I hope this message finds you well, even amid these challenging circumstances. My office at the State Capitol remains open and we remain at work on solutions that bring relief to the many Minnesotans that are suffering. I want to share with you an update on where a few key issues stand.
Governor announced a lift of the Stay-at-Home Order Monday,
On Wednesday, May 12, the Governor announced he would lift the Stay-at-Home Order Monday, May 18, though the lift is not without restrictions.
According to the announcement, starting May 18, groups of 10 or fewer may gather (this is supposed to apply to faith gatherings, as well). Retail may open at 50% capacity. Outdoor sports with distancing and nonessential travel are now deemed appropriate. Those who can work from home are encouraged to continue doing so.
DEED has released guidelines for those returning to work at http://mn.gov.
While we still hope the Governor will continue to turn his dials to allow more people to get back to work, I am grateful that he is beginning to listen to the Senate Majority and the people of Minnesota. As we have said from the beginning – working together is the only way to emerge from this pandemic successfully. We will continue to develop creative ideas for businesses, continue fighting for our freedoms to be completely restored, and keep striving to reopen Minnesota.
Senate Republicans approve bill requiring legislative oversight for future peacetime emergencies
On Friday, May 15, the Minnesota Senate approved a bill that would reassert a fair balance of governing power between the legislative branch and the executive branch during future states of emergency. The bill, would require the Governor to obtain legislative approval to extend any emergency declaration beyond 30 days. This differs from current law, which allows the Governor to extend a peacetime emergency indefinitely for 30 days at a time and only grants the legislature the option to cancel emergency powers with a majority vote of both the House and Senate.
This bill provides the legislature to take an active role as it requires them to take action to approve, where the current process is passive role allowing the extension to continue without a vote even though a special session may be required.
Our government is built on the concept of the balance of power between our three branches of government, it’s time to start cooperating with the legislature on common ground solutions that we all agree will make Minnesota a better and safer place.
The bill requires the Governor to give three days’ notice to the majority and minority leaders of each body if they intend to extend a peacetime emergency when the legislature is not in session.
The bill prohibits the Governor from canceling an emergency order and issuing a new declaration for the same emergency in order to avoid approval by the legislature.
The bill clarifies that if the Governor declares two peacetime emergencies concurrently, the same legislative approval of any extension past 30 days is required for the second emergency.
Minnesota Senate pass legislation to allow businesses to safely resume operations
On Monday, May 18, the Minnesota Senate passed legislation that would allow many small businesses to safely resume operations. The bill, Senate File 4511, provides a framework for businesses to return to the workplace and safely resume operations if they follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) guidelines. The legislation would take effect the day following enactment and passed in the chamber with a bipartisan vote of 39-28.
Across Minnesota, we have countless small businesses families struggling as a result of the continued one-size-fits-all stay-at-home order. These continued restrictions and small movement of the dials do not allow flexibility for our businesses to safely reopen despite laxer restrictions in our neighboring states. Why though? Minnesota businesses have a vested interest in protecting their employees and customers. In fact, many have already developed responsible plans to reopen. So why are we continuing to force them to shutter? We need to act now and trust that Minnesota businesses know how to best run their operations so that we can begin to safely and responsibly reboot our economy.
The legislation would allow businesses that are “closed to ingress, egress, use, and occupancy by members of the public” due to recent executive orders to resume operations if the business abides by workplace safety recommendations and guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The bill would take effect the day following its enactment.
The legislation awaits a hearing in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Minnesota Senate passes bill to support small businesses in crisis
The Minnesota Senate passed legislation to appropriate $60 million for small businesses in crisis from the stay-at-home orders and coronavirus pandemic. The bill was passed with bipartisan support. The bill takes $57.6 million from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund and $2.4 million from the Small Business Guarantee Loan program to provide relief grants to Minnesota small businesses.
A business is eligible if it has a brick and mortar location in Minnesota, is owned by a permanent resident, employs 50 or fewer full-time staff, and can demonstrate financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. Once approved, eligible businesses may receive grants of up to $10,000 to use for working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility bills, and other similar business expenses.
The bill designates $30 million to be distributed to businesses in Greater Minnesota and $30 million for distribution in the seven-county metropolitan area. At least $18 million of the funds would be designated for microbusinesses of six or fewer employees. A minimum of $15 million must be awarded to minority-owned, veteran-owned, and women-owned businesses.
Omnibus ag. bill
An omnibus agriculture bill approved by the legislature focuses on providing resources to farmers in crisis, farm and grain bin safety, and retail food handlers (PPE for small grocery providers).
This bill provides an additional $40,000 to support rural mental health outreach and expands allowable uses to include suicide prevention training and adolescent mental health awareness programs. Farm suicides and mental health crises have been on the rise over the last decade. You can read more about what this bill offers in detail at revisor.mn.gov.
Farmer-lender mediation bill
The House and Senate approved a bill this week extending the deadline for mediation to occur and prevents lenders from taking action on affected property to Dec.1, 2020. The goal is to protect farmers who are in dire financial straits to seek a remedy before their land or assets are acted upon by creditors.
Guidelines for high school graduations
As many of you know, the Governor and Commissioner Malcolm laid out guidelines for high school graduations. You can see go mn.gov to view the Stay Safe Executive Order.
Since the Governor’s announcement to ban graduations earlier this week, I have received emails and calls from countless parents who are disappointed that their children will not enjoy the celebratory graduation they have earned after years of hard work. Our seniors have missed so many of the experiences that make their final year of high school special. At the very least they deserve a ceremony commemorating their hard work so they can have some closure.
I am frustrated the Governor continues to implement one size fits all orders. If you would like to share your frustrations with Governor Walz, please click the link below and explain how the schools in your community could develop creative ways to socially distance and safely celebrate graduates! Governor’s Office (click here).
Students across the state already feel the pain of losing their senior year highlights to distance learning. Let’s give schools, especially smaller and rural schools, the flexibility to celebrate and honor high school seniors in a safe way that works for them.
Schools may implement summer school hybrid model
The governor also announced this week that schools will be allowed the option to offer summer learning through a hybrid model of distance learning and in-school learning, or to continue distance learning.
The executive order offers schools flexibility for some in–person instruction if schools are in compliance with Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) guidelines on masking, social distancing, personal hygiene, screening, and cleaning, and adhere to MDH’s guidance for summer programs can be viewed at health.state.mn.us.
If you would like to read more about the governor’s latest orders, you can see all of them at leg.state.mn.us.
Please contact me
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or comments. It’s an honor to be your voice at the Capitol.
You’re invited to follow me on social media. Be sure to follow me on my Facebook page for the latest news from the Capitol and District 13. You’ll find legislative updates, constituent photos, events, video updates, and more.
Senator Jeff Howe
3235 Minnesota Senate Building
95 University Avenue West
Saint Paul, MN 55155
Tel: (651) 296-2084