Like other governments and organizations across the world, Minnesota government leaders are in the process of working through the state’s response to the COVID-19 virus.
This afternoon, Governor Walz held a press conference to announce that he has declared a peacetime emergency, which gives him additional powers to utilize the Minnesota National Guard and take other emergency actions if necessary. He also encouraged people to stay home if sick and to practice social distancing, which includes limiting gatherings or 250 or more such as conferences, concerts and sporting events. The state is opting to keep K-12 public schools open and is not otherwise placing restrictions on businesses or other operations.
At this point, the Legislature has not announced any plans to go on hiatus or end the session early. The four legislative leaders have been in constant conversation about the issues surrounding COVID-19 and the near-term future of legislative operations. Following the Governor’s press conference, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka held a press conference where he reiterated that the Legislature plans to continue its work with the hope of passing important legislation (he mentioned tax cuts and the bonding bill) and potentially finishing early.
However, the Legislature is looking to limit/discourage large gatherings at the Capitol. Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) issued a statement Thursday night that the House will not hold any hearings or meetings until 11 a.m. Monday, and the Senate has announced that it will limit meetings at the their offices as being “by appointment only” starting Monday. This means it may be more difficult to get opportunities to speak with legislators, at least for the time being.
Earlier this week, the Legislature rushed through $21 million in additional funds for public health measures in a bill that passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. Governor Walz mentioned that additional legislative action related to the COVID-19 response will be undertaken if needed.
The COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly. Additional closures or precautionary measures may be needed in the future as the state continues to respond to this evolving situation. The CGMC team will continue to closely follow whatever the Legislature and Governor decide to do. Be sure to tune in to our Twitter feed, Facebook page and greatermncities.org for updates.