Legislative Top 5: March 5, 2021

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Downtown Minneapolis is preparing for Minnesota’s first live broadcast, high-profile trial. Jury selection is set to begin on Monday in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin is accused of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last summer. Opening statements are scheduled to take place on March 29. Additional officers will face trial at a later date.

Who Pays?

The death of George Floyd last summer led to days and weeks of civil unrest in Minneapolis, and to a lesser extent St. Paul. Blocks of businesses were burned or otherwise damaged, and a police precinct building was looted and destroyed. On the eve of the trial, the Minnesota legislature is still grappling with who should pay for the costs of the additional public safety officers who respond to such events. With concern that a similar response may be needed during the Chauvin trial, leaders in the House, Senate and Governor’s office are expected to continue negotiating. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) expressed hope that a compromise would be reached and the agreement could be approved in the Senate on Monday.

The Final Holdout

Minnesota is the only state that has not exempted forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from being taxed. A bill to do just that is the top priority of the Senate, authored by the House Tax Chair, Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth). However, the House and Senate have so far taken different approaches to getting the bill passed. The House had a hearing on it, but laid it over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill later in the session. The Senate has passed it out of committee and hopes to get it signed into law as a stand-alone bill prior to March 15. Likely in a bid to win House support to pass the bill quickly, the Senate added a provision that would also exempt unemployment checks that individuals received from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program from taxation.

March Madness

The approach of legislative deadlines always brings about the most frantic weeks of committee action in the Minnesota legislature, and this year is no different. Several committees met into the evening this week, with more evening hearings scheduled for next week—and likely the following couple weeks as well. The first committee deadline is next Friday, March 12. The second deadline is set for one week later, on Friday, March 19. The legislature will go on break after March 26, resuming work on Tuesday, April 6, and the final deadline is on Friday, April 9. The legislative session must end by May 17.

Vaccines—Who’s Next?

Following last week’s updated timeline for when different categories of individuals can expect to be eligible for vaccination, the Minnesota Department of Health released additional vaccination guidance this week. The updated guidance includes more detailed information on specific medical conditions and essential worker categories.

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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