The Potluck

Gazelka criticizes state hotline asking Minnesotans to report violations of stay-home order

By: - March 31, 2020 3:22 pm

Gov. Tim Walz announced a regional agreement with other Midwest governors to help coordinate reopening the economy.

Minnesota’s top elected Republican said Tuesday he wants Gov. Tim Walz to take down a COVID-19 hotline, which he said is a way for neighbors to tattle on each other for violating the stay-home order.

“Please take this hotline down @GovTimWalz,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said on Twitter. “It’s not necessary and it’s not how Minnesotans want to treat each other. We can all show a bit of kindness to our neighbors as we manage our times and needs differently in the stay-at-home efforts.”

Gazelka sent the tweet during the daily COVID-19 media briefing hosted by Walz and his emergency response team. A reporter who broke through the crowded phone logjam asked Walz for a response. 

Walz issued a brief response defending the hotline as a way to educate Minnesotans about the recent stay-home order, in effect until April 10. 

“It is being used, and we simply want to let people be able to call and let folks know,” he said. “It’s for their own good. If we see people that may not be as informed on this, it’s an educational piece.”

Another Minnesota Republican, state Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, had groused earlier on Twitter about the hotline, calling it “ratting on neighbors” and using the hashtag, #biggovernment

Walz has said that while his executive order grants him powers to fine or jail people who violate the stay-home order, his administration is telling police departments to warn people rather than issue citations. Violations carry penalties of up to a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail. 

The city of Edina cited such complaints when it decided to further restrict use of public spaces because residents were not adhering to social-distancing guidelines.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.