ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Walz said he's not willing to drop the state's COVID-19 vaccination or testing requirement for state employees as a term of calling lawmakers back to the Capitol to take up front-line worker hero pay, drought relief for farmers and nursing home waivers.
The governor on Wednesday, Nov. 24, said he'd been in conversations with legislative leaders but didn't feel as though there had been meaningful progress toward setting an agenda for a possible special session. A day earlier, Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said Republicans would be willing to temporarily drop an effort to terminate state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm if the governor and House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, could agree to other terms.
Among them was a call to outlaw state mandates around COVID-19 vaccination. Currently, the state requires employees who work in person to provide proof of their vaccination or test for the illness on a regular basis.
Walz said the rule was "good policy" that he wasn't willing to trade for other priorities when the regular legislative session remained a little more than two months away. And he said negotiations would continue.
“It’s still not a done deal," he told reporters at an unrelated news conference on Wednesday. “As a negotiating piece, it doesn’t make any sense. It would be asking me to lift the speed limit."
COVID-19 cases have continued to grow in Minnesota with more people requiring critical care to manage their symptoms. The bulk of those requiring hospitalization from the illness have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Legislative leaders have said they are close to striking a deal to get drought relief funds out to Minnesota producers and could quickly compromise on a plan to pay $250 million to front-line workers that stayed on the job during the pandemic. They've also agreed to waivers that could provide additional flexibility to hospitals and nursing homes.