The 2020 legislative session isn’t turning out the way any of us expected. COVID-19 has altered all aspects of daily life in Minnesota (and around the world), and that includes Parks & Trails Council’s advocacy efforts at the state capitol. As you know, this is a rapidly changing situation and many people across our state agencies, legislature, and governor’s office are working hard to respond to this unprecedented emergency.
We wanted to provide a quick update to our members about how key park and trail issues are being impacted. Here’s what we know at the moment:
- The legislature remains in session, but most legislators and their staff are working from home and meetings are solely “on-call” until at least April 14.
- Legislators are focusing exclusively on the state’s response to COVID-19.
- The House and Senate both met at the Capitol today, Tuesday, April 7, specifically to pass legislation to address workers’ compensation claims for first responders, police officers, firefighters, and health care workers who contract COVID-19. The language of the workers compensation bill can be found here.
- Other committees and divisions are scheduled to meet remotely tomorrow, April 8.
- After tomorrow the Legislature is on break until April 13.
- All tours of the State Capitol are canceled, and the public is not allowed inside state office buildings except by appointment.
- We don’t know if a bonding bill will be passed, although many legislative leaders are still expressing optimism. All negotiations are fluid and will depend largely on how the COVID-19 emergency unfolds in the coming weeks.
Despite everyone’s world being turned upside down, legislators and their staff are continuing to work hard and are encouraging their constituents to reach out by email, telephone and mail. It’s a strange time to work on behalf of parks and trails. The importance of parks and trails – and the respite they provide – has perhaps never been as clear as it has been the past two weeks. But at the same time, focusing the state’s limited resources on the pandemic response, and especially the needs of health-care workers and those whose livelihoods have been directly impacted by COVID-19, is rightfully taking precedence at the state capitol.
Parks & Trails Council continues to work as we can with the Legislature to ensure Minnesota’s parks and trails have a voice. We will keep you informed as the situation unfolds and let you know if and when there is a good opportunity for you to add your voice to ours.