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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Elkins (DFL)

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Heroes Week

Monday, March 29, 2021

Dear Neighbors,

Tax Filing Extension

The Minnesota Department of Revenue has announced a grace period for taxpayers filing their annual Minnesota Individual Income Tax return for tax year 2020. Those taxpayers now have until May 17, 2021, to file and make their payments without any penalty or interest. This grace period does not include individual estimated tax payments. I’ll have more to say about the State’s tax/fiscal status in another update in the near future. 

Vaccine Update

Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan have announced the expansion of vaccine eligibility for people 16 years of age and older starting tomorrow, March 30th. The announcement is in response to the increased supply of vaccines from the federal government. Read more about this development here.

This doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily going to receive a vaccination right away; it means that everyone is now being encouraged to “get in line” by registering with the State’s Vaccine Connector. Both healthcare systems and the operators of the Vaccine Connector will still be prioritizing seniors, vulnerable adults with health complications and frontline workers over the next several weeks. 

The elephant in the room is that, especially in rural areas, “vaccine hesitancy” is emerging as a serious issue in Minnesota and other states, due in large part to a concerted mis-information campaign being conducted on social media. This is why many of you have been able to find vaccination appointments at rural pharmacies. The Minnesota Department of Health does not want to find itself in a situation where vaccine allocations are going to waste, especially in rural areas, because there aren’t enough eligible adults who are actually willing to accept an invitation to be vaccinated. Right now, Minnesota is number 1 in the nation in getting vaccinations into arms, and we want to keep it that way.

The best estimate is that, including veterans who have been vaccinated by the VA, about 85% of Minnesota seniors have now been vaccinated. Virtually all seniors in long term care settings have now been vaccinated and the results have been astounding. Both cases and deaths among residents have been reduced by more than 95%, which is finally enabling these facilities to safely reopen for long awaited visits from loved ones. These vaccines work! If you receive an invitation to be  vaccinated, please take advantage of the opportunity! If you have a neighbor or loved one who is not “tech savvy” and needs help getting signed up, please reach out to help them!

I received my second vaccination at the community vaccination center at the Mall of America, today, after having registered myself on the Vaccine Connector at the beginning of March. This site is now delivering about twice as many vaccinations as it was when I received my first dose and is still operating extremely efficiently -- the wait from getting in line to being seated for my vaccination was less than 5 minutes

new vaccine

AAPI violence

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in violence against Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), immigrants, and international citizens. Over the past month in particular, there has been a rise of anti-AAPI violence, and these violent acts have culminated in the horrific murders in Atlanta, Georgia, which included six AAPI women. We must all stand up and confront hate when we see it, I stand with our AAPI communities and will work to ensure that they feel safe wherever they are. Please watch my colleague Rep. Tou Xiong’s speech on this tragedy, and the Minnesota Asian Pacific Caucuses statement on the issue.

Heroes Week

Last week was busy for us as we moved to pass significant legislation that would meet the needs of workers, families, and first responders who sacrificed the most over the last year to protect their communities. It’s not enough to call these folks heroes and credit them for all they’ve done, we must also back our words with action. Here is some of the legislation we passed last week to help Minnesota’s heroes emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • HF 1064, or the Summer Learning Plan, will provide funding for summer programs to help prevent learning loss and close the opportunity gaps that have widened over the last year. This necessary funding will strengthen our schools to ensure our children can thrive.
  • HF 1203 will ensure that first responders receive workers compensation should they contract COVID-19. All public safety and health care workers deserve to know that their needs will be taken care of. 
  • HF 7 will create a statewide earned sick and safe time program. This last year has shown us the true public health value of letting folks stay home when they feel sick, or need time to care for a loved one. This bill will have positive benefits for the health and well-being of Minnesotans across the state while reducing the costs.
  • HF 39 will improve the retention and rehire process for hospitality and service sector workers. If you were laid off through no fault of your own over this last year, you deserve to return to it. Women and people of color in the hospitality and service sector industry were most affected by lay-offs last year. Ensuring we have rehiring and retention protections for them when the pandemic is over is an equity issue. You can watch my speech on this important bill, here.
  • HF 403, or the Preventing Discrimination Act, will prevent employers from inquiring about past pay. Your previous jobs shouldn’t dictate your pay for the rest of your life. This is a practice that exacerbates the gender pay gap. It’s time to break the cycle of discrimination.


Peacetime Emergency

I still receive correspondence urging me to “do my job” and vote to overturn the Governor’s emergency declaration. When you scratch below the surface, it’s clear that what I’m really being asked is to support “opening up the state”. There are still a lot of people who think that we should be just like South Dakota. However, when you look at the data over the full course of the pandemic, it’s clear that Minnesota’s approach has saved hundreds of lives and prevented thousands of hospitalizations as compared to South Dakota’s wide open approach. 

A special House committee, under the leadership of Rep. Gene Pelowski, is currently reviewing proposals to update the State’s emergency powers statute to take the “lessons learned” during this pandemic and create a better set of guardrails around the Governor’s powers during future emergencies. (My contribution has been legislation to update the State’s Open Meeting Laws to ensure citizen access to virtual meetings at all levels of state and local government.) Clearly, the authors of the current laws didn’t anticipate a pandemic that would stretch out for over a year. 

Under the current statutes and our current political stalemate, we’re faced with an “all or nothing” legislative approach, and I’m just not willing to vote to put the Senate Majority Leader in a de facto position to force Minnesota to go full South Dakota, overnight.  While, with the benefit of 2020 hindsight, the Administration hasn’t gotten everything perfectly right, Minnesota has fared far better than our neighbors under Governor Walz’s leadership. 

We are so close to being able to put this pandemic behind us. We’re doing a great job of getting our most vulnerable residents vaccinated and the Governor’s measured approach to reopening our schools and our economy seems to be keeping the disease in check. Now is not the time for us to let down our guard. The decline in cases since the holiday peak has leveled off and is still hovering at concerning levels. More contagious variants of the virus are now circulating in our communities, with a hotspot in neighboring Carver County. We do not want to find ourselves in the position of European countries which relaxed their social distancing guidelines too early and once again find the disease spiraling out of control. We must stay vigilant for a few more months until true “herd immunity” has been achieved when about 80% of us have either been vaccinated or have recovered from a bout with the disease. 

We are nearly out of this emergency, so let’s keep up the process that is working for us and will see us through this crisis.  We all need to do our part by wearing our masks in public, observing social distancing and accepting our vaccinations when they are offered. 

Keep in Touch 

This is Spring Break for the legislature and I’ll be spending much of it catching up on overdue correspondence.  This will be a good week to reach out to me with questions, input, or ideas. Don’t hesitate to reach out if I can provide any assistance. Please follow me on my Facebook page for further updates and invite your friends and family to do so as well.  

Thanks for the honor of representing you at the Capitol. 


Steve Elkins 
Representative, District 49B 
Minnesota House of Representatives 
515 State Office Building 
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 
St. Paul, MN 55155 
(651) 296-7803

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