR/RESTAURANT "LIQUOR TO GO" BILL APPROVED
A Friday House floor session resulted in the passage of a small jobs bill that will hopefully provide some assistance to our bar and restaurant owners that have been forced to shut their doors due to Governor Walz' executive orders. House lawmakers approved a temporary change in state law allowing restaurants and bars to sell pre-packaged wine and beer to go for curbside orders.
The legislation allows bars and restaurants to sell the equivalent of a six-pack of beer, hard seltzer, and cider or a bottle of wine with a prepared, takeout food order. It does not permit alcohol sales for delivery orders, and requires that the restaurant or bar to require prepayment and verify that the individual picking up the order is at least 21 years of age.
Make no mistake, this is a jobs bill, albeit a very small one. It’s another step forward towards reopening our economy and getting people back to work. Much more work on that front remains.
YOU CAN GOLF AND FISH BEGINNING TOMORROW!
While Governor Walz has not lifted the stay-at-home order, he is allowing Minnesotans to golf and fish, among other outdoor activities.
An executive order unveiled today allows Minnesotans to engage in a range of activities, including golfing, boating, fishing, hunting, and hiking, as long as they follow new outdoor recreation guidelines. These guidelines include maintaining 6-foot social distancing, avoiding crowded areas, and staying close to home.
Facilities that may reopen or remain open include bait shops for live bait; outdoor shooting ranges and game farms; public and private parks and trails; golf courses and driving ranges; boating and off-highway vehicle services, including marina services, dock installation and other lake services, and boat and off-highway vehicle sales and repair, by appointment only.
Campgrounds and dispersed camping, outdoor recreational equipment retail stores, recreational equipment rental, charter boats, launches, and guided fishing remain closed.
These new provisions will go into effect on Saturday, April 18 at 5:00 am.
ASSISTANCE FOR FARMERS
Over the past few weeks, numerous farmers have contacted me asking for help as they face a continued economic crisis. The following bills were passed on Tuesday:
Farmer-Lender Mediation 60-day Extension – Section 19
In response to the Farm Crisis of the 1980’s, the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act was established to reduce farm and agricultural land foreclosures by establishing a formal mediation process between debtors and creditors through the Minnesota Extension Service. Currently, once a debtor is served and requests mediation services, the mediation must occur within 20 days and creditors are prevented from exercising actions against the affected property for 90 days. This language would create a temporary 60-day extension to both deadlines on mediation requests filed before July 31, 2020. This extension will provide expanded temporary legal protection to farmers in dire financial straits to seek a remedy before their land or assets are acted upon by creditors. There is no general fund impact.
I am also a co-author on House file 3739, which would provide grants to farmers in mediation to cover the cost of restructuring loans.
Second Harvest Heartland Milk and Protein Grants
Another bill we passed on Tuesday includes a onetime $1.25 million appropriation from the general fund to Second Harvest Heartland food bank for the purchase of milk and other protein sources to be distributed to food shelves across Minnesota. This appropriation is addition to the base funding of $3.3 million which Second Harvest Heartland receives per biennium and expands the program from only milk to also include beef, pork, poultry, eggs, and legumes. Priority must be given to purchasing surplus product from Minnesota processors and producers.
The following measure was approved at the State Capitol a few weeks ago:
CS171 Department of Agriculture Requests
Sections 1 & 2 expand the eligible uses for the RFA Disaster Recovery Loan Program and the Highly Pathogenic Animal Disease Emergency accounts to include COVID-19. This will allow farmers facing tough circumstances due to COVID-19 to access already appropriated funds designed to help in times of crisis on the farm. Section 3 creates an exemption in the Commercial Applicator licensing for people who will be sanitizing and disinfecting spaces in response to COVID-19. Without this exemption, a person who was recently hired to disinfect a building in response to COVID-19 would be required to carry a license and undergo training.
From the federal government:
Department of Agriculture COVID-19 Resource Page here
Food Security and Meal Assistance:
The department is focused on ensuring low-income families, students, and the most vulnerable are provided food security and meal assistance. The Food and Nutrition Service Page with information on SNAP, WIC, and Child Nutrition Program can be found here.
Farmers and Ranchers:
Farmers and ranchers who would like more information on our COVID-19 relates to farm loans, crop insurance, and safety net assistance should visit here.
Normally the State Capitol is a very busy and crowded place. In addition to lots of legislative workers, lobbyists, and advocates, we see a lot of school groups and other visitors in the spring. Today’s view at the Capitol is a quite different picture with an empty plaza, empty rotunda, and members wearing masks in the House chambers.