MN Government Updates 04.13

Walz Extends Peacetime Emergency

Today, Governor Tim Walz signed Executive Order 20-35 extending the peacetime emergency in Minnesota for 30 days.

Governor Walz declared a peacetime emergency to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 13, 2020. On March 15, Minnesota detected the first confirmed cases caused by “community spread”—infections not epidemiologically linked to overseas travel. By March 17, all 50 states had reported a confirmed case of COVID-19. And on March 21, the Minnesota Department of Health announced the first confirmed fatality due to COVID-19 in Minnesota.

Since the Governor declared a peacetime emergency, Minnesota has taken strong steps to respond to and provide relief for COVID-19: closure of schools and implementation of a distance learning period; enhanced protections for veterans in our veterans homes; activation of the National Guard to assist in relief efforts; measures to preserve personal protective equipment; temporary closure of bars, restaurants, and other places of public accommodation; efforts to provide economic relief and stability to those impacted by the pandemic; regulatory changes allowing our state agencies and licensing boards to ensure fast relief to Minnesotans; and an order directing Minnesotans to stay at home to slow the spread of the virus. Today’s extension of the peacetime emergency is necessary for many of these measures to continue.

This extension of the peacetime emergency is effective today through May 13, 2020, and the Governor will seek the Executive Council’s approval of the extension this afternoon.

Walz Daily Press Briefing

This afternoon, Governor Walz and administration officials held a conference call with reporters to update the public on state efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Walz

  • Governor Walz outlined Executive Order 20-35, which was issued today extending the peacetime emergency in Minnesota.
  • The governor announced he has asked Minnesota Management and Budget to issue a budget projection in May.
  • He also announced that while traffic congestion is down, traffic fatalities have increased due to motorists speeding.
  • Walz’s theme throughout the press briefing was that Minnesota’s economy cannot re-start until there is widespread testing, contact tracing, and isolation.
  • When asked if it was realistic to have the capacity for testing, supplies, and personal protective equipment by May 4, the governor responded that, “It’s a goal we need to shoot for” but that the state is constrained by national supply chain challenges. He added that if the state is able to build up medical capacity and social distancing remains in place, people can begin to go back to work while keeping the most vulnerable isolated.

Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Department of Health

  • Commissioner Malcolm announced the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 has risen to 1,650. This is up 29 cases since yesterday’s report.
  • There are no new deaths since yesterday’s report. The state total is 70.
  • 157 patients are currently hospitalized with 74 of those in the ICU.
  • The commissioner made a point to mention that personal care assistants (PCAs) are essential employees.
  • The department encourages healthcare organization to allow PCAs to attend medical appointments with people with disabilities or chronic conditions.
  • Homecare staff, burses, family care givers are designated as Tier 1 essential workers under the governor’s order and are not considered visitors.

Director Joe Kelly, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division

  • Director Kelly reported that FEMA approved the request for federal reimbursement for non-congregate sheltering for those quarantined by COVID-19. This allows the state to provide shelter for someone who tests positive for COVID-19 and can’t go home.
  • He also announced that this week is Severe Weather Awareness Week.

Commissioner Myron Frans, Minnesota Management and Budget

  • Commissioner Frans stated that he is working with Governor Walz to prepare a budget projection plan. This plan has three major components:
  • MMB will release an updated budget projection in early May. The state will have the COVID-19 related federal funding by that point.
  • The executive branch is instituting a hiring freeze with the exception of new positions related to COVID-19 response.
  • Governor Walz, his chief of staff, and the 24 members of the gubernatorial cabinet will take a 10% pay cut for the remainder of the year.

Chair Charlie Zelle, Metropolitan Council

  • Chair Zelle announced that Metro Mobility is providing free door-to-door service to anyone who works at a healthcare facility.
  • The service will be provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Metro Mobility has the capacity for this due to a drop in demand for their normal services.
  • Passengers can book rides online and by phone. Those using this service must show their healthcare worker identification badge.

Minnesota Senate COVID-19 Response Working Group Holds Sixth Meeting

Today, the Minnesota Senate COVID-19 Response Working Group met to preview the provisions that will appear in another COVID-19 response bill that will be on the House and Senate floor tomorrow.

As part of a previous agreement, the legislature is only taking up changes that have been agreed upon by all four caucuses. The areas of focus in tomorrow’s bill are health and human services, judiciary, transportation, and local government.

A few specific measures that will be taken up include temporary changes to open meeting laws for military personnel and emergencies, an extension of out-of-state CDL license expiration dates and related requirements, and greater flexibility with valid will requirements. Other provisions include changes to the marriage license process, Medical Assistance eligibility, and the Minnesota Department of Health’s Emergency Powers.

Currently, there is not a scheduled meeting date for the group’s next hearing. However, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) indicated he looks forward to continued committee hearings via Zoom and working collaboratively.

Legislature to Convene Tomorrow

As previously noted, the House and Senate will convene in their respective chambers tomorrow to pass a package of policy changes in response to COVID-19. It is likely both bodies will also pass legislation relating to emergency insulin and a state insulin affordability program.

Amos A. Briggs | Government Relations
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