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Minnesota Legislature

House working on proposals to address COVID-19 pandemic

Hearing rooms are empty, but House members are working on ways to help Minnesotans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friday is the first committee deadline for the 2020 session.

But the hustle and bustle of the State Office Building has screeched to a halt with no committee hearings and face-to-face interaction with elected officials as House members work for their constituents.

Because of COVID-19, legislators are being forced to work in unusual ways as the pandemic continues — and the number of those infected continue to increase in Minnesotans.

As of Friday, 115 coronavirus cases have been confirmed across 21 Minnesota counties, but due to a lack of testing officials note that undercounts the actual number.

“While we follow the guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health to keep people safe, we are convening informal working groups to discuss emergency measures related to COVID-19 and to the mission-critical work of the Legislature this session. We are working to develop opportunities for members of the public to weigh in and offer their feedback in a way that is protective of their health,” House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) said in a statement.

According to the statement, representatives are working on measures that include:

  • ensuring hourly workers and contract workers at schools get paid;
  • ensuring workers get paid time off for COVID-19-related illness or business closure;
  • licensing extensions and flexibility for businesses;
  • preventing evictions and foreclosures during the pandemic;
  • forgiveness for expired driver’s licenses;
  • giving the human services commissioner authority to keep long-term care and disability services running;
  • child care provider support;
  • local jobs and projects bill; and
  • abatement of penalties for late income and property tax filings.

Public input is encouraged through email and phone. Member email has a standard format of rep.firstname.lastname@house.mn. A list of member phone numbers is available online.

Information is also being provided through virtual town halls and public briefings, legislator newsletters, committee listservs and the nonpartisan House Public Information Services Office.

“In this time of an unprecedented public health emergency, we know that Governor Walz will need to move fast and make use of executive orders to protect Minnesotans. In many cases, it is not currently practical for Minnesotans to have to wait for the normal legislative process in order for action to be taken which protects their health and welfare,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) said in the statement. “In some cases, action cannot be taken by executive order, and in other cases the Legislature may be able to assist the executive branch by preparing legislation or by contributing work product for use in the executive order process.”

 

 


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