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Minnesota lawmakers agree on COVID aid for small businesses, still at odds over unemployment extension

Plus: parents group sues over suspension of high school sports; Emmer among GOPers supporting effort to get U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the presidential election; vote over white supremacist church in Murdock may have violated Minnesota’s open meeting law; and more.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Sarah Mearhoff writes for the Forum News Service: Minnesota lawmakers say they have agreed on at least one component of a highly anticipated $216 million coronavirus relief bill to aid struggling businesses. But unless they reach a consensus on how to extend unemployment insurance benefits, the whole deal could be doomed. In a series of media appearances and legislative committee hearings on Thursday, Democratic and Republican state lawmakers said they had finally come to an agreement on a bill to aid small- and mid-sized businesses struggling through the latest round of coronavirus-related emergency closures …. Legislators on both sides of the aisle say they’re in agreement about the plan for business relief — but on a plan to extend unemployment benefits for Minnesotans who lost their jobs due to the pandemic fallout, Pratt said Republicans and Democrats are ‘too far apart.’”

Says the Star Tribune’s Jackie Crosby, “With executives from Minnesota-based chains Life Time, Anytime and Snap Fitness leading the way, the state’s fitness executives and owners have waged a campaign to pressure [Gov. Tim] Walz to let them reopen. They offered to adopt more stringent safety measures, including reducing occupancy to 10% from 25% and requiring people to wear masks as they work out. They dispute the Health Department’s view of the data and portrayal of the risks people face in gyms. And they note they’re in the business of helping people fight obesity, diabetes and other risk factors for severe cases of COVID-19.”

The AP reports: “A group of parents sued Gov. Tim Walz and other state officials Thursday, seeking to throw out his order that put high school sports on hold to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. … Let Them Play MN argues in the federal lawsuit that the governor’s order halting organized youth sports is unconstitutional and asks the court to bar the state from enforcing it. ”

Also in the Star Tribune, this from Stephen Montemayor, “U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer is among a large group of House Republicans formally supporting a dubious last-ditch bid to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the presidential election. In all, 106 House Republicans signed onto an amicus brief in support of a suit filed last week by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. It attempts to invalidate President-elect Joe Biden’s 62 Electoral College votes in four swing states. Emmer was the only Minnesota Republican to sign on.”

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This from Jackie Renzetti, also at BringMeTheNews, “University of Minnesota officials are considering waiving tuition for Minnesota students whose families have an annual income of $50,000 or less. … The program would not cover the cost of boarding, supplies or student fees; it would apply only to in-state tuition, which is currently about $13,000 per year at the University’s Twin Cities campus. Including student fees, that number goes up to about $15,000.”

WCCO-TV says, “The grocery store chain Hy-Vee will begin offering rapid-result COVID-19 antigen testing starting Thursday. The Iowa-based company says that 18 pharmacy stores will initially offer the testing, which will then be expanded to 47 stores. The testing will be an outdoor, drive-thru process. Results should be returned to test-takers in one to two hours. Hy-Vee says the cost of the rapid tests will vary by location.”

The Star Tribune’s John Reinan reports: “An anonymous City Council vote on allowing a white supremacist church to locate in Murdock, Minn., violated the state’s open meeting law. That’s according to several experts and to the language of the law itself, which states that local governments meeting remotely must vote by individual roll call, so that their audience can clearly understand how each member voted.”

An AP story says, “An initially promising U.S. forecast for the northern lights has gone bust. Stargazers in the continental 48 states have essentially zero chance of seeing the astronomical phenomenon this week, the head of operations at the U.S. government’s space weather prediction center said Thursday. … Some early reports had suggested they would be viewable as far south as Illinois this week. Robert Rutledge, the lead of operations at the Space Weather Prediction Center, said the agency had high hopes for Thursday and Friday, but it downgraded its forecast because the chances turned out to be a ‘big miss.’”