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Senate Media Services

Minnesota's Economic Health / New Senate President / Secretary Pat Flahaven

Minnesota is in the midst of uncertain times – with ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and an emerging variant, plus congestion in the supply chain and a labor shortage. There also are positive signs, including better-than-projected revenues for the current fiscal year and economic opportunities overseas for Minnesota businesses . Minnesota Governor Tim Walz joins moderator Shannon Loehrke to talk about the status of Minnesota's economy, the recent trade mission, the grading of his COVID-19 response, leveraging federal infrastructure funds and tackling the workforce shortage.

Senator Jeremy Miller's recent elevation to Senate Majority Leader left a vacancy in the role of Senate President. At a mid-October meeting, members of the Senate Republican Caucus elected Senator David Osmek, R-Mound, as the next President of the Senate. He talks with Shannon about his new role.

Former Senate Secretary Pat Flahaven passed away recently at the age of 78. He had retired from the Minnesota Senate in 2009, having served as the chief parliamentarian for 36 years. He was a pivotal figure in the modernization and professionalization of the Minnesota Senate’s operations. Shannon provides a brief look at some of his lasting contributions.

Nursing Homes' Workforce Crisis / Legalizing Sports Betting

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency, has issued a requirement for health care workers to be fully vaccinated by January 4th of next year. That requirement has sounded the alarm for nursing home administrators and staff, who are warning policymakers of a potential nursing home workforce crisis. Senate Human Services Reform Committee Chair Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, and Senator John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin, join moderator Shannon Loehrke to offer their perspectives on the challenges facing Minnesota’s nursing homes.

Thirty-two states across the country, including all of Minnesota’s neighbors, have legalized sports betting, according to Representative Zack Stephenson, chair of the House Commerce Committee. He recently held a news conference to announce his intention to pass a law that would give Minnesotans that same opportunity. Also in the program, photographs of the Minnesota State Capitol through the seasons.

Federal Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers Causes Staffing Concerns

The Senate Human Services Reform Committee met Wednesday, November 10, to review the federal vaccine mandate for health care workers and to explore concerns about its impact on staffing, especially in nursing home facilities.

According to Diane Rydrych of the Minnesota Dept. of Health, the mandate applies to workers in facilities that are Medicare and Medicaid certified, including hospitals, nursing homes and health care centers. It does not apply, she said, to assisted living and group homes. The workers will have to be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022, she explained.

Kari Thurlow of Leading Age MN, an association of aging services organizations, expressed concern over the mandate. "This is a potential powder keg with a very short fuse for long term care," she said. "We face a scenario where we don't have enough workers to serve the seniors in our settings."

Thurlow recommended that American Rescue Plan funds be used to increase wages of nursing home staff and that assistance be provided in helping develop emergency staffing solutions for long term care. Senator Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, said that state policymakers and organizations need to "push back" against the federal mandates, which he cited as unconstitutional. "We need to get a solid push to go back against the federal government," he said.

Committee chair Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said the committee will be meeting again in December to review the issue further.

CAPITOL REPORT: Addressing Violent Crime

Minnesota is facing a surge in violent crime, and lawmakers are concerned. Recently, the Senate held an informational hearing to learn more about its impact on law enforcement and policing. On this week's Capitol Report, Senate Transportation Chair Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, and Judiciary and Public Safety Minority Lead Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, review the hearing and offer their perspectives on addressing violent crime.

The Minnesota State Capitol is actually the third public building to manage the state’s business. Moderator Shannon Loehrke talks with State Capitol Historian Brian Pease about the history of Minnesota's statehouses.

A New Senate President, Hero Pay Working Group Concludes, Reflecting on Years of State Service

Senator Jeremy Miller's recent elevation to Senate Majority Leader left a vacancy in the role of Senate President. At a mid-October meeting, members of the Senate Republican Caucus elected Senator David Osmek, R-Mound, as the next President of the Senate. He joins Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to talk about his new role.

The Office of the Legislative Auditor was established in 1973 to provide nonpartisan and independent examinations of spending, resources and programs throughout state government. Jim Nobles has been at the helm of this work as Minnesota’s Legislative Auditor for the past 38 years. He talks with Shannon about his years of state service, which began with an internship for the Research Department in the House of Representatives in 1972.

Also in the program, details about the contrasting legislative proposals resulting from the Frontline Worker Pay Working Group and highlights from a Senate hearing on the increase in criminal activities in and around the metro area.