Hamilton invested in COVID problem-solving
The longtime legislator has switched committee assignments this year to help address concerns laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic.
ST. PAUL — The 2021 legislative session will see a departure from usual committee selections for a longtime area lawmaker.
For the last 16 years, District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, has requested to be on committees relating to agriculture and health and human services. For the 2021 session, he said, Speaker of the House Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, wanted to limit each House member's committees to two or three, to reduce the number of representatives meeting together at once.
Hamilton put the Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee, along with the Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee, at the top of this list of preferences. Hortman assigned him to both.
"I'm very excited to be a part of those committees," Hamilton said.
As a pork producer and a multiple sclerosis patient, Hamilton still feels passionately about both agriculture and health and human services, but he wanted a chance this year to help find solutions in two areas of concern: safely reopening businesses, and re-tooling/training Minnesotans who have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another major concern he shares with other state legislators is the governor's emergency powers. Hamilton said he expects a "robust debate" about how much unilateral power the governor should have during a peacetime emergency.
"Legislators also want to have a say in this, too," he said. "I support the motion to return to co-equal branches of government."
Limiting Gov. Tim Walz's ability to set COVID regulations by executive order doesn't necessarily mean that every business opens in a "free-for-all," he noted. In fact, the legislature would likely support some of the same precautionary measures that Walz has put in place. Hamilton and other legislators are simply asking to be consulted on these decisions.
Hamilton also emphasized that there is still a lot of opportunity for constituents to speak in committee hearings and otherwise participate in the state government. Technology, though, will be a more common tool in connecting Minnesotans and their legislators.
For example, Hamilton is looking into having a virtual "Day on the Hill," since his constituents probably won't be able to visit his St. Paul office in person this year. He and District 22 Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, have already had a few Zoom meetings with members of their districts, and they have gone smoothly. If telemedicine can work for Minnesotans and if the judicial system can have effective remote court proceedings (both of which are happening), then surely the legislature should be able to incorporate virtual interfacing with constituents, Hamilton said.
He invited Minnesotans within his district to reach out to him via phone or email with any concerns.