The state Senate is looking at the year’s second special session on July 13, when Gov. Tim Walz must call us back to renew his peacetime emergency powers.
To avoid unnecessary waste of taxpayer time and resources, it is imperative that the Legislature focus on three main issues: ending the governor’s peacetime powers, a practical bonding bill and a tax bill.
The House and Senate must have a majority vote against the extension of emergency powers in order for them to end. According to the governor’s last release of COVID-19 modeling, the peak ICU bed use and death rate was supposed to hit on July 13 with around 3,700 people using ICU resources and 22,000 dead. As of July 9, Minnesota has 116 in the ICU and 1,165 total deaths, the majority of which have been in long-term care facilities.
With no update to the modeling and no apparent need for further restrictions, it is time Gov. Walz’s emergency powers came to an end. The Senate voted against their extension in June, and House Republicans have voted them down several times; this is our first priority.
If the extension lives on, we will likely see mandated masks, further delays for schools and perhaps a continuance of this process until November. We are no longer in an emergency state, so the governor should no longer be wielding unopposed power.
The pandemic threw a wrench in “business as usual” for everyone, including the Legislature. Typically, the second year of the biennium is a bonding year, in which we pass a bill to fund important infrastructure projects around the state.
The Senate passed a fair and reasonable bonding bill during the regular session, but as it was not passed in the House. We are still working towards agreement. Taking care of bonding is important because the fundamental projects boost our economy, create jobs and better our state. We have to work towards a reasonable bill that will positively impact Minnesota without deepening debt.
The third and final priority, a tax bill, could lighten the burden on businesses and families as we move forward towards recovery from the pandemic. Federal conformity for Section 179 statute, for instance, is an easy fix that makes it easier for small businesses and farmers to invest in equipment that would grow their operation but is perhaps cost-prohibitive. Unemployment insurance modifications could also keep many of our citizen’s heads above water in these difficult times, so I have been working towards that as potential legislation.
The only reasons to reconvene the Legislature should be to help our communities in a tangible, agreed-upon way. These three priorities — no more emergency powers, bonding and taxes — would do just that.
Sen. Jason Rarick represents District 11 in the Minnesota Senate.