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'Still not a done deal': Walz unwilling to drop vaccine or test requirement as term of special session

The governor said talks about the conditions to call a special legislative session are ongoing, but so far, they'd not yielded much agreement in the split Legislature.

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz spoke to reporters outside the Minnesota Capitol building on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, about ongoing negotiations about a special legislative session. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Walz said he's not willing to drop the state's COVID-19 vaccination or testing requirement for state employees as a term of calling lawmakers back to the Capitol to take up front-line worker hero pay, drought relief for farmers and nursing home waivers.

The governor on Wednesday, Nov. 24, said he'd been in conversations with legislative leaders but didn't feel as though there had been meaningful progress toward setting an agenda for a possible special session. A day earlier, Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said Republicans would be willing to temporarily drop an effort to terminate state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm if the governor and House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, could agree to other terms.

EARLIER: Minnesota Republicans drop call to remove health commissioner, jumpstarting special session talks The comment on Tuesday could forge a new path for $250 million in hero pay and drought relief that had been stuck at the Capitol.
Among them was a call to outlaw state mandates around COVID-19 vaccination. Currently, the state requires employees who work in person to provide proof of their vaccination or test for the illness on a regular basis.

Walz said the rule was "good policy" that he wasn't willing to trade for other priorities when the regular legislative session remained a little more than two months away. And he said negotiations would continue.

“It’s still not a done deal," he told reporters at an unrelated news conference on Wednesday. “As a negotiating piece, it doesn’t make any sense. It would be asking me to lift the speed limit."

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COVID-19 cases have continued to grow in Minnesota with more people requiring critical care to manage their symptoms. The bulk of those requiring hospitalization from the illness have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Legislative leaders have said they are close to striking a deal to get drought relief funds out to Minnesota producers and could quickly compromise on a plan to pay $250 million to front-line workers that stayed on the job during the pandemic. They've also agreed to waivers that could provide additional flexibility to hospitals and nursing homes.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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