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Sen. Andrew Lang and Rep. Dave Baker address special session during a virtual town hall Friday

Sen. Andrew Lang and Rep. Dave Baker are working to make sure nothing is slowing down the reopening of Minnesota after nearly 18 months of restrictions. They spoke Friday in a virtual town hall meeting.

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Rep. Dave Baker, left, and Sen. Andrew Lang.
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WILLMAR State Sen. Andrew Lang , R-Olivia, and state Rep. Dave Baker , R-Willmar, addressed around 50 people Friday morning during a virtual town hall meeting that discussed concerns around the reopening of Minnesota.

Both Lang and Baker are continuing to work in preparation to return to St. Paul on June 14 for a special session to discuss the state's budget bills and Gov. Tim Walz's peacetime emergency powers.

“Senator Lang and I talked almost every other day about issues affecting our district and how we can make sure that nothing that we're doing is slowing things down or competing in a way to get the budget done,” said Baker. “We're just still in that holding pattern now, (waiting on) the governor to call us back to special session.”

Lang does not expect the special session to take long as “both the House and the Senate have agreed upon what we're going to spend.”

He expects the budget for the biennium to be around $51.2 billion to $51.6 billion. An increase of around 4.2 to 4.3% over the last biennium.

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Having an agreed-upon budget between the Minnesota House and the Senate, Lang is hopeful that they will start and finish the special session within a day to limit the burden placed on Minnesotans in bringing everyone back to St. Paul

“We’re five for five years,” said Lang. “That's a 100% batting average on the fact that going to special session”

With the reopening of Minnesota, Baker addressed concerns he is receiving from within the community about how businesses are struggling to find and retain employees.

“Employers are (trying) a lot of creative things: sign-up bonuses, higher pay rates and extra perks,” said Baker.

Baker introduced House File 2648 on May 15 before the end of the legislative session. He hopes to get the bill on the House floor during the special session in June.

Also discussed in the meeting:

  • Public safety is still creating a lot of concerns and division in St. Paul as they discuss what's right and what's best for community safety when it comes to reinvesting in Minneapolis. Agape Movement — an organization that was hired by the city of Minneapolis to bridge the gap between the community, law enforcement officers and the city itself — and Minneapolis were discussed as they “have sort of a strange relationship” with the city.

  • Problems with the eviction moratorium from both the state and the federal level in how the funds are distributed, calling for landlords and tenants to work together.

  • Agreed on but not passed was the plan for waiving tax liabilities for people who received individual stipends up to $10,200 along with the Paycheck Protection Program loans, so recipients would not have to pay taxes on those funds.

  • There is hope that a substantial broadband bill will be passed later this year.

  • The California clean car emission standards were discussed. Baker and Lang believe Walz will take the side of Minnesotans and leave the decision in the hands of the consumer, for now.

  • This was the last planned virtual town hall. Both Lang and Baker are looking into keeping the town hall but moving it to in-person later this year.

Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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