AgriGrowth Policy Update 6.30.20

June 30, 2020

Special Session Ends with Impasse Between Lawmakers

The first special session of 2020 recently came to an end with a mixed bag of results. The session was called by Gov. Tim Walz as a host of unfinished items were left over from the regular session that concluded in May. Among them were the passage of a capital investment bonding bill and an omnibus tax bill. In addition, lawmakers still had not crafted an agreement to determine state oversight as it relates to funding received from the federal government related to COVID-19. On top of these dynamics, Gov. Walz’s emergency powers related to the pandemic were also set to expire and in order for them to be extended the Legislature was required to be in session. And lastly, lawmakers also wanted to address police reform related measures as a result of the tragic and unfortunate death of George Floyd on Memorial Day.

Due to these competing interests, lawmakers came to an impasse and left St. Paul by passing only one bill which would provide relief to small businesses affected by COVID-19. The legislation included $60 million from a federal coronavirus relief bill and $2.5 million from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Emergency Loan Program.

One of the main drivers behind the session ending without passage of any major legislation was differences in agendas between the House, Senate and Governor. The GOP-led Senate indicated to the DFL-led House and Gov. Walz that they would not meet for more than one week during the special session. Conversely, the DFL-led House of Representatives did not plan to leave St. Paul until they passed their priorities, with the added dynamic that they may not allow other priorities to move forward on bonding and taxes unless there was agreement on the police reform measures by all parties. And while the Senate did pass several police reform related bills, it was not as holistic as what the House and Governor were advocating for. Once members of the Senate left St. Paul and went back to their legislative districts, any work by the House was rendered moot. Lawmakers are now back to their respective drawing boards with hopes of coming back to St. Paul in mid-July to pick up where they left off for another special session.

AgriGrowth continues to interface with Walz Administration officials and legislative leaders in support of full Section 179 conformity, as well as additional dollars for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program. If you have any questions about the recent special session or AgriGrowth’s public policy priorities, please contact Patrick Murray at pmurray@agrigrowth.org or (651) 238-0089.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture Announces n=New COVID-19 Preparedness Plan Requirements for Agriculture

On June 18, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced that farms and agricultural businesses designated as critical would be required to develop and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan by June 29. The plan must comply with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 guidelines and OSHA standards.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) created a preparedness plan template that includes all required plan components. In addition, the University of Minnesota Extension has created a template that may be used by farmers if all components outlined in the DOLI template are addressed.

AgriGrowth has been in contact with MDA Commissioner Thom Petersen about the plan and he indicated that farms and agricultural businesses can continue to adjust and improve their plans after June 29th. He also reiterated that the department wants to keep farms and individuals healthy in general, and that they will continue to work with folks if they have additional questions.

For additional information or assistance in developing a plan, businesses can contact Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration Workplace Safety Consultation at (651) 284-5060 or osha.consultation@state.mn.us. Questions may be sent to MDAResponds@state.mn.us.

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