I hope you and your loved ones are faring well during these difficult times. Last night, Governor Walz announced that the stay at home order will expire on May 18. Starting Monday, Minnesotans will be able to gather in groups of 10 people or less with social distancing, and retail stores and main street businesses will be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity if they create a safety plan. Restaurants, bars, salons, gyms, and other venues will remain closed until at least June 1.
The “stay safe” order includes protections for Minnesotans who are concerned about the safety of their work environment. It allows workers to raise concerns without fear of discrimination or retaliation and protects those who refuse to work under unsafe or unhealthy conditions. Guidance for businesses and employees is available here.
This is a cautious step towards reopening our state, but the threat of COVID-19 remains. We all have a responsibility to maintain social distancing and follow public health guidelines. Please continue to stay home when possible, keep your distance from others, and wear a mask in public.
We’re now in the final days of the legislative session, and my colleagues and I are working hard to ensure Minnesota has the resources needed to weather the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact. Here’s a recap of some of the bills that we’ve approved recently:
COVID-19 Economic Security Agenda
Many Minnesotans are suddenly facing economic hardships as a result of COVID-19, and people who were struggling before the pandemic are among those most impacted. Last week, we passed the COVID-19 Economic Security Act, a package of legislation that would help Minnesotans keep a roof over their heads, expand broadband access, support small businesses across the state, and increase wages for personal care assistants who serve vulnerable members of our society. You can read more about it here.
Ensuring Safe and Secure Elections
Minnesotans shouldn’t have to risk their health to participate in our democracy. We recently passed a bipartisan bill to protect the health and safety of election officials and voters during upcoming elections. The bill allows our state to use federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds to prepare for increased absentee voting, open new polling locations, purchase sanitation and disinfectant supplies, and provide public outreach. HAVA funds will also be used to protect our election system from hackers and foreign interference. More information is available here.
While this bill is a good first step, it doesn’t include vote-by-mail. This method is the safest way to hold our election this year, and it has broad support from Minnesotans and non-partisan election administrators. I’ll continue advocating for vote-by-mail and other measures that encourage civic engagement.
Guaranteeing Pay for Hourly School Workers
Many hourly school workers are facing financial uncertainty because of the transition to distance learning. These workers are still vital to our students and education system, and they deserve to have economic security – especially during these difficult times. I voted for legislation to ensure paraprofessionals, nutrition services staff, bus drivers, and other hourly school workers get paid through the end of the school year. You can find more information here.
Helping Low-Income Families Make Ends Meet
Families in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) are among those most challenged by COVID-19. Over the weekend, we approved a bill that uses available federal funding to boost payments for low-income working Minnesotans. This assistance will help them make ends meet. More details are available here.
Ratifying Good Faith Contracts
On Monday, I was proud to stand for our state employees, including many constituents. Nurses like Pat on the front lines, faculty like Brad who are pivoting to online learning for community college students, MDH workers like Marty who assist our hospitals, and others keep our state running and provide essential services for Minnesotans. We owe it to them to approve contracts that were negotiated in good faith. You can read more about these contracts here.
Advancing Energy Savings and Clean Energy Initiatives
On Monday, we passed the Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act, a bipartisan bill that I carried last year. The ECO Act would help Minnesotans save money on their energy bills, create jobs, and stimulate the economy by asking utilities to devote more resources to energy efficiency. It also allows utilities to move towards cleaner energy sources. More details are available here.
Tomorrow, the House will vote on legislation that funds four clean energy initiatives from the Renewable Development Account (RDA). The bill includes one of my proposals to fund an additional $15 million for the Solar Rewards program, which provides homes and businesses incentives to install solar on their roofs. This is an important step to help stimulate our solar industry in the state and continue to expand renewable energy to confront climate change. You can read more about the RDA bill here.
My daughter joined me and the rest of the Ways and Means Committee for a recent hearing.
If you’d like to stay informed during the final days of the legislative session, please check out the resources provided by House Public Information Services. Session Daily is a great source of daily news, and you can watch committee meetings and floor sessions here. You can also follow me on Facebook for more frequent updates.