As lawmakers head into the 7th special session to continue the COVID-19 state of emergency, they’ve reached a deal to provide relief to businesses and extend unemployment benefits in the state. DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman says all the legislative leaders agree on principles that Minnesota businesses and people “need some help.” Republican lawmakers were also key in crafting a deal. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said, “Often in Saint Paul, issues do not break down on a partisan basis,” and also emphasized that House Republicans will support the unemployment extension, which had been a sticking point.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tim Walz (DFL-MN) rolled out the state plan to first vaccine healthcare workers and people in long-term care in the coming weeks. He urged people to, “try not to get your vaccine information on Facebook,” and added that, “as Minnesotans, we lead the nation in the Census and voting – vaccines can be part of this.”

Republican lawmakers also called for classroom teachers to be prioritized in vaccine distribution. Rep Peggy Scott (R-Andover) said, “Kids need to be in the classroom and they need their teachers.”

In addition, we asked students and teachers about the roughly 12,600 students who have left the public school system. Andover math teacher and football coach Tom Develice concluded that “having in-person teaching is the best and how you have those connections.” Anoka High School Senior Grant Higgins added, “Some peers are too frustrated with this and they’ve given up on their futures and just stopped going to class.”

Stay tuned to Almanac, which airs on TPT2 on Fridays at 7 am and Sundays at 9:30 am, for ongoing coverage of the special legislative session, as well as updates on how Minnesota rolls out COVID-19 vaccines. 

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With the state’s budget forecast improved by billions of dollars, the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget is now predicting a surplus as concerns of a major shortfall fade. Almanac Political Reporter Mary Lahammer asked lawