ST. PAUL — Minnesota lawmakers are set to take the show on the road for a two-day session in Winona.
Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, in a letter to lawmakers last week called for a mini-session in October. Lawmakers will hold the brief session, which includes a series of committee hearings, for the first time in over two decades. The last mini-session was held in Willmar in 1997.
Hortman said she hoped to pick up the tradition of holding offsite hearings in an odd-numbered year to connect with people in greater Minnesota through tours and forums.
"The mini-session is a continuation of our effort to make the Legislature more accessible and responsive to Minnesotans," Hortman said in a news release.
What are the details?
House lawmakers who are available are set to travel to Winona and surrounding cities on October 2-4 for the mini-session.
What is supposed to happen during a mini-session?
Historically, lawmakers traveled outside the Twin Cities to hold committee hearings, listening sessions and tours in an effort to get to know Minnesotans and how policy affects them.
“Mini-sessions are an excellent opportunity for legislators to learn directly from their constituents about the needs of Minnesota that impact enhanced job growth and promote economic development,” Rep. Gene Pelowski, D-Winona, said. “These on-site hearings, tours and presentations allow an excellent gathering of information for legislators to make the best decisions for Minnesota when the legislative session begins on February 11, 2020.”
Previous mini-sessions focused on the status of the agriculture economy, infrastructure, education and a new Minnesota Twins stadium.
What have people said about it so far?
Republican lawmakers said they welcomed the opportunity to travel outside of St. Paul and asked that Hortman include as part of the field hearings an opportunity for them to ask questions of commissioners at the Department of Human Services.
The department recently saw its top commissioner step down, along with his chief of staff, days after two deputy commissioners said they would resign. Former Commissioner Tony Lourey's resignation prompted the two deputies to remain on with DHS.
“It’s been two weeks since we requested hearings on the unexplained turnover at our state’s largest agency," House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said in a news release. "The mini-session provides us a perfect opportunity to discuss the shakeup at DHS and update the public on the leadership changes that impact the lives of more than a million Minnesotans.”
Lawmakers still had questions, too, about the department's top inspector, who was paid while on leave from her post for four months before she was reassigned. That investigation is ongoing. A former Medicaid Medical Director also revealed a series of concerns about the department this week after his position was eliminated in June.
Senate health and human services committee chairs said they'll hold a hearing about the shakeup at DHS on Aug. 13.