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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Erik Mortensen (R)

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Friday, March 12, 2021


Happy Friday everyone, what a week it has been. 10 weeks into this legislative session and we have passed only 4 bills; three were deadline changes to executive orders, and only 1 originated from the House. Last night the house debated for 4 hours over whether to end the Governor's Executive powers after I motioned to end the Governor's Emergency Powers once again. This was the 17th vote we have had on ending the emergency powers. Unsurprisingly the motion failed along a party line vote with all 6 Democrats who voted with us back in december refusing to cross the aisle when it matters most. Today Walz announced his new “roll back” of COVID restrictions allowing us to have 50% of our freedom once again. 

In my short time in the legislature I have seen that 3 people call the shots in St. Paul; Walz, Gazelka, and Hortman. The fact that we have literally done nothing shows, to me, that the next biennium budget will simply be decided on with a few votes on massive omnibus bills. Just this week I tried to force the House to vote on the standalone issue of PPP. With tax filing deadlines approaching next week business owners need answers now. I even tried to work across the aisle by withdrawing my bill, and asking to vote on Rep Marquart's (DFL-4B) standalone PPP forgiveness bill. But the DFL made clear help was not coming unless it was on their terms. Rep Marquart voted against his own bill on PPP loan Forgiveness. 

You can watch my video update below.



1 Year Under King Walz' Rule

This week marks the one year anniversary of our state living under the Governor’s unilateral rule. To put that into perspective, that is one year of business owners being forced to close or jump however high the governor says jump to comply with his ever-changing, inconsistent, and often arbitrary restrictions. Incomes and livelihoods have been crushed, careers derailed, and some businesses permanently closed. Minnesotans have sacrificed so much over the past year to keep their head above the water. It's due time we start to trust Minnesotans to start to make the best decisions for themselves. That is why Thursday I made a motion to withdraw my resolution to end Walz Emergency Powers from Committee and debate it on the floor. We debated for over 4 hours and still it came down to a party line vote.


The best thing we can do to help our businesses in Minnesota is to let them fully get back to work. A report by MultiState indicates Minnesota currently is in the bottom 10 nationally in terms of re-opening. For comparison, three of our neighboring states are in the top 10 most “re-opened” and another - Wisconsin - is in the middle. Throughout the entire pandemic our neighbors have remained significantly more open than we have. Yet if you look at the data you wouldn’t spot the difference. Our Infection rates per 100 million are nearly identical, and our death totals are similar. All of this sacrifice, for what a marginal improvement?

Here we are, one year into the governor’s emergency powers and it's clear there is no “emergency” happening. Infection rates have tanked. Vaccinations are being administered at an increasingly high rate to those who wish to receive one. Hospitals are far from at capacity, with ICU beds to spare. Moreover the emergency powers are designed to be used when the legislature is not in sessions in order to allow the Governor to respond to natural disasters. We are here in St. Paul now and have yet to push any meaningful COVID relief or propose any changes. Yet the governor is clinging to his unilateral powers and the House majority refuses to get off its hands and do anything about it, voting 16 times to uphold his powers. 

What needs to happen for the governor to back off? A year ago, the governor said he needed his powers to flatten the curve and prevent an overrun on hospitals. Then it was about making sure front-line workers have enough personal-protective equipment. Then he wanted to avoid a shortage of ventilators. Fast-forward to today and can anyone honestly say why he needs that power without referencing unquantifiable objectives? It’s been a year. People deserve to know, in fact people deserve a voice. It is long overdue but it is time to end this “emergency” and start moving forward. It's time the Legislature does its job.  

PPP Loan Forgiveness; Update

This past week I walked into my office and found a very nicely presented update on MN tourism from one of his agencies. The slides were attached to a restaurant menu, and painted a devastating picture of our tourism industry, with decreases of nearly 80%. Our business owners, specifically our restaurant owners, have struggled to keep their heads above the water this past year attempting to meet Walz sporadic and illogical mandates. When they were hurting the most, many were forced to reachout for help and apply for the federal PPP loans. This lifesaving program kept many of our favorite businesses from going completely under. 

With the passage of the new federal stimulus package the state of Minnesota will be receiving just over 4.5 billion dollars in new aid. This money is designed to help individuals and businesses, yet somehow Governor Walz and the DFL members of the house have gotten it into their head this is their money. This past week the DFL in the house refused to take up the urgent issue of PPP loan forgiveness. When the issue was first heard in Committee Rep Marquart worried about the $400 million loss in revenue if we didn’t tax it. They forget those who received it, did so because they couldn’t afford to keep their business open otherwise. But now Walz expects his cut. Those Federal PPP loans you received last year are going to be subject to MN income tax unless we act now. 

Rep Marquart and the DFL even voted against their own standalone bill in order to ensure they could hold it over our heads in their Omnibus bill. The goal now of the DFL is clear; jam as much legislation into these omnibus bills as possible so you make it impossible to vote against it. Remember we have only passed 4 bills this session. If everything is rolled into these omnibus bills 99% of the work will be decided in a matter of minutes. Not only does this process rob every Minnesotan of a voice, it forces a dangerous precedent upon us.

Walz Adjust the Dials

This morning the Governor announced another roll-back of his COVID restrictions on private businesses. This comes after the President announced last night we should be “back to normal” by July 4th. Up until this point Walz has never given us a time table for reopening. While I am happy to see this roll back we are still far behind our neighboring states when it comes to opening businesses. 

