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Senate Media Services

Discussions Begin on Determining Bonus Pay for Frontline Workers

Determining which frontline workers should be eligible for extra money based upon their efforts in addressing and coping with COVID-19 began in earnest Wednesday, July 28, with the first meeting of a special task force. The Frontline Workers Pay Working Group, which consists of six legislators and three agency commissioners, heard from professionals in medicine, nursing care, education and food service about the challenges they faced during the pandemic.

"Why should frontline workers be offered this bonus, so to say? Because they've done the work that most in our society would never consider doing," said Dan Colgan, Administrator of Redeemer Health Care Center. Danielle Salisbury, Campus Administrator at long-term care center EagleCrest, said that the number of vacant positions has nearly doubled in the past few months. "Frontline staff are stepping up, working extra shifts and forgoing the vacations we expected during these Minnesota summer months," she said.

The task force will recommend to the Governor and legislature ways to distribute $250 million among the frontline workers. According to Representative Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, about 900,000 workers could be classified as eligible, and as a result, the committee will need to decide if "we are going to spread it out more thinly or if we are going to narrow the scope or make some effort to add additional funds."

Ceremonial Signing of the Energy Conservation and Optimization Act

Governor Tim Walz held a ceremonial bill signing Tuesday, July 27, to celebrate the recently enacted Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act of 2021. The measure gained bipartisan support during the regular legislative session, clearing both chambers by significant margins.

"This is really smart policy," said Walz. "It starts out first and foremost by saving consumers money. It starts out by creating jobs...and, of course, the benefit that we get with it is the reduction of carbon emissions and addressing climate change."

The bill expands Minnesota's Conservation Improvement Program (CIP), which requires energy utility companies to provide financial incentives to customers for energy saving improvements, such as the installation of energy efficient systems. The new law expands the CIP program eligibility for low-income households, requires energy efficient improvements for public schools and increases conservation goals for investor-owned utilities.

In a released statement, Senate bill sponsor Jason Rarick, R-Pine City, said, "This innovative policy change is good for consumers, small businesses, and energy providers and prepares Minnesota's energy utilization for future technological advancements without picking winners or losers."

Recently, moderator Shannon Loehrke interviewed Senator Rarick and Senator Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato, about the new law: Capitol Report

Big Budget Increase for Schools, Supporting Agencies, Elections, Veterans

The largest budget increase for Minnesota schools in the past fifteen years easily won the stamp of approval from state lawmakers this summer, as students prepare to head back into the classrooms. Former Lakeville school board member and current Senate Education Committee member Zach Duckworth explains what administrators, teachers, parents and students should expect this fall.

One of the key budget bills enacted every two years finances executive and administrative agencies, funds support services for veterans and ensures election integrity and transparency. It is a wide-ranging bill that impacts all Minnesotans, and State Government and Elections Committee Chair Mary Kiffmeyer joins Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to review the latest efforts to tighten Minnesota's election process, assist veterans and improve state services.

Also in the program this week, Governor Tim Walz issues an executive order banning conversion therapy, plus a look at the Grand Floor of the Minnesota State Capitol.

Calling for an End to COVID-19 Misinformation

DFL Lawmakers called a press conference Thursday, July 22, to urge their Republican colleagues to help end the spread of misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines. Senator Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, cited a recent advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General that called misinformation an “urgent threat”.

“We’re calling on our colleagues here with humility, we’re calling on our colleagues here with honesty, and in solidary… so that we can get ahead of the Delta [variant], stop it and continue to live the life of our choosing,” she said.

Fueling Minnesota's Economic Recovery / Improving the Lives of All Minnesotans

Workers and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are regrouping as the Minnesota economy comes back to life. The state’s new budget for jobs and economic development invests significant resources to rebuild and recover, and the chair of the committee, Senator Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, talks with Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke about the various economic stimulus efforts.

The recently passed $18.8 billion health and human services budget bill that spans the next two years includes measures to improve the lives of Minnesotans facing disadvantages. Senate Human Services Reform Committee Chair Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, reviews the various initiatives, which some legislators have described as the best in a generation.

Also in the program, ralliers march to the State Capitol in support of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which includes investments in home care and community-based services. Plus, a closer look at a prominent State Capitol feature that in 1906 represented marvelous, new technology.