This afternoon, the Minnesota House and Minnesota Senate passed House File 4556, a package of COVID-19 related policy legislation. The bill passed 103-31 in the House and 64-3 in the Senate.
The legislation includes the following:
- Providing local governments with flexibility through changes to the open meeting law — expanding meeting and voting by “interactive television” through roll-call votes and allowing meeting in someplace other than the normal meeting location during a state of emergency
- Allowing a court to deem that a will has been properly executed, even if one of the statutory requirements has not been met, if a person can show by clear and convincing evidence that the will is the testator’s intent.
- Allowing for a will to be valid if a mistake while executing it is deemed harmless
- Allowing new Minnesota residents 60 days to use their old license before needing to obtain a new Minnesota license
- Extending the expiration date for medical examiner certificates and waivers
- Providing flexibility in new commercial driver’s licenses
- Requiring reports to Legislature from MnDOT and Met Council on powers exercised during peacetime emergency
- Authorizing the Met Council to use federal funds to purchase protective equipment for Metro Transit employees
- Ensuring Medical Assistance covers COVID-19 testing costs and is available for uninsured individuals who need testing (requires federal approval)
- Providing authority for MDH Commissioner to set up alternative and temporary health care facilities
- Prohibiting health care providers from denying or limiting reimbursement for coverage of telemedicine services between a licensed health care provider and a patient
- Allowing respiratory therapists to be included in the list of health care providers
- Suspending deadlines in district and appellate courts, including statute of limitations
- Extending the deadline to file a motion to contest the child support cost-of-living adjustment for reasons related to COVID-19
- Allowing local governments to implement procedures to accept marriage licenses during the peacetime emergency by mail, fax, or electronic filing without the need to appear in person
- Extending the time period for those participating in the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act
- Addressing some known problems in our current vehicle registration system. These changes are based on the recommendations of the vehicle registration task force and findings from the Legislative Auditor
- Allowing coroners or medical examiners to access the criminal justice data communications network
- Technical changes and forecast adjustments in Human Services
- Increasing investments in Second Harvest Heartland to support Minnesota’s food banks
- Providing the Department of Revenue with liquor posting discretion
Legislature Passes Emergency Insulin Bill
- The House and Senate also passed the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, a state emergency insulin program. This legislation is named after Alec Smith, a 26-year-old diabetic who passed away due to inability to afford insulin. The bill ensures that Minnesotans have access to affordable insulin if they face an emergency.
- The Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act provides that Minnesotans who cannot afford their insulin and are facing an emergency need can access a 30-day supply at their pharmacy for a co-pay of $35. Eligible Minnesotans include those who are uninsured, under-insured, receiving Medicare and do not have access to low co-pays. The legislation also streamlines the process by which Minnesotans can access affordable insulin in the long-term. Insulin manufacturers would participate in the program and could be fined up to $3.6 million a year, doubling in the second year, for non-compliance.
- The bill passed 111-22 in the House and 67-0 in the Senate.
The Senate is scheduled to reconvene Thursday at 11:00 AM while the House is scheduled to meet on Friday at 12:00 PM.
Walz Daily Press Briefing
This afternoon, Governor Walz and administration officials held a conference call with reporters to update the public on state efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Governor Walz clarified Executive Order 20-35, issued yesterday, extending the peacetime emergency in Minnesota until May 13.
- If any executive order extends beyond five days, the executive council (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and state auditor) must vote on it.
- The legislature, by a majority vote in each chamber, can over-turn it. Should the legislature not be in session, the governor would call legislators back into session
- This executive order is different than the “Stay at Home” order.
- When asked about how the expanded capacity for the state to test will fall in line with the May 4 expiration of the “Stay at Home” order, the governor responded that his hope is to see significant improvement in testing and data based on testing by the May 4 date. He said the state is moving ahead on testing at an unprecedented level.
Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Department of Health
- Commissioner Malcolm announced that Minnesota has 1,695 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19. This is up 45 since yesterday’s report.
- There have been nine more deaths since yesterday’s report – brining the state total to 79.
- 177 patients are hospitalized with 75 of those in the ICU.
- Commissioner Malcolm announced that the application process for the $150 million from COVID-19 Health Care Response Grant Program allocated by the legislature is now open.
- This funding is intended to cover costs related to planning for, preparing for, or responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- These funds will be awarded through a RFP process. Applications will submit responses via online application.
- The grant applications process is open to healthcare clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, ambulance services, and long-term care facilities.
- The commissioner also clarified that the “Stay at Home” order should not be seen as conflicting with providing emergency dental care.
Director Joe Kelly, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division
- Director Kelly announced that a COVID-19 dashboard is now on his agency’s website.
- He also reminded Minnesotans that this week is Severe Weather Awareness Week. More information can be found here.
Commissioner Steve Grove, Department of Employment and Economic Development
- Commissioner Grove announced that the number of applications for unemployment insurance has doubled from 2019.
- So far, 451,790 unemployment insurance applications have been submitted since March 16.
- In 2019, 219,625 unemployment insurance applications were submitted in 2019.
- Demographics of those applying for unemployment insurance:
- 14% of the state’s labor force have applied for benefits.
- 15% are under 25 while 21% are over the age of 55.
- 24.5% have a high school diploma or less.
- 45% are men while 55% are women.
- About 12.2% of white workers in Minnesota’s labor force have applied for unemployment benefits while 25.8% of people of color in the state’s labor force have applied.
- DEED is moving toward sending out benefits to self-employed individuals and independent contractors based on the federal CARES Act.
- Those applying will get denied initially, but DEED can provide benefits as soon as the platform is up and running. It should be operating by the end of April.
- Anyone who is eligible for these benefits will get paid back to when the CARES Act took effect.
Amos A. Briggs | Government Relations
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