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Politics with Jennifer Brooks

Before break, partisan friction inside the Capitol

By Stephen Montemayor 
 
Good morning! Gov. Tim Walz is going to announce an update to his statewide “stay-at-home” order today that may involve removing some of the restrictions that have produced economic pain in the state while keeping what is believed to have worked in the past two weeks. State health officials still predict a surge of COVID-19 cases in Minnesota, which also received a disaster declaration from President Donald Trump on Tuesday. Jeremy Olson has the latest here. The governor’s announcement, his first address outside of his residence since self-quarantining last month, will be live-streamed here at 2 p.m. 
 
Today marks the last day before the Minnesota Legislature’s scheduled Passover and Easter break, which was on the books before the global pandemic prompted lawmakers to dramatically alter their schedules and presence at the Capitol. As of now, the Legislature is expected to reconvene on April 14. Before they break, a flurry of (virtual) activity out of the House as seven committees hold hearings via Zoom today. The Senate’s COVID-19 Response Working Group is also meeting at 10:30. Full schedule here.
 
Torey Van Oot reports on what’s become a rare sight so far this spring: partisan fireworks at the Capitol. First, the principal negotiators behind legislation to create an emergency insulin program for diabetics said Tuesday that they reached a tentative deal on the measure, something that can be ratified as soon as the Legislature returns next week. But instead of a joint announcement, Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, called a solo news conference to announce the deal. He said he called it after a disagreement over whether to hold a final public conference committee on the bill. Democrats showed up at Jensen’s announcement, including House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, who was captured on video flashing a middle finger at the camera while standing several feet from Jensen. 
 
And just before I hit "Send" on today's newsletter: We've learned that a conference committee on the insulin legislation is indeed now happening today at 1 p.m.
 
Wisconsinites took to the polls for the state’s presidential primary (and state Supreme Court) election on Tuesday, with thousands waiting hours in long lines outside crowded polling stations. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon wants to avoid such a scene for Minnesota’s August state primary and November general election: Today, he’s going to introduce a bill in the state House that would, among other changes, let his office mail ballots to all registered voters and reduce the number of polling places on Election Day. Expect the bill to get a favorable reception in the House, but resistance if not rejection in the Senate. It may come down to the governor to issue an executive order to make any changes to the 2020 election process, but I’m told that Walz is likely to take a wait-and-see approach given that the next statewide vote is still four months out. I’ll have more on this today. Send tips, feedback, etc. to smontemayor@startribune.com.
 
Jessie Van Berkel reports that first responders who become stricken with the coronavirus will qualify for workers’ compensation starting Wednesday through a new measure that could cost anywhere from $320 million and $580 million. 
 
Sen. Amy Klobuchar and her husband, John Bessler, talked to NBC Nightly News last night about Bessler's COVID-19 scare.
 
WHERE'S WALZ: The governor will have calls with the Minnesota Council of Foundations and National Governors Association before his public address at 2 p.m. to announce new actions related to COVID-19. At 3:30 p.m., Walz chairs an executive council meeting, where any new executive orders must be ratified.
 
READING LIST: 
  • The pandemic may cost the University of Minnesota more than $300 million, Ryan Faircloth reports.
  • Washington Post analysis: The coronavirus is infecting and killing black Americans at an alarmingly high rate.
  • Trump removed the inspector general tapped to lead oversight of the $2.2 trillion economic aid package on the coronavirus, days after firing another inspector general tied to his impeachment.
Thanks for reading! Have a great day. As always, you can send us tips at hotdish@startribune.com.
 
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