MN Government Updates 05.04

Daudt Statement on Bonding Bill

Over the weekend, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) released a statement saying that the legislature will not pass a bonding bill while the governor’s emergency powers remain in effect.

“House Republicans are ready and willing to work with the governor on the COVID response, keeping people safe, and on a bonding bill, but it is time for the governor to work with the legislature on our path forward. The governor needed his emergency powers to navigate the fast-moving crisis, but after two months of unilateral power and decision-making it’s time for him to work with us on decisions and actions regarding the future of the state.”

A bonding bill requires a three-fifths majority, or 81 votes, to pass the House – where it must originate. With the DFL holding 75 of the 134 House seats, at least six votes from Republican members are needed to pass a bonding bill in the House.

Walz Press Briefing

This afternoon, Governor Walz, state officials, and business leaders held a press conference to update the public on state efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Tim Walz

  • The order exempts federal, tribal, state, and local COVID-19 relief funds from being automatically intercepted by creditors and debt collectors.
  • It allows Minnesotans to use COVID-19 assistance for their immediate needs, rather than having the funding automatically intercepted by creditors or debt collectors.
  • The governor said that there will be an announcement tomorrow on allowing elective surgeries to return.
  • Walz spent much of the press conference elevating the concerns of restaurant community and the desire to reopen in a modified way.
  • When asked if he had a specific date for restaurants to reopen, Walz responded that he doesn’t have an exact date. He acknowledged that the sooner there is a date, the sooner that provides certainty. The governor said he is hoping to see changes over the next two weeks.
  • When asked about House Minority Leader Daudt’s statement over the weekend about not having a bonding bill if the governor’s peacetime emergency executive order doesn’t end, Walz responded that he’s hearing strong bipartisan support for a bonding bill. He said he believes the only debate about the bill is its size.

Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Department of Health

  • Commissioner Malcolm announced the number of laboratory-confirmed cased of COVID-19 has risen to 7,234. This is up around 1,000 from over the weekend. About a quarter of the cases are from the five counties in or around areas dealing with food processing plant outbreaks.
  • The state has had 428 COVID-19 related deaths. There were 33 deaths from over the weekend.
  • About 3,200 COVID-19 test were conducted yesterday.
  • The commissioner said her department is developing plans for guidelines for safe reopening of more businesses and healthcare access.

Commissioner Steve Grove, Department of Employment and Economic Development

  • Commissioner Grove announced that the Walz-Flanagan Administration will be forming a new council this week – the Governor’s Council for a Safe and Inclusive Economy that will look at rebuilding the economy, reskilling the workforce, and reimagining the state’s economy post-pandemic.
  • Minnesotans can submit their thoughts on how to get social distancing right in the workplace and social settings by submitting thoughts through DEED’s website at mn.gov/deed/safework.

Liz Rammer, CEO of Hospitality Minnesota

  • Rammer said that the hospitality industry – restaurants, resorts, lodging, and campgrounds – represents more than 300,000 jobs in the state.
  • She said that hospitality businesses are ready to open now with social distancing and hand sanitation protocols in place.
  • Rammer announced she is working with the Walz Administration to finalize guidelines with the industry based on guidance from federal and state agencies. She said she is working with the governor to create a plan for a date for reopening. It’s important for the date to create lead time so businesses have certainty and can plan ahead.

House, Senate Convene for Floor Sessions

Both the House and Senate convened today for floor sessions to pass bills.

The Senate passed four bills:

  • Senate File 4494, authored by Senator Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), establishes state grant programs for distance learning equipment and for telemedicine equipment purchased in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill passed 66-0.
  • Senate File 2466, authored by Senator Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s Point), permits certain financial services providers to temporarily delay transactions where financial exploitation is suspected and to disclose that information to authorities. The bill passed 66-0.
  • Senate File 4091, authored by Senator Mark Koran (R-North Branch), makes technical changes related to the operation of the Minnesota Department of Commerce and modifies the Minnesota Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Act. The bill passed 66-0.
  • Senate File 3072, authored by Senator Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), is the Omnibus Data Privacy bill. It regulates law enforcement’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles, removes statutory criteria for the publication of court of appeals opinions, requires a government entity to obtain a search warrant prior to accessing electronic communication information, clarifies the applicability of overlapping laws relating to court-issued warrants to the electronic device location-tracking warrant law, and modifies the scope of the location of tracking warrant law. The bill passed 66-0.

The House passed two bills:

  • House File 3429, authored by Representative Mike Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park), authorizes local government to adopt special procedures for use at the 2020 state primary and general elections to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. It permits candidates to file certain election-related documents electronically. Additionally, the bill appropriates federal money made available to Minnesota through the Help America Vote Act. The bill passed 119-14.
  • House File 4415, authored by Representative Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis), provides for compensation for hourly school employees and allows entities that contract with schools to provide services to be reimbursed for paying their employees, for changes in school employment practices related to COVID-19 related school closures, and the conversion to distance learning programs. The bill also creates certain waivers of state law regarding assessments, graduation and course requirements, and potential licensure issues faced by prospective and current teachers. The bill is currently being debated on the floor and is likely to pass.

MMB to Issue Budget Forecast Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) is scheduled to provide an interim budget projection for the current biennium.

The interim budget projection will include limited updated estimates of expected revenues and expenditures for the current biennium and will include any appropriations already enacted this legislative session. Since the February budget forecast, economic conditions have dramatically weakened and government costs related to COVID-19 have increased.

The projection will provide a new budget outlook and show any projected surplus or deficit for the current biennium. This updated projection will inform the governor and legislature as they make decisions about the use of resources in the current economic environment.

Amos A. Briggs | Government Relations
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