Looking ahead to the 2021 session
By Senator Mary Kiffmeyer
As I write this, we are already less than 50 days from the start of the next regular legislative session. On January 5, 2021, a new and returning group of 201 legislators from around the state will meet — likely via zoom — for the first time to confront the biggest issues facing our state, united by a common goal: to do the best we can for the communities we represent.
Though session will look different again due to the coronavirus, I will continue to be accessible to the public. In-person meetings have become less common, but I still regularly participate in zoom meetings with constituents who have issues to discuss. For example, recently I had a meeting with a number of local nursing students. I look forward to having many more of these conversations in the coming days, weeks, and months.
The big topic of the upcoming year will be the state budget. This year we will have to make some difficult choices: the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns and business closures blew a significant hole in the budget. At this time last year we had a budget surplus of $1.5 billion; when we reconvene in January we are expected to have a $4.7 billion deficit.
Early in the pandemic, Senate Republicans anticipated a negative reversal in our budget situation. We asked Gov. Walz to instruct his agencies to find 5% savings within their individual budgets.
The economy was going strongly prior to the Covid outbreak and business restrictions. I am certain we can get back to that level of success again if we construct our budget the right way and continue to take necessary precautions against the virus. We will take a careful look at every budget area, but we have to make sure taxpayers and businesses are protected from further harm.
In the last few days we have received promising news regarding two potential coronavirus vaccines. Pfizer announced their vaccine appears to be more than 90% effective, while Moderna’s is more than 95%. In contrast, last year’s flu vaccine was about 39% effective across all age groups.
In spite of this great news, Covid will still be an issue next session. It is hard to know what the situation will look like in two months, but we will continue to respond quickly to help Minnesotans get through this.
I will also continue to encourage the governor to relent on his emergency powers and begin working with the legislature on the state’s response. So far, Gov. Walz has made all the decisions and has gotten everything he has wanted, yet we still have uncontrolled spread and long-term care facilities are still being devastated. We have to do better. Covid is a serious issue and the governor should work with the legislature to figure out how to navigate the crisis.
There will be other issues as well. We’ll look at public safety improvements to responding to riots. Republicans will aim to make bigger strides at improving literacy, especially among the youngest learners. And as chair of the State Government and Elections Committee, I am looking forward to digging into new election integrity and security measures.
If there are any issues on your mind or anything you want to see us work on, please contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is a privilege to serve you!