Updated: October 19, 2020 07:27 PM
Created: October 19, 2020 06:54 PM
Republican leaders of the Minnesota House and Senate have a bold but risky strategy to win control of both chambers. They call it the "Contract to Open Minnesota."
"We believe in Minnesota, their good judgment and ability to safely live their own lives," reads the opening line in the contract. "Our faith and trust in Minnesotans is at the center of this pledge--our Contract to Open Minnesota."
The document highlights five promises if Republicans take control of the House and Senate and are able to end the "emergency powers" invoked by Gov. Tim Walz.
They promise to reopen all Minnesota schools; allow all school activities and athletics to resume; allow local schools to determine how many parents and fans can attend games; allow all "houses of worship" to open and eliminate the "one-size-fits-all" restrictions on bars and restaurants.
"Every one of these we believe we can do safely," Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said at a news conference in the snow and cold on the front lawn of the Minnesota State Capitol. "But as we think about it, think about the fact we now trust Minnesotans to look at the data, look at the science, follow the CDC guidelines and live their lives in all these different areas."
House Republican Leader Rep. Kurt Daudt says the school openings are the key to the contract.
"Every student should have a right to be in a classroom and that's how we would change this policy to make sure kids have that opportunity," Daudt said.
DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin responded to the proposal by saying implementing it will result in more deaths.
“Make no mistake, the Minnesota Republican Party’s plan to entirely ignore COVID-19 is going to get people killed," Martin said in a statement. “This is the last thing Minnesota voters want, especially at a time when cases are already spiking across our state.”
Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier says it's a bold move that comes with risk.
"I think it's a somewhat politically risky strategy because, essentially, what this contract does is in important ways tie the electoral fate of the Republican Party of Minnesota legislators to the course of the COVID virus between now and election day," Schier said. "And who knows how the virus will respond?"
Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, who is also a physician, says the constantly changing guidelines and fears he believes are overblown are taking a toll on students.
"We're just leaping from one thing to another just like a game of whack a mole, and we're letting fear drive our action. And for our kids, it's not fair," he says.
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