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A Review of the Incredibly Challenging 2020 Legislative Session

Lawmakers adjourned the incredibly challenging 2020 regular legislative session acknowledging that they will soon be returning to the State Capitol. While important legislation was enacted into law, major decisions await, including the passage of a public works package. On this week's Capitol Report program, legislative leaders and Governor Walz highlight the successes and failures of the 2020 regular session.

Legislative operations dramatically changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the important work of gathering and sharing information, often spearheaded by professional lobbyists. Jeremy Estenson, President of the Minnesota Government Relations Council, talks with moderator Shannon Loehrke about ways his profession adjusted their operations. Also, Senate Photographers David Oakes and A.J. Olmscheid visually captured the evolution of change during the 2020 session.

Finally, two new laws were passed: Senator Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, talks with Shannon about her successful effort to ban marriages for people under 18 years of age, and Senator Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, explains how professional hair/makeup artists will be able to maintain their freelance businesses without burdensome regulations. This measure awaits the Governor's signature.

Senate Capital Investment Bill Fails to Gain Necessary Votes

With only 38 of the required 41 votes needed for passage, the Senate failed to approve its version of the Capital Improvements bill. While a bonding bill needs to originate in the house, the vote demonstrated the divide between Senate Republicans and Senator DFL members on an appropriate amount of bonds to be issued for construction and improvement projects statewide. Senate Republicans propose a $998 million dollar bonding plan, while Senate DFL members are calling for about $2.4 billion dollars in investments.

Senate Passes Bill to Freeze Wages of State Employees

State employee wages would be frozen in the second year of their contract, according to a bill passed by the Senate early Sunday, May 17. Under the Senate plan, state employees would continue receiving the 2.5 percent increase approved the first year of the two-year contract. The additional 2.5 percent increase would be frozen unless the state achieves a budget surplus by July of 2021.

In other action, The Senate approved SF 4564, authored by Senator Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, that sets up a formula for distributing Coronavirus relief appropriations to counties, cites and towns.

HF 2796 (Koran) Ratification of State Labor Agreement and Compensation

Bill Calls For Legislative Approval of Peacetime Emergency Order

Minnesota governors would need to secure legislative approval when extending peacetime emergency orders, under a bill approved by the Senate on a divided 36-31 vote. Currently, the legislature is empowered to end a peacetime emergency order, but the Governor is able to extend the order without legislative action. Bill author Senator David Osmek, R-Mound, said the bill would reinforce the legislature's equal branch of government status, while opponents contend the legislature is unable to act.

The Senate also approved a bill that would allow third parties to conduct behind-the-wheel tests. Sponsored by Senator Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, the goal is reduce the backlog of license applicants awaiting testing.

In other action, the Senate passed the following bills:
SF512 (Koran) Adjusting gambling control laws during COVID-19 period;
SF2224 (Jasinski) Changing requirements for salvage vehicle Certificate of Title;
HF4490 (Westrom) Miscellaneous agriculture finance provisions;
HF4137 (Relph) Requiring intent for crime of repeated harassing conduct;
HF4599 (Goggin) Extending farmer lender mediation period.

Pushing For Businesses and Agriculture; Advancing COVID-19 Testing

As Governor Walz gradually opens the state, lawmakers seek to aid businesses and industry. On this week's Capitol Report program, moderator Shannon Loehrke highlights Senate debate pushing to restore local business activity under safe guidelines. Plus, a look into Minnesota’s economic future and advancing COVID-19 research.

Dr. Laura Kalambokidis joins Shannon to discuss the downturn in the economy and its impact on Minnesota's budget. Senate Agriculture Chair Bill Weber, R-Luverne, explains the latest efforts to move the state's agriculture industry forward. And, Senate Health and Human Services Chair Michelle Benson discusses her work to further serological testing for COVID-19.

Bill Raising Age to 21 for Buying Tobacco Sent to Governor Walz

The Senate approved a bill Wednesday, May 13, that would set the age at 21 for purchasing and using tobacco products. The bill will be sent to Governor Tim Walz for his signature.

Sponsored by Senator Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, the bill sets a $300 dollar penalty for a licensee or employee of a licensee for selling the products to person below the age of 21. Amendments to exclude military personnel or establish alternative civil penalties for persons violating the law failed to win Senate approval.

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A Review of the Incredibly Challenging 2020 Legislative Session