We had another busy week at the legislature as the Senate begins to meet for floor session and virtual committee meetings. After more than a year of hard work and negotiation, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act this week to create an emergency insulin access program and ongoing support programs. I am proud to have voted for this overdue legislation, everyone should have access to the medication they need.
Governor Tim Walz today issued Executive Order 20-38, which expands allowable outdoor recreational activities. Gov. Walz’s order includes golfing, boating, fishing, hunting, and hiking, as long as they follow new outdoor recreation guidelines. These guidelines include maintaining 6-foot social distancing, avoiding crowded areas, and staying close to home. I have heard from many people regarding outdoor recreation and know I appreciate hearing from you.
I know these times are difficult, but we will endure this period of uncertainty together, and as your State Senator, I will be working with my colleagues to ensure Minnesota families are taken care of.
Continuing the stay-at-home order
Continuing the stay-at-home order was not a decision taken lightly by Governor Walz. The decision is backed up by a significant amount of data showing that the order has made a tremendous difference in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. This mitigation has reduced face-to-face contact by 80% and is saving lives as a result.
These mitigation efforts, like social distancing and staying home, buy our health care system and caregivers time to continue their life-saving work. While the governor’s decision to keep schools, restaurants, bars, and other public gathering spaces closed has been difficult for families and businesses, these measures are proving to be effective in Minnesota, and the continuation will save lives. Minnesota has the lowest rate of cases per capita in the country. That means we are doing better than every other state in controlling the spread of this virus. It’s working because we are listening to public health professionals and doing our part as average citizens and as legislators in following their recommendation.
Minnesota must balance the data from science and health experts in keeping our citizens healthy with making sure businesses are protected and come out of this as strong as possible. We recognize that Minnesota’s small businesses are the foundation of our state’s economy, and we are committed to ensuring small business owners and employees across the state have the supports they need during this time of uncertainty and temporary closures. We know there is more to do to help our small businesses, but we must make sure that when they reopen, customers can be there without fear.
Minnesota receives first half of federal coronavirus relief fund
This week, Minnesota received $1,093,413,660 from the federal government’s Coronavirus Relief Fund appropriated through the CARES Act. These funds are being allocated as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak and will help offset the costs of dealing with the coronavirus.
This amount will be deposited into the general fund and will be used to counteract the financial hit caused by the pandemic. Further guidance from the US Department of Treasury will be available soon to inform the state of Minnesota on how best to use the funds.
This installment is expected to be the first half of a total of $2.187 billion allocated by the federal government. A portion of the latter half will be going to local units of government and is expected to arrive no later than April 24.
Senate passes takeout beer and wine sales at restaurants
Bar and restaurant owners asked that the sale of wine and beer be allowed with their curbside takeout orders while they are shut down due to the stay-at-home order. Expanding the sale of beer and wine would boost sales and preserve jobs in an industry that has been hit hard since the shutdown.
The Senate passed the takeout liquor bill and sent it to the House, where they are expected to take it up on April 17. The governor supports the bill and has indicated that he will sign it into law.
The bill allows establishments with on-sale liquor licenses to sell wine, beer, hard seltzer, and cider as off-sale in addition to their takeout food sales for the duration of the peacetime emergency. The alcoholic beverage must be sold in the original, unopened packaging and must be limited to 72 oz in total of beer, seltzer, and cider, and 750 milliliters for wine per order. Establishments must require proof of age, and municipalities may vote to prohibit these sales in their jurisdiction. Establishments that choose to partake in this must inform their insurance provider.
However, not everyone agrees with the bill. A number of microbreweries and micro-distilleries have been asking for temporary relaxing of various liquor laws they must adhere to, such as the limit on how much micro-distilleries can sell and allowing microbreweries to off-sale even if they don’t have a license until the stay-at-home order is lifted. Some of those businesses are seeing this as an affront or favoritism of some sorts as we are relaxing liquor standards for one industry but not others.
Sixteen other states have allowed restaurants and bars to serve liquor at curbside during their stay-at-home orders, including Wisconsin, Illinois, and California. (SF 4489)