Democratic-controlled Minnesota House to stay mostly virtual throughout 2022

The Minnesota House is also extending its mask mandate, regardless of vaccination status.

The Minnesota House of Representatives (Teresa Boardman/Flickr)

The Minnesota House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats, will remain mostly remote throughout the 2022 session.

Many of these same House Democrats, however, have been hosting and attending in-person fundraisers.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman of Brooklyn Park broke the news in a Thursday email to House members and staff.

“As we prepare for the 2022 session, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to bring uncertainty. We had hoped for a normal return to session, but like private and public sector employers that have had to postpone plans for a return to in-person work, the House will continue remote and hybrid operations at least through the end of the 2022 regular session,” she said.

Hortman said that “this decision was not made lightly, but with full consideration for the health and safety of members, staff, and the public, as well as the need to minimize disruptions to legislative business while ensuring the public’s ability to participate in the legislative process.”

The Minnesota House is also extending its mask mandate, regardless of vaccination status, and will keep the State Office Building closed to public visitors.

As for House floor sessions, members will retain the option of attending virtually or in person, though they are encouraged to be in person.

As for committee meetings, a room in the State Capitol with the ability to conduct hybrid meetings remains a viable option, though they will largely be held remotely.

Presumably most, if not all, of Minnesota’s Democratic lawmakers are vaccinated, and possibly many Republicans as well, which has led to questions on the necessity of retaining mask mandates and virtual committee meetings.

In September, a group of masked Democratic lawmakers from the Minnesota House and Senate gathered to announce the launch of the so-called “Reproductive Freedom Caucus.” But before beginning the event, Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn of Roseville felt the need to explain why they were all wearing masks.

“Ideally we would be outside. Many of us have kids who can’t be vaccinated, so we’re all keeping our masks on, and we would appreciate the same from everyone else in the room,” she said. “Ideally we would have our masks off while we’re speaking to you, but we’re still in a pandemic, and we want to keep everybody safe.”

House Democrats also appear to be perfectly comfortable hosting fundraisers in person. Reporter Torey Van Oot tweeted screenshots announcing in-person fundraising events hosted by Democratic lawmakers, including state Reps. Fue Lee, Connie Bernardy, Kaela Berg, Rob Ecklund, and Cheryl Youakim.

Noting the discrepancy between the House protocols and behavior at fundraisers, the Minnesota House Republican Caucus criticized the Democrats’ hypocrisy in a Facebook post Thursday.

“Democrats have been holding in-person fundraisers with big-money donors and lobbyists, but announced today that the State Office Building will be CLOSED to the public and that Zoom Committee hearings will continue into 2022. Most Minnesotans have gone back to the office — we need the legislature to do the same,” the post reads.