MAT Coronavirus Conference Call Recap and Audio
To listen to the conference call, please use this link. 368 Township Officials participated in the Conference Call last evening!
Below is a summary of that conference call with Senator Rich Draheim, MAT Executive Director David Hann, MAT General Counsel Steve Fenske, and MAT Lobbyist Shep Harris:
Recorded on: Thu, 26 Mar 2020 06:05 PM
Summary: The Legislature met and approved $331 million additional funding for crisis response.
The Legislature adjourned, but leaders will continue work behind the scenes. MAT continues to work with chief authors of transportation bills. Your phone/email advocacy makes a difference.
MAT priorities like broadband funding may see legislative action, but controversial topics like annexation and voluntary driving will probably not be addressed.
Townships are not stopping their operations. There is a MAT news article about how to have teleconference meetings, how to sign a check by one person, and more.
Q&A Article: COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and Operating the Township
A bill was passed by the House and Senate today, and will be signed by the Governor. The Governor needs help funding the crisis. The state, through the 3/16 and 3/26 bills, has already appropriated around $550,000,000 of resources towards the pandemic response. Today’s legislation includes public safety, child care centers relief, veterans (Soldier Assistance Fund), food shelves, housing, healthcare, and more segments of state government. There is clarification on what the Governor can and cannot do. Tribal nations will be given up to $11,000,000 and small businesses will receive up to $40,000,000.
What about broadband access funding, in this time of increased demand for distance learning and working remotely?
There is more funding needed to meet 2026 standards, might not be fiber. 5G is not a practical option. Now is the time for this service, but we’ll see if it’s a priority for the Governor.
Will there be a bonding bill?
The forecasted surplus is almost gone, spent on the COVID-19 crisis and there may not be a good chance of passing a bonding bill.
Steve Fenske, General Counsel (parts of the call that are addressed by the MAT article already posted):
Townships are not stopping their operations. There is a news article with all the topics covered.
Q&A Article: COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and Operating the Township
How do we hold a meeting?
The goal is safety. During the ‘stay at home’ through April 10, you should not hold an in-person meeting. You can postpone or cancel the meeting. Or, telephone meetings and online meetings are allowed and perfectly acceptable as an open meeting. You may need to figure out technology options.
Pass a resolution allowing teleconference meetings. A sample resolution is in the MNTownships.org Information Library: ES-2000 (PDF Version or Word Document Version) says that the Board is going to have phone meetings for the entirety of the declared emergency. You are supposed to try to allow the public to know about the meeting, a feature for the public to join a call or online meeting. This does not mean we are having emergency meetings – we still have to post notices and information packets.
The township board of supervisors is not classified as ‘essential’ during ‘stay at home’ because they can do their work without in-person meetings.
After ‘stay at home’ you may try in-person meetings again, with the CDC guidelines for healthy social distancing.
How do we sign a check?
Use electronic fund transfers or sign by one person, if the board members approve. More details at Q&A Article: COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and Operating the Township. You need to keep paying employees to avoid wage theft. You can process payroll for employees without a town meeting.
What if an employee is sick?
Do not discharge someone if they are having to stay home to quarantine themselves or to take care of a family member. Ask the employee to use Paid Time Off, but you cannot have any negative consequences if they need to stay home.
What is essential?
During the Stay at Home: (1) law enforcement, public safety, and first responders; (2) water and wastewater workers; (3) transportation workers who support or enable transportation functions, road construction workers, engineers, including maintenance vehicle operators; (4) public works employees described in the Federal Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) guidance here; (5) necessary building management employees; (6) security workers; (7) elections workers, including town clerks and election judges; and (8) data and computer systems management employees.
Do we need to publish a notice in the newspaper that we are not having an in-person meeting?
No, you can choose the ways you want to post about the open meeting.
Could MAT provide a call-in number for meetings and assist with technology?
Try freeconferencecall.com, gotomeeting.com, or zoom. Services like GoToMeeting are reasonably priced at about $15/month subscription.
What about a public hearing?
You cannot have the meeting in-person during the ‘stay at home’ order. You will need to arrange a way for people to give their comments, either in writing before the meeting or with a call/video method. We know it’s difficult for planning zoning, for example, the 60-day rule is in effect until the Legislature suspends it. If you can postpone the meeting, that would be the easiest.
Can we begin a Board of Equalization and Appeal meeting, and then continue remaining business at a later time?
Yes, and plan a time that works for your county.
Are county recorders considered ‘essential’ during the stay at home?
Email Steve, unsure.
Do we need a local emergency?
No, you do not need to, FEMA knows, but you can pass a declaration if you want.
What is the process for getting reimbursed for coronavirus expenses?
The stimulus package is still being worked out. Document expenses and keep your receipts, then apply for grants from FEMA, similar to weather emergencies.
Steve is available for questions. The MAT office will not be open to the public starting Monday, but they are accessible by phone and email.
Shep Harris, lobbyist with Fredrikson & Byron:
The Legislature is adjourned but met for today. A $331,000,000 finance package passed today.
$10,000,000 applies to The Minnesota Investment Fund or Small Cities Development Block Grant – if there is unused money left over from a project, you can issue loans to small businesses, retailers, service providers, or hospitality establishments. You can create new jobs, try to pull in private matching funds, and more.
Sen. Gazelka, Sen. Kent, Rep. Hortman and Rep. Daudt, along with the Governor, agreed to three categories they will address the rest of this session: 1) Crisis response. 2) Topics with general support. (For example, broadband had general support in the Legislature, and may go forward this year. A bonding bill may also get passed). 3) Topics that all 4 leaders agree on. Since MAT issues have had opposition (annexation, voluntary driving, culverts costs being taken care of by private landowners – those probably will not go forward) the legislative leaders and governor have already agreed they will not be addressed.
What are legislators doing now?
They agreed that they will be adjourned until April 14th, unless needed in the meantime and called back by the legislative leaders. Most legislators will be in their home districts, and behind-the-scenes crisis work will get done by the leaders.
Our best bets for MAT priorities are broadband and transportation. Transportation will likely be included in a bonding bill, not a separate transportation bill.
Participate in action/advocacy alerts! We need you to make calls to your legislators. When you see email messages that you can send, please take the time to customize the message and send it in.
The MAT lobbying team and staff are working with our chief authors: Senators Wolgamott, Jasinski, Bruce Anderson are our transportation chief authors, Senjem and Murphy are the bonding committee chairs.