by Scott McClallen
On Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz asked the legislature to enact into law some of his executive orders to prepare for the end of his 11-month reign in a declared COVID-19 state of emergency.
Walz said they needed to work together to keep Minnesotans safe.
“As the legislative session begins this week, I recognize our shared interest in finding a pathway to work collaboratively to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and to ensure an orderly end of the peacetime emergency when it is no longer needed,” he wrote in a memo dated Thursday.
Walz alluded to a “light now at the end of the tunnel” of the pandemic in Minnesota, likely referring to vaccines, but asked lawmakers to prioritize the following provisions:
- Commonsense measures to ensure that businesses continue to provide safe environments to enable commerce to thrive.
- Increased protections for workers from unsafe working conditions and retaliation from raising concerns about workplace safety.
- Changes to the Unemployment Insurance program to continue to enable more job seekers to receive timely support.
- Requirements to wear face coverings in public indoor spaces and indoor businesses.
- Flexibility for school districts to enable local determinations of learning models with appropriate safety precautions.
- Continuation of the evictions moratorium with a specific timeline to avoid surprises and a surge in evictions.
- Protections for Minnesotans against price gouging on essential goods and services and garnishment of COVID-19 relief payments.
- Republicans have previously rejected a facemask mandate, arguing that while they should be encouraged, Minnesotans shouldn’t be fined for not wearing one.
Landlords have also sued Walz over the eviction moratorium, arguing the extension stresses landlords’ finances to the point of bankruptcy or foreclosure since tenants might not be paying.
“The current executive orders place the economic burden squarely on the shoulders of property owners, and many small landlords and individual owners are feeling the strain,” Attorney Michael Kemp of St. Paul-based Hansen Dordell told The Center Square in an email.
“Given the length of the moratorium, my clients are hoping that the Governor’s order will be replaced by something which gives some relief to landlords while also protecting their tenants.”
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, hasn’t yet responded to a comment about the letter, as the Senate is in session today.
Walz’s office also hasn’t responded to questions about what metrics he will use to determine when it’s time to end his emergency powers.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) released its 2021 session priority list this week, which include revising Walz’s emergency executive order authority to require the legislative approval of any executive order after 30 days.
NFIB is also eying COVID-19 liability protection for small businesses if all safety protocols are met, a revision to a 2017 new hire requirement law that required all employees to complete a form detailing hiring terms, and no taxation of Paycheck Protection Program loans.
“Frivolous lawsuits can be extremely costly to a small business and its owner. The last thing these beleaguered folks need is to fend off a costly frivolous lawsuit,” Minnesota NFIB Director Mike Hickey said in a statement.
“If they are still in business, many may be but one frivolous lawsuit away from closing for good, taking livelihoods and the jobs they create with them.”
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.