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Minnesota Legislature passes latest coronavirus relief bill

Plus: $160 million in federal aid to go to Minnesota airports; upper Mississippi named most endangered river in the U.S.; Trump campaign sues owner of northern Wisconsin television station; and more.

Minnesota House
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Minnesota lawmakers convened Tuesday for just the third time since recessing on March 16. The above image shows the Minnesota House in session on April 7.
For the Forum papers, Dana Ferguson writes, “Minnesota lawmakers on Tuesday ushered through the latest round of policy changes responding to the global coronavirus pandemic… . Lawmakers in the politically divided Legislature approved a series of policies aimed at granting state agencies authority to respond to the pandemic, allowing couples to apply for marriage licenses remotely, bumping out deadlines for Minnesotans to get new driver’s licenses and covering the cost of COVID-19 testing under the state’s Medical Assistance program for the uninsured. The bill would also boost funding to food banks and require health insurance plans to cover telehealth services during the pandemic.”

The Star Tribune’s Jessie Van Berkel writes: “Businesses are clamoring for exemptions to Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order, which is in place until at least May 4. Employers have inundated administration officials, legislators and professional organizations with requests for help since the governor shuttered nonessential businesses in March. Nearly 80% of Minnesota jobs are estimated to be in those critical fields that are still operating, and Walz has since allowed a few more sectors, such as lawn care, to resume work. But the political pressure to loosen the rules for other companies has not abated.”

For MPR, Martin Moylan says, “The federal government will provide nearly $160 million in aid to Minnesota airports hit by severe COVID-19-related drops in passenger traffic and revenue. The money from the Federal Aviation Administration will be split among 97 airports. The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport will receive about $125 million. Airport spokesperson Patrick Hogan said the money is desperately needed. ‘Our passenger numbers are down 95 percent,’ he said. ‘Only 2 percent of our parking capacity is being taken by customers. A large number of our concessions are shut down.’”

MPR’s Kirsti Marohn says, “A new report has named the upper Mississippi as the most endangered river in the United States. The nonprofit national advocacy group American Rivers publishes an annual report ranking the 10 rivers in the U.S. that face the biggest threats. In this year’s report, the Mississippi River — as it flows through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri — tops the list. The iconic river is facing challenges such as climate change and the loss of natural floodplains, said Olivia Dorothy, director of the Upper Mississippi River Basin Program for American Rivers.”

At Business Insider, Mary Hanbury reports, “It’s no longer possible to shop the entirety of your local big-box store in some parts of the US. Local governments are increasingly saying that stores such as Costco, Walmart, and Target that have been allowed to stay open during lockdowns because they sell essential items such as groceries shouldn’t be allowed to sell nonessential items during the coronavirus pandemic. The rationale is that it prevents shoppers from spending unnecessary time browsing the store — and thereby limiting their risk of exposure to the coronavirus — and makes it fairer to other stores that sell mostly nonessential items and have been forced to close.”

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For WCCO-TV Dan Schuman says, “A Minneapolis man was back in the hospital Tuesday with what he says are symptoms of COVID-19. It was Jai Bowie’s third time at Methodist Hospital in ten days. He’s shared complaints of fever, dry cough, and extreme chest pain. … Bowie is 45 years old and healthy. The sudden downturn in his health has scared him. Doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia and did not test him for COVID-19. Bowie says he was told his symptoms weren’t conclusive enough to have a test done.”

For the Star Tribune, Paul Walsh writes: “A Minneapolis man who cared for his ex-girlfriend’s dog for years while she lived temporarily on the West Coast must return the pet to her over his objections, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in the canine custody dispute. Dannielle Zephier is the rightful owner of Oliver, an 11½-year-old poodle and beagle mix, the court said in its ruling Monday on behalf of the plaintiff in her long-running battle with her ex-boyfriend and his current girlfriend.”

Says Matt Shuham at Talking Points Memo, “The owner of a northern Wisconsin television station is stumped as to why the President’s reelection campaign is suing over a critical super PAC ad it ran. ‘Why they selected my little station in Northern Wisconsin, I have no idea,’ Rockfleet Broadcasting President R. Joseph Fuchs told TPM on the phone Monday. Rockfleet owns three stations including WJFW-TV, the NBC affiliate in Rhinelander, Wisconsin targeted by the campaign. … Dave Heller, deputy director of the Media Law Resource Center, told TPM it seemed likely that the Trump campaign was sending a ‘shot across the bow to other local television stations’ by suing WJFW rather than the super PAC that paid to air the ad.”