Daily Reformer: What’s the political fallout from Walz lifting stay-at-home order

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Read my rant about the juvenile ignorance of what political freedom really means. 

Gov. Tim Walz kept the peacetime emergency in place, extending his extraordinary powers including on issues like a moratorium on evictions. But he also lifted the stay-at-home order and allowed small retailers to open and small events. Restaurants, bars, movie theaters, bowling alleys remain closed, but he set a date for reopen. The Reformer’s Ricardo Lopez has more details. 

He’s doing this even as confirmed case numbers have risen substantially. Is he caving to the increasing political pressure?

A DFL operative, to whom I granted anonymity so they would speak freely: 

He’s lost the ball. He is now on defense. That’s my take. I think he ran with it as far as he can go. It’s summer in Minnesota. I think he knows the lock down has to end. 

A Republican operative agreed: 

Walz was feeling pressure and Minnesotans were getting impatient. Still feels like leading from behind, following Wisconsin and other states with Democratic governors. June 1 is no guarantee for bars/restaurants to open. If that gets pushed out, there will be more public pressure on Walz. 

A DFL operative disagreed, saying Walz is striking a necessary balance: 

Walz listens to experts….He has used the time bought with stay-at-home wisely to increase ICU beds and ramp up testing capacity significantly. He has to minimize the amount of very real economic suffering while managing a public health crisis where lives must be prioritized. This is not an easy balance. The Twitter lefties in my feed who think that it is are in need of yet another reality check (and maybe an anthropological trip to the suburbs.)

I was in the suburbs for a kid doctor appointment two weeks ago and indeed there was just as much traffic as pre-pandemic. (I also saw a line 30 deep at the Starbucks drive-thru, which I found odd. It’s like a dope fiend going to a shooting gallery when he’s got drugs at home. Can’t you make coffee at home? But I digress.)  

Importantly, according to a new Walz executive order, workers can’t be allowed to come to work if it’s an unsafe or unhealthy work environment, meaning lacking COVID-19 protections. 

I refer you to my conversation with an administration source last week, that the stay-at-home was not intended to be in place until vaccine, but only until our medical capacity was increased, while certain high-risk, unpredictable activities are almost certain to be cancelled. The State Fair comes to mind. 

Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka took credit, saying that he’s glad Walz “listened to us.” As the plaque in Reagan’s Oval Office said: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he does not mind who gets the credit.” 

There’s no doubt the tenor of the media coverage has changed in recent days (excepting your trusty Reformer!) and the political pressure was only going to increase. 

A lobbyist source had been deeply pessimistic about the remaining big issues of the session: 

  1. An infrastructure bill; 2. Tax and spending on COVID-19; 3. State workers contract ratification; 4. Oversight of federal COVID money. 

But he called me back and said with Walz easing restrictions, Republicans could take credit with their base, creating more space for dealmaking. 

Key dates: Candidates can file for office between May 19, which is the day after legislative adjournment, and June 2

So: Republicans who make a deal with Walz this weekend and are accused by the conservative base of being soft could be concerned about a primary challenge. Which is a good reason to punt until a special session starting June 2, assuming a primary challenge doesn’t appear.

FYI: The boondoggle that won’t die: Someone sent me the House bonding bill amendment that gives $5.8 million to Brainerd Lakes Airport. Remember they got an outrageous sum that the FAA clawed back from the CARES Act. 

Also in the Reformer this morning, from the Washington Bureau’s Allison Stevens, Sen. Amy Klobuchar tries to close the digital divide

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Have a great day all!