Saint Paul, Minn – Today, Senator John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) voted for continuing the governor’s emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sen. Hoffman released the following statement regarding his vote:
“On March 13, 2020, Governor Tim Walz declared a peacetime emergency to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. President Trump declared a national emergency on the same day, and that national emergency continues. To date, all 50 states have declared states of emergency, and 49 of them are in place today.
Minnesota law provides that the Legislature can terminate a peacetime emergency that extends beyond 30 days by a majority vote of each house. Today we took that vote. Minnesota law also provides that, if the governor determines a need to extend a peacetime emergency beyond 30 days, and the Legislature is not sitting in session, he must convene both houses of the Legislature in special session. The governor has extended his emergency powers on April 13, 2020, May 13, 2020, on June 12, 2020, and again on July 13, 2020. I have voted in the past to limit the governor’s emergency powers during the pandemic, but today I voted to extend the governor’s emergency powers until Aug. 13, 2020. We are at a moment in history when we should focus on the public good.
The COVID-19 peacetime emergency has allowed Minnesota to take swift action to protect the health and well-being of our communities, businesses, and families. As we know, this pandemic is not over, given the fact all around us we see an increase in the virus, and we must continue to work together to put public health first. There have been several important Executive Orders in effect that would end if the governor’s emergency powers end without passing legislation to protect citizens. Too many people would be hurt as a result.
Minnesota has been able to quickly respond to the COVID-19 crisis and largely keep our health and human services systems intact, ensuring access to these systems. During the COVID-19 peacetime emergency, important orders that would end include waived program requirements to conform with federal requirements to receive an enhanced federal match for public programs. This has resulted in over $50 million a month in federal funding, created flexibilities for critical services such as nursing homes, mental health services, disability services and child care centers to operate in the new world of COVID-19, allowed critical services to be delivered through telemedicine, and have provided flexibilities in licensing requirements that would otherwise make these services impossible to access during these times. The EO’s have also allowed Minnesotans, through modifications and waivers, to stay home and stay safe, a critical need that is just as important today as it was when the governor declared a peacetime emergency four months ago.
Other important protections included protecting the eviction of tenants. Loss of housing is catastrophic at any time, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, this loss endangers the health and well-being of all Minnesotans. Right now, we are able to ensure that eligible laid off workers were able to quickly access Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits and that businesses’ “experience ratings” would not be impacted when former workers were provided UI benefits during the pandemic.
If we ended the governor’s authority, we would not be able to protect Minnesotans from price gouging. Finally, if this bill would have passed, it would reinstate the governor, chief of staff, and commissioners’ salaries from the cuts enacted during the pandemic.
The experience of other states in recent weeks shows that the threat posed by COVID-19 has not subsided. We cannot mirror those other states. Minnesota’s emergency efforts must also continue.”