LEGISLATIVE TOP 5: April 16, 2021

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Minnesota’s Biggest Story

The trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd has put Minnesota in the national spotlight for the last few weeks. That trial is wrapping up, with closing arguments scheduled for Monday. Unfortunately, the spotlight was intensified earlier this week when Daunte Wright was shot and killed by a Brooklyn Center police officer approximately ten miles from the location of the trial. Protests have occurred each night since Sunday, and some areas have instituted curfews. With these two events, the National Guard has been called up while Minneapolis and the surrounding areas have been focused on public safety.

The Next Chapter

With the passing of the final deadline last week, the legislature has moved into a new phase. The House has passed each of the omnibus finance and policy bills out of the Ways and Means committee, with only the Tax and Capital Investment bills remaining. The Senate has also been passing omnibus bills out of the Finance committee, but likely won’t finish until near the end of next week. Both the House and Senate have also begun passing the omnibus bills off their respective floors.

Federal Funds Could Throw a Wrench in the Process

While the House and Senate are both passing omnibus finance bills, the final agreements could look very different. Billions of federal dollars will be coming in to the state coffers, but many details, including final amounts, how funds will be broken down, and anticipated guidance on use of funds, are needed prior to finalizing decisions. These details are expected to come into greater focus in early May. Of particular note is that, if the legislature and Governor Tim Walz are unable to agree on how and where to use these federal funds, the Governor will be able to use them at his discretion.

Emergency Powers Continue

Governor Walz acted this week to extend the state’s peacetime emergency for another 30 days. This current emergency order will expire on Friday, May 14. Once the legislature adjourns from regular session, which will happen on or before May 17, the Governor will be required to call the legislature in for a special legislative session if he continues to extend the peacetime emergency.

Vaccine Passports

While the chair of the Senate Health and Human Services committee, Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), has been vocal about her opposition to COVID-19 vaccine passports for a long time, last week, Governor Walz also stated that he has “no intention of doing vaccine passports” in Minnesota. Additionally, this week separate bills were introduced in both the House and Senate regarding related issues. A bill introduced by Rep. Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake), H.F. 2511, would prohibit government-issued vaccine passports and further states that “no entity doing business in Minnesota shall require patrons or customers to provide documentation certifying vaccination or post-transmission recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business.” S.F. 2424, authored by Sen. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees in any way based on vaccination status.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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