Special Legislative Session Produces Little

6/25/2020
Legislators returned to the Capitol on June 12 for a one-week special session, but they failed to produce agreement on two major outstanding issues before the Legislature – a bonding bill and policing/criminal justice reforms.  

State law requires the Legislature to be in session when the governor wishes to enact or extend a peacetime emergency declaration. As anticipated, Gov. Walz extended the existing declaration until July 12. It is possible that Walz will extend the emergency declaration again in mid-July which would bring legislators back to the Capitol.  

One notable bill related to health care did clear the Legislature and become law. In an overwhelming bipartisan vote, legislators passed a bill to extend many of the health care-related waivers first enacted via Executive Order by the governor. The new law, supported by the MMA, extends a number of changes to Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare coverage for telemedicine, including requiring reimbursement parity between phone and video visits, allowing reimbursement for care delivered to a patient at their home via telemedicine, authorizing substance abuse disorder treatment delivered to a patient in their home with telemedicine, and a number of other changes. These changes will remain in effect until June 2021, though there is certain to be support by many to indefinitely extend provisions that ease the delivery of health care services via telemedicine.    

Many legislators and advocates had hoped that the special session would lead to policing reforms in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. The House and Senate, however, put forward very different proposals.  The House DFL package was wide-reaching and included provisions related to law enforcement oversight, training and education, investigation and prosecution of alleged acts of police brutality, civilian oversight authority, and many more pieces. The Senate package was much more limited, with Senate GOP leaders indicating that they are resistant to broad changes outside of the traditional committee process.  

Lawmakers also failed to reach agreement on a bonding bill to fund large, capital-intensive municipal, county, or higher education projects. Bonding bills require a supermajority to pass, so bipartisan agreement is required. Not unlike the package of policing reforms, the House DFL and Walz are seeking a much larger bonding bill than the GOP-led Senate.