Golden Valley Representative Oversees Historic House Rules Committee Action
The Minnesota House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee took historic action Wednesday. The House body conducted a meeting via a telephone conference line, using for the first time an executive order resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.
Rule 10.01 allows the House to debate and vote remotely through electronic means. Governor Tim Walz declared the use of emergency House operations under his peacetime emergency declaration on March 13.
“I do this work in this manner with great reluctance, but see no alternative,” said Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, referring to distance voting and committee hearings conducted remotely. “We have to keep staff and legislators safe and healthy during this pandemic.”
Winkler chairs the 19-member House committee. The legislative body includes Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, and Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley.
Refinements Expected in Coming Weeks
House technology staff expect to make refinements over the coming weeks in how meetings are conducted. That will likely include the use of video conferencing technology.
“We are committed to open debate, we are committed to public input.” Winkler said during the hearing. “We are committed to doing so in an orderly fashion.”
Meetings like this one will be recorded so members of the public can listen later. The public can also submit questions and comments ahead of time. Such a hearing served also a test to help other committees proceed with COVID-19 related legislation.
“This is not the kind of method of operation the Minnesota House of Representatives should use going forward except in a situation like a global pandemic,” Winkler said.
During the meeting, the House Rules Committee approved an emergency telecommuting policy and a policy for emergency sick leave during widespread illness. The policies affect legislative staff.
According to legislative order 10.01, use of remote methods must cease once the novel coronavirus outbreak ends and it’s no longer necessary to protect the health and safety of the public, staff and legislative members.
Anyone interested in submitting feedback can email committee staff at email@example.com.