Legislative Top 5: May 7, 2021

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Serious Negotiations

The Minnesota legislative session is required to end within ten days. At the beginning of the week, legislative leaders announced that they had given themselves a goal of having a broad global agreement on key issues and budget targets by Friday (today). Following such an agreement, conference committees would need to finalize details within their individual bills.

On Tuesday, Senate leadership publicly shared a document that explained its opening offer to the House for a global agreement on key end-of-session issues. In the days since, there have been no other offers or counteroffers that have been made public. Quiet negotiations such as those happening now is typically a sign that the legislative leaders are conducting serious negotiations.

COVID Restrictions Nearly Gone

Yesterday, Governor Tim Walz announced a three-step plan to nearly eliminate all COVID-19 restrictions and protections by July 1. The announcement helps to ease tensions between Republicans and the Governor, and should help to advance budget negotiations. The highlights of the announcement include:

  • May 7: At noon, limits on outdoor activities end, except the mask requirement remains for large venues with more than 500 people; and the existing early mandatory closing time for bars and restaurants ends.
  • May 28: Capacity and distancing limits end, except face coverings are still required indoors and for outdoor events that exceed 500 people; businesses must only abide by a minimal universal state guidance document.
  • No later than July 1: Once 70% of Minnesotans aged 16 years and older are vaccinated, but no later than July 1, the remaining face covering and business guidance requirements will end.

Remaining in place will be the eviction moratorium, the ban on price gouging, and eligibility exemptions for people who receive state services.

Making a Statement

This week, the Senate passed a bill that has been a priority of the Republican majority for a number of years. On a vote of 34-32, S.F. 173, authored by Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) which would require that voters show identification, was approved. The House will not take up the bill, though it is expected to vote on the adult-use cannabis bill next week (which the Senate will not advance).

Sign and Release Warrants

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed H.F. 2539, the Sign and Release Warrant Bill, authored by Rep. Jamie Long (DFL-Minneapolis).  Rep. Long said the bill is a response to the death of Daunte Wright, who was in the process of being arrested due to an outstanding warrant when he was shot. H.F. 2539 would allow officers who find a person who has missed a court date, for certain gross misdemeanors or misdemeanors, to simply provide notice of a new court date and have the person sign an acknowledgment of the notification. Republicans argued that the new sign and release process included too many gross misdemeanors. The bill passed along party lines, 73-59, with most DFLers voting for the bill and Republicans voting against.

Governor Speculation

Earlier this week, it was reported that Senator Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) is considering running for governor in 2022. Sen. Benson, who is chair of the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy committee, joins Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) and Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) in those speculated to be eying the seat. None are expected to make a final decision until after the legislature adjourns.

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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