The 2021 legislative session officially began last Tuesday as I joined 133 other members of the Minnesota House of Representatives in taking the oath of office. We are off to a busy start to session with many serious issues being debated starting on day one.

Here’s a brief recap of this past week.

Tuesday's session began routinely but we immediately transitioned to the ongoing debate over whether Governor Walz should continue to exercise emergency powers to shut down restaurants and businesses as he sees fit.

Over the last few months, a handful of Democrats, enough to overturn the governor's powers should it be put to a vote, sided with Republicans agreeing that Governor Walz had overstepped, and that the Legislature should once again participate in the decision-making process as a co-equal branch of government. Sadly, those Democrats that had joined with us suddenly changed their position and voted to empower the governor once again.

I will continue working to end these peacetime powers and restore the legislature’s role as the voice of the people.

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As the lead Republican on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, I have several things that I want to put on your radar. Number one is the implementation of the controversial California-style emission standards for Minnesota car buyers.

Without so much as a hearing, these new standards are being rushed by the Walz administration through rulemaking at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. What makes this issue most concerning is that it is being done without a single vote from any legislator or even the governor's signature. With a wink and a nod from Governor Walz, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop, is attempting to block the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines by 2035. While that seems far off in the future, think about the cost of implementing such a thing and the negative impact on our Greater Minnesota communities and economy.

On Wednesday, I joined my colleagues in the Preventive Health Policy Division for our first meeting. I questioned the Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner, Jan Malcolm, on several issues related to the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and concerns that I have heard from many in our area about employers possibly mandating that their employees must be vaccinated or face termination.

Vaccine distribution in Greater Minnesota has been complicated by the difficult storage processes and slow reporting but it does appear that some of the challenges are being worked out and should hopefully be resolved soon.

The commissioner did not adequately answer my question regarding employers mandating workers to receive the vaccination by citing the Federal Drug Administration’s current “emergency use authorization” classification for the vaccines. Because of that classification, it currently cannot be mandated by employers.

Over the coming months, the vaccines will likely gain full authorization from the FDA. I will be closely monitoring the administration's position and continue to question the commissioner and the administration if they signal that they will support or encourage employer mandates. Simultaneously, I will also be pressing the agency for improved availability for those in Greater Minnesota that are eagerly waiting for their opportunity to be vaccinated.

Please do not hesitate to contact me to share your thoughts and concerns regarding state government as the legislative session continues. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4333 or via email at rep.josh.heintzeman@house.mn.

Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, represents District 10A in the Minnesota House of Representatives