By Bruce Karnick [email protected] State Representative Tony Jurgens and State Senator Karla Bigham recently conveyed updates from the Capital and their communities. From Representative Jurgens: …
By Bruce Karnick [email protected]
State Representative Tony Jurgens and State Senator Karla Bigham recently conveyed updates from the Capital and their communities.
From Representative Jurgens: This week, House Republicans and representatives from the hospitality industry held a news conference that outlined a plan that would wind down Governor Walz’s business restrictions with a goal of returning to full operations by May 1.
Under the plan, bars, restaurants, gyms, and other businesses impacted by Governor Walz’s executive orders would see phased in increases over the next 30-45 days, with the lifting of all restrictions by May 1.
If COVID-19 numbers skyrocketed again, the governor AND legislative leadership would need to agree on whether the business restrictions would be implemented again.
The reality is the governor has never said what criteria he will use to reopen these businesses, leaving them in the dark and unable to adequately plan. With COVID-19 case counts having dropped significantly, now is the time to give business owners some hope. Again, this proposal does not suggest that we don’t take COVID-19 seriously, or that we think the pandemic is over. But it is a reasonable approach towards getting Minnesota to reopen again as more people are getting vaccinated and numbers continue to decline.
BACK TO SCHOOL?
President Biden’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director recently called for bringing kids back to the classroom as quickly as possible. It stated a “preponderance of available evidence” finds that in person teaching can be done safely.
Some rural schools have reopened fully, but others in the Metro Area – such as the Hastings and South Washington County school districts – have not. Meanwhile, parochial schools such as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Pine Harbor schools in Hastings have basically been full time in-person all year with the exception of a stretch from Thanksgiving until just after Christmas break.
The great fear in all of this is that distance learning is lowering student achievement and their overall mental health. I strongly support getting our kids back in the classroom as soon as possible and prioritizing teachers, along with healthcare workers, for vaccine distribution. Teachers and our children are essential, and I’m hopeful we will soon be following the science and getting them all back in schools safely.
Yesterday Minnesota House Republicans moved a bill on the House floor that would remove the Governor’s ability to unilaterally keep schools closed and put those decisions in the hands of local school districts, and I supported the plan. The proposal ultimately failed on a party-line vote, with the House majority voting in favor of allowing the governor to keep his school closing authority.
To me this is an issue of local control. What schools are seeing in Hastings is different than what they’re seeing in Minneapolis. This is a local control issue, and we elect school boards to make these types of difficult decisions.
OUT AND ABOUT….
Even though it was virtual, it was nice to attend Mayor Mary Fasbender’s State of the City Address in Hastings on Wednesday. I also attended a similar event – in-person but masked and socially distanced – in Cottage Grove last week.
I also attended a virtual meeting to receive an update on Highway 316. Molly Kline, the area engineer for MnDOT, was available to answer questions and to hear from impacted businesses. The Highway 316 project is scheduled to start this spring and it is expected to be completed at the end of 2021.
Finally, the City of Hastings will be losing a dedicated employee as Administrative Services Director Julie Flaten has resigned. Thank you for all you’ve done for the City of Hastings.
Have a good weekend, Tony Rep. Tony Jurgens 651-296-3135 [email protected] From Senator Bigham: Pandemic Assistance Bills Two bills worked their way through the Senate this week that aim to assist Minnesotans as we continue to weather the pandemic.
The first heard in committee this week was a bill that allows the state’s court system to pause expirations of various deadlines. As COVID-19 has made it difficult to navigate the legal system and carry out regular court cases, this will provide necessary flexibility for state courts.
Secondly, a bill was passed off the Senate floor that allows wills that have harmless errors in them to still be executed. As Minnesotans are reacting to COVID-19 more wills are being drafted, which can help ensure wishes are carried out after death. However, the state has a number of requirements in drafting a will that can be difficult to meet in the midst of a pandemic, such as having two witnesses. This bill allows wills that are drafted without meeting those requirements to still be carried out, as long as the intent of the will’s owner can be proven.
Minnesotans are a year into this pandemic, and while vaccines are being given every day we are not yet out of the woods. Senate DFLers will continue to fight for all of us and find ways to help as we continue to mask up, social distance, and get our vaccines as soon as they’re available.
Protecting the Safety of our Communities & Workers I have introduced two bills aimed at addressing workplace safety concerns in high-hazard facilities and their surrounding communities. The first bill, SF 833, would require the establishment of an on-site fire safety brigade at every refinery within the state. The brigade would be charged with the responsibility of providing fire protection to the refinery that is sufficiently trained, equipped, and staffed to respond to fires at the refinery and to conduct inspections to prevent fires.
The second bill, SF 634, would require any person performing work at high-hazard facilities to have graduated from an approved apprenticeship program, or have documentable, related experience in the field they will be performing at a given site. This bill would require that these outside contractors hired to do work at facilities like the St. Paul Park oil refinery have at least the same experience as required for the apprentice level for the applicable occupation.
Thank you to all the Teamsters Local 120 workers, families, community, supporters, and organized labor for coming out to show solidarity with the workers at Marathon Refinery in St. Paul Park! Special thank you to Governor Walz for coming to support the workers! Safety of the workers and community is the top priority! The workers deserve and demand a fair contract! Solidarity!
Introducing the PFAS Blueprint We need a comprehensive plan to address, prevent, monitor, and research PFAS. The Minnesota PFAS Blueprint identifies short- and long-term opportunities to manage PFAS in our environment. I joined a bipartisan group of legislators alongside MPCA and DNR representatives this week to introduce and share information about the PFAS Blueprint.
The contamination and presence of forever chemicals like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in our area’s water is a risk to the long-term health of Minnesotans and to our environment. Public and private partners must work together in mitigating, remediating, and eliminating the presence of these substances. I’m glad to see that this comprehensive approach is moving forward.
Our community in the east metropolitan area of the Twin Cities is all too familiar with the dangers of PFAS. Dating back to my days of serving on the Cottage Grove City Council, I have been advocating on this issue and pushing legislation aimed at protecting our families, loved ones, and environment from PFAS. Below are my current bills targeting PFAS in Minnesota: SF 373: Regulating use of certain chemicals in food packaging.