The Legislature recently completed a weeklong special session, adjourning with little progress on the most significant issues. The governor was able to extend his emergency powers by another 30 days despite objections from the House minority.
Here is a look at how things unfolded, along with some other news and notes:
CARES Act with local funding
It is extremely disappointing that unrelated issues derailed a CARES Act bill dispersing $841 million in federal relief for local units of government. All four legislative caucuses reached an agreement on the best way to distribute this funding. The Senate passed the bipartisan compromise with nearly universal support. Then things unraveled when the governor urged the House majority to add unrelated spending to the bill that had not been agreed upon, breaking the deal and causing the funding to be stalled.
The Pioneer Press reported: “There wasn’t much controversy from lawmakers about allocating the money to local governments; on Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Senate passed such a plan 62-4. However, it became mired in controversy after the Democratic majority in the House, at the urging of Walz, a Democrat, tacked on some $152 million in unrelated spending...”
The Star Tribune also reported: “The remaining roadblock stems from a late effort by the House DFL majority to add amendments funding other legislative priorities. Democrats tacked on a list of spending items...”
We recognize how important this funding is and will continue working so we can get these funds in the hands of our local governments as quickly as possible. Without legislative approval of a CARES Act bill, the governor has discretion to spend the money on his own, again circumventing legislative due process.
The death of George Floyd brought to a head some issues that need to be addressed regarding criminal justice and public safety in general. We need reform that will allow us to make improvements while continuing to fully support our various branches of law enforcement.
Provisions with bipartisan support were proposed during the special session, from the duty to intercede to banning chokeholds and providing departments with greater recourse when officers violate laws and training standards.
But, instead of working to build consensus on these areas of agreement, the House majority pushed partisan proposals and rejected good faith offers that included bills they personally had written. It’s disappointing that, when they were given the opportunity to pass bipartisan bills, they took an “all-or-nothing” approach, deciding nothing was better than passing things that had full agreement.
I again want to underscore my support for members of our law enforcement agencies and thank them for the work they do to keep us safe.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is beginning to accept applications to the Minnesota Small Business Relief Grants Program recently approved by the Legislature.
This program will provide $10,000 grants to small businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees are eligible. Half of the funding will go to businesses in Greater Minnesota and half to businesses in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area, as required by law.
The application period runs from this Tuesday (June 23) to 5 p.m. Thursday, July 2. To be eligible, businesses must have a permanent physical location in Minnesota and be majority owned by a permanent resident of Minnesota. Businesses must be able to demonstrate hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Additional eligibility requirements and application information can be found online at DEED’s Small Business Relief Grants page.
Free online learning partnership
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has established a new partnership with Coursera to provide unemployed workers with new access to online learning. Coursera offers courses from 200 top universities and businesses around the world.
DEED is working directly with Coursera to create accounts for Minnesotans and provide immediate access to online courses. Learners in Minnesota who choose to sign up for Coursera will need to complete their registration before Sept. 30.
Any Minnesotan who has applied for unemployment insurance in 2020 and already has an account on www.uimn.org will receive an invitation to sign up for Coursera. Others who are interested may also provide their name and contact information here to receive access.
Gov’s emergency powers
We are more than 100 days into the governor’s peacetime emergency declaration. This decision may have been warranted back in mid-March to make quick decisions as COVID-19 first became a real concern in our state, but it is no longer needed today. The governor’s numerous unilateral decisions greatly impact Minnesotans without the due process we deserve. The simple fact is we no longer have an emergency. It is time to end the emergency powers, restore balance at the Capitol and safely re-open our state. So far, the House majority has been unwilling to cease the governor’s rule. He would need to call another special session July 12 in order to extend his powers by another 30 days. I hope that does not happen.
Look for more news as developments on these and other issues occur. As always, your input is welcome.