With the onset of COVID-19 here in Minnesota, so much has changed since our last issue of The Capitol Connector.
Last Friday, Gov. Walz signed Executive Order 20-01 and declared a peacetime state of emergency in response to the spread of coronavirus. The Commissioner outlined recommendations to prohibit large group gatherings and small group gatherings that would not allow community members to practice “social distancing”.
Given this guidance, Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman sent a letter with restrictions on visits to the State Office Building, hearing rooms, and members’ offices. There was also a mandate that further legislative action be focused on “the needs of the state at this time”. House committee hearings are postponed indefinitely.
On Monday, Senate leadership issued similar guidance and canceled all Committee hearings until further notice – except for Sen. Rosen’s Finance Committee and Sen. Abeler’s Human Services Reform Finance & Policy Committee.
Sen. Abeler took up an amendment to S.F. 4200. This reflected many of the needs for policy and regulatory flexibility as identified by members of the disability community. Our team was actively engaged in it.
We were hopeful that the House and Senate would take up SF 4200 (with additional oversight and consumer protection language that we worked with DHS in crafting) during their floor session on Monday night. But they did not before recessing at 3:00 am.
Our policy staff took the lead on drafting the action alert that was shared on Tuesday – urging legislators to come back to the Capitol and take up the bill this week. You can find the action alert here: bit.ly/33CqvBT
Until Wednesday afternoon, it seemed likely that members would come back into session to pass the bill. But then there was an announcement that a House staffer tested positive for coronavirus.
Because of this, Gov. Walz issued Executive Order 20-12 today. This gives the Department of Human Services the necessary authority to help ensure that Minnesotans with disabilities and others who use safety net supports have access to essential programs and services. You can find Executive Order 20-12 here: adobe.ly/2J5dVSs.
After the Executive Order was issued, we worked with other members of the Best Life Alliance, Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, and PCA Reform Coalition to draft this press release in response: adobe.ly/2WxSVLW
The Arc Minnesota CEO Andrea Zuber applauded the Order, saying, “We’re deeply grateful that, in developing this order, the Governor and state agency representatives included critical consumer protection and legislative oversight language, and appreciate mechanisms being put in place to ensure consistent and clear communication as the components of the order are implemented”.
This policy and regulatory relief is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to critical efforts to help minimize the impacts of COVID-19 on people with disabilities, their families, and support professionals. Our policy team will continue working hard to navigate an ever-changing legislative landscape, while leading alongside all of you, to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are met and their rights upheld.
With questions or for more information about this work thus far, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.