Minnesota Senate votes to allow businesses to reopen with no capacity limit
On a 38-29 vote, Republicans, along with a handful of Democrats and Independents, advanced the plan that would also require a majority in the Legislature to approve any proposed changes to businesses related to the pandemic and to future emergencies. A 14-day window would also be required before any additional restrictions under an emergency order can take effect.
The bill faces a blockade in the House of Representatives where Democrats have majority control and leaders have signaled their opposition to the plan. And Walz, in an announcement on the next phases of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, said Thursday that he would share plans for a more complete reopening of restaurants, bars and other businesses in the coming weeks.
But supporters of the measure and business leaders have said operators need a faster plan to reopen. With vaccination rates increasing in the state and the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths decreasing, they said Walz’s emergency orders were no longer needed.
“It’s time to start rolling out those emergency orders that left one person in charge of too many crucial decisions,” Senator Andrew Mathews, R-Princeton, said. “It’s time for us to start building the confidence of the Minnesotans. … Customers will tell us if we are doing a good job or not. “
Opponents, meanwhile, said the plan could put workers and customers at risk and allow the virus to spread through Minnesota. Democrats in the House tried unsuccessfully to make several amendments that would require additional protections for workers to be put in place under the bill.
“The Senate File 1 is only politics, it does nothing more to protect businesses, workers and our consumers, not a single thing except to revoke the power of the governor in peacetime, which we still need it right now, ”said Sen. Foung Hawj, D-St. Paul, said. “We are living through our most difficult time. Thousands of lives have been lost.… We are not out of the woods yet.”
For months, lawmakers at the divided Statehouse have disagreed on the best solution to overturn the governor’s emergency orders and end the peacetime emergency for COVID-19. Republican lawmakers in seven special legislative sessions last year voted to end the peacetime emergency, citing a desire to become more involved in the COVID-19 response. Meanwhile, Walz said GOP lawmakers tried to start discussions in bad faith because they flouted public health advice about hiding and avoiding large group gatherings.
This year, Senate Republicans have proposed several bills aimed at removing existing guidelines or blocking Walz’s ability to issue emergency ordinances.