Senator Utke Legislative Update

Friends and neighbors,

The Minnesota Senate, on Thursday February 18, approved a bipartisan bill to protect a student’s right to a great education. The legislation, Senate File 2, authorizes local public schools to make their own decisions regarding how they conduct student instruction during a pandemic or any other emergency.

  • Having one person, Governor Walz, in power making blanket decisions doesn’t make sense when each school district is unique

The bill focuses on local control—local officials/school administrators know their students better than the Governor does. For nearly a year, students across MN have had their school schedules altered due to the Governor’s executive orders. Evidence from the CDC notes that mass vaccination of teachers is not a pre-requisite for in-person instruction and in-person learning hasn’t been associated with substantial community transmission.

  • A recent survey of schools shows double and triple the number of students with failing grades in MN. Distance/hybrid learning has led to many challenges for students and families, such as hurting the mental health of students, having limited or non-existing access to wi-fi and the internet and parents unable to go back to work

LEGISLATIVE RECAP
On Monday February 15, the Minnesota Senate approved a bipartisan bill SF 749 that would hold cities accountable to pay their mutual aid agreements. If a city chooses to defund their police force, this bill would prevent Governor Walz from diverting funds from education and healthcare to cover that city’s public safety costs.

  • The bill allows cities that provided mutual aid but haven’t yet been reimbursed, to apply to have their Local Government Aid (LGA) adjusted to match the amount owed. The funds would be provided by lowering the LGA from the city that owes the mutual aid payment. We all obviously want to keep Minnesotans safe during upcoming George Floyd trials, but that shouldn’t equate to greater Minnesota bailing out Minneapolis.

Vaccination Update
New COVID-19 Vaccine Connector tool allows registrants to enter demographic/employment info, which can be used to determine their vaccine eligibility. If you are unable to sign-up online, you can also call 833-431-2053.

  • Vaccine priority: senior citizens, health care workers, educators, long-term care facility residents. Under 6% of seniors have received both doses, despite the state claiming their prioritization and Seniors have only received about 39% of all vaccine doses available in MN
  • For additional information, please visit MDH Vaccine Dashboard

Restaurants and Restrictions
After continued pressure from the GOP, Governor Walz finally reacted to concerns about reopening businesses, but provided no notice to the legislature, restaurants, or event centers.

  • Oh wait, he did provide notice, with a late morning press conference on Friday February 12. Right on the cusp of Valentine’s Day weekend, which according to the National Restaurant Association is the second busiest day of the year for their members and businesses

While our restaurants and businesses want to operate at higher capacities to help their financial recoveries, having one day to prepare made that nearly impossible. One day is not enough time for restaurants to prepare and make necessary adjustments to their facilities, inventory, and employees. 

  • Restaurants need an adequate heads up and this change had no real way of helping smaller restaurants
  • Having Governor Walz continue to take a unilateral approach and releasing details to the press at 4:00 in the morning before informing legislators is unacceptable

It’s about having the Legislature at the table, representing the entire state of Minnesota, in the decision-making process when it comes to loosening COVID restrictions – that is what good governance is all about.

Minnesota Public Facilities Authority
The Minnesota Public Facilities awarded approximately $44 Million for water infrastructure projects around the state and it included one of our own cities…Lake Park.

  • Lake Park received $1,311,000 for a project that consists of phase 3 sanitary sewer improvements. All funding comes from a 1% CWRF loan of $1,311,000. This loan will save $23,460 when compared to market-rate financing
  • For more information, click here


That’s all for this week’s update. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me to share any thoughts, concerns, or questions you may have. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-9651 or by email at sen.paul.utke@senate.mn

Sincerely,
Paul Utke

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