Unless otherwise noted, the adjustments are effective at noon on Monday, March 15. They include measures to:

  • Make it easier to safely gather with family:
    • Social gatherings: Up to 50 people outdoors or 15 people for indoor gatherings, both without household limits.
    • Youth sports: Pod size increasing to 50 for outdoor activities.
    • Religious services: Remove occupancy limit, but social distancing required.
    • Celebrations: Follow venue guidance.
  • Support small businesses:
    • Bars and restaurants : Increasing allowable occupancy to 75%, up from 50%, with a limit of 250 people. The limits apply separately indoors and outdoors. Bar seating increases to parties of 4.
    • Salons/barbers: Removing the occupancy limit, but social distancing required.
    • Gyms/fitness centers/pools: Increasing allowable occupancy to 50%, up from 25%. Outdoor classes can increase to 50 people.
    • Entertainment venues: Increasing allowable occupancy to 50%, up from 25%, both indoors and outdoors, with a limit of 250.
  • As summer nears, the state will adjust guidelines for large venues. All venues can open at 50% capacity up to 250 people. Venues with normal occupant capacity over 500 can add additional guests, effective April 1:
    • Seated outdoor venues can add an additional 25% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 10,000 people.
    • Non-seated outdoor venues can add an additional 15% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 10,000 people.
    • Seated indoor venues can add an additional 15% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 3,000 people.
    • Non-seated indoor venues can add an additional 10% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 1,500 people.

As more Minnesotans are vaccinated, work from home will no longer be required – but it will continue to be strongly recommended – beginning April 15. This is perhaps one of the biggest changes, next to the complete lift of wedding restrictions, we saw from his announcement. This means offices that choice to do so can welcome new employees back. As the economy starts to flicker back to life we have to let our business return to normal and have an environment that encourages job creation.

Governor Walz California Car Initiative

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is working to adopt a new rule to reduce vehicle emissions and make more electric vehicles available to consumers in Minnesota, known as the Clean Cars Minnesota rulemaking. After the current open comment period closes on March 15, you will have an opportunity to respond to comments that other individuals or organizations have submitted into the record—known as the rebuttal comment period.On March 16, the Office of Administrative Hearings will publish a new e-comments webpage for rebuttal comments. We will post a link on the Clean Cars Minnesota rulemaking page as soon as it's available.

The current open comment period closes on Monday, March 15, 2021 at 4:30 p.m.

In order to submit a comment you must write your question or comment down and submit through the Office of Administrative Hearings e-comments website, or by fax or mail according to the instructions in the public notice.

Step-by-step instructions for how to submit a comment and attach documents is available on the Office of Administrative hearings website: Directions for using the rulemaking e-comments website

All comments regarding the proposed rule must be sent to Administrative Law Judge Palmer-Denig to be included in the official rulemaking record.

You can submit rebuttal comments from March 16 through Monday, March 22, 2021 at 4:30 p.m.


Today, it was announced that on Wednesday, March 10 vaccine eligibility will expand to the next two groups of priority populations – more than 1.8 million Minnesotans will become eligible to receive a vaccine beginning this week. These newly-eligible Minnesotans, the state has directed providers to prioritize appointments for individuals in the first of these groups. Providers will then have the flexibility to offer available appointments to people in the second group.

The first group includes:

  • People with specific underlying health conditions: Sickle cell disease, Down Syndrome, or oxygen-dependent chronic lung or heart conditions, and those who are in active cancer treatment or immunocompromised from organ transplant
  • Targeted essential workers: Food processing plant workers
  • Minnesotans with rare conditions or disabilities that put them at higher risk of severe illness

The second group includes:

  • People age 45 and older with ONE or more of the following underlying medical conditions; or, age 16 and over with TWO or more of the following underlying medical conditions (learn more about these conditions on the Who’s Getting Vaccinated page):
    • Active cancer
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
    • Diabetes - Type 1 or 2
    • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
    • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from HIV, bone marrow disease, chronic steroids for more than 30 days, immunodeficiency disease, or from taking immunosuppressive medications
    • Obesity - body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 kg/m2
    • Pregnancy
  • People 50+ in multi-generational housing
  • Essential frontline workers: Agricultural, airport staff, additional child care workers not previously eligible, correctional settings, first responders, food production, food retail, food service, judicial system workers, manufacturing, public health workers, public transit, Postal Service workers.


On Walmart, you need to have a Walmart account but that’s easy to create. 

The Minnesota vaccine connector scans Walgreens, Walmart, Thrifty White and HyVee for vaccines throughout the day. Their website is HERE.

HyVee - You have to search by location. I’d recommend using the Hy-Vee store locator to find stores within 50 miles of your home and starting there.

Their website is HERE.  

CentraCare has a wide variety of appointments in Central Minnesota, you can schedule an appointment HERE 

In the near future the state is going to be rolling out mass vaccine events. To sign up for it, the person needs to be registered with the vaccine connector HERE 

Coborn's Grocery Store and Pharmacy has also added vaccine appointments. The website is a little tricky and you need to create account but there is availability HERE

Finally, if you’re signing someone up here’s the info you mostly need:

  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email (you can use your own)

In some cases you might need their Medicare number, but they can show their card at the pharmacy.

Heating assistance

There is still assistance available to income-eligible households (both owners and renters) for home heating bills and furnace repairs. The State's Energy Assistance Program can help by providing financial assistance, such as:

  •       Pay past due energy bills to avoid disconnection
  •       Purchase fuel for delivery in emergencies
  •       Repair or replace homeowners' malfunctioning furnaces.

The application period is open until May 31 this year, and you can find more information and links to apply at the Minnesota Department of Commerce website


If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me or my office. We are still attempting to provide regular contact remotely so if you have other needs, please email my Legislative Assistant, Grayson, at

Watch the Minnesota House on Public TV

Video: Streaming Website. Also you can watch committees and Floor Sessions on YouTube.