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MN lawmakers consider safety protocols with legislative members exposed to COVID-19

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- On Wednesday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced he is extending his Peacetime Emergency Order and will convene a 5th legislative special session starting Monday.

Many state lawmakers have worked remotely during the pandemic, but many leaders in both the House and Senate have also worked in person during the legislative sessions.

House Minority Leader, Kurt Daudt, (R) Crown, posed unmasked with President Donald Trump ahead of his Duluth Rally last Wednesday. The president tested positive for COVID-19 the next day.

As of Wednesday, Daudt has not tested positive for the virus. The same goes for other Minnesota lawmakers who were also around the President.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend anyone exposed to someone confirmed to have COVID-19, remain at quarantined at home for a full 14-day period, even if they have no symptoms.

But will lawmakers who have been exposed to the virus quarantine at stay at home?

Rep. Tina Liebling, (DFL) Rochester, doesn't believe Daudt will go to the session in person since he has been exposed, but there's also nothing stopping him.

"He is the minority leader and again we can't really say that, 'you may not appear in person.' We just can't do that. Each member especially leaders have to exercise their good judgment," said Liebling. "But if he [Daudt] does show up, I don't know how high his own personal risk of infection is, but we would hope that he would wear a mask."

Liebling also said there are no rules that stop an infected lawmaker from coming into the chambers.

"The speaker and the Democratic majority leader in the House have encouraged Democratic members and Republican members not to come in person," said Liebling. She added, they work remotely as much as possible.

On the Senate side, Majority Leader Paul Gazelka was also around Trump last week.

"I expect that the Senate will follow all CDC protocols and guidelines and we will still be able to do our senatorial work," said Sen. Carla Nelson, (R) Rochester. "And that is because we were proactive in passing some of those Senate rules that would allow senators to work remotely."

Nelson continued, "We always have the option to come to the seated room to express our comments. Which again, is very important because we have to work as much as possible to make sure our legislative branches are operating under our constitutional guidelines in what our constitutes expect their local elected representative to be able to participate in these important decisions."

FOX 47 reached out to Gazelka’s office and we were told he is expected to take another COVID-19 test..

As for what legislative business might get done in this next special session, both Nelson and Liebling hope the legislature can vote on a bonding bill and other issues needed to combat the ongoing pandemic.

KaMaria Braye

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