Compared to other states, Minnesota hasn’t taken drastic measures, or many measures at all.
A bill to fund $1.8 billion in public construction projects in Minnesota now appears dead — due to a dispute over Gov. Tim Walz’s use of emergency powers to combat COVID-19.
It took four months for the state to put a rental assistance program amid the economic fallout of COVID-19 — even after there was a general agreement on the issue among Republicans and DFLers.
Some Minnesota Senate Republicans expressed doubts about the seriousness of the dangers posed by COVID-19, portraying Walz’s use of his emergency powers as dictatorial.
Repeated statements by GOP leaders at the Minnesota Legislature make it clear they see any problems with policing as a more of a Minneapolis issue than a systemic one.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka admitted that what had once been a civil relationship between him and Walz has weakened, citing the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown, the emotions sparked by the death of George Floyd and the upcoming election.
Gov. Tim Walz expressed “concern” about the bipartisan bill, which would distribute $841 million of the state’s allocation from the federal CARES Act to Minnesota cities, counties and townships, based on population.
It’s not as though the DFL-controlled House and GOP-controlled Senate can’t or won’t acknowledge each other’s goals. It’s just that it isn’t going to be a top priority for what will be a unique special session of the Minnesota Legislature.
Walz’s latest order goes further in easing rules aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 than state officials had previously predicted.
Senate Republicans have been pushing a bill that would require legislative approval for the spending of federal CARES Act money. Walz opposes that, since the current process allows him to spend the federal dollars as he wishes, with a requirement only that he notify the Legislature.
Among other things, Gov. Tim Walz thinks the three other former Minneapolis Police officers involved in the Floyd case should also be charged with crimes. And that he appreciated a call from Jay-Z.
Walz said he now believes that much of the violence is being fanned by well-organized groups trained in urban warfare, while his public safety commissioner says there’s evidence that right-wing extremists and white supremacists have organized efforts to foster unrest.
“This is not going to be an easy journey,” the Minnesota governor said at a Friday morning news conference. “But the one thing we have to assure is that civil order is maintained so those changes we want to see” can happen. “None of us want to live in a society where roving bands go unchecked and do what they want to do, to ruin property.”
Walz and his commissioners have offered different explanations for new rules affecting restaurants and salons, part of the state’s latest effort to open the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Tim Walz announced that starting Wednesday churches that follow social distancing guidelines will be able to hold services — as long as the gatherings don’t exceed 25 percent of a building’s capacity.
Starting June 1, bars and restaurants will be able to serve customers outdoors if they adhere to certain restrictions. The state will also allow hair salons, barbershops and tattoo parlors to reopen.
The problem: Even if the administration prefers to work with the Legislature, lawmakers know the governor can act without legislative authority.
In a televised speech Wednesday, the governor said he is still keeping bars, restaurants, gyms and salons closed, though his administration is developing plans for those businesses to reopen by June 1.
The expiration of Minnesota’s stay-at-home order does not end many restrictions on public gatherings, including a ban on large in-person religious services and eating at restaurants.
Under his state of emergency powers declared in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz could potentially order the state to move to an all vote-by-mail election.