Politics and Government

Legislative hiatus? It could happen because of coronavirus

Two women at a podium
Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL- Brooklyn Park, speaks about the coronavirus at the Capitol on Monday.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Minnesota legislative leaders are doing their own workplace planning for a potential coronavirus outbreak in the state.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman said Monday that internal conversations are well underway to look at many possible scenarios.

Beyond the usual reminders about hand-washing, staying home when sick and keeping work areas clean, Hortman said the discussions have also ventured into the potential for a legislative hiatus.

“We hope that we won’t need to suspend any legislative activity,” Hortman said. “But if that comes to pass, we’ll be prepared to do that.”

With such a hiatus in mind, Hortman said the House and Senate are preparing a joint resolution that would allow the Legislature to recess for longer than three days if needed.

There is also concern about the public rallies that can bring large crowds to the Capitol to advocate for issues. Hortman said she has asked the Minnesota Department of Health for guidance on whether to limit those gatherings.

“Any time that they recommend that we dial back the level of people that are in the building, we would go ahead to take action to do that,” she said.

The Legislature is already poised to send Gov. Tim Walz a bill that would free up about $25 million for the Minnesota Department of Health to use to fight the spread of the new coronavirus. It can use the money to pay staff, buy lab equipment, acquire protective gear and take other steps to head off a more serious spread of the virus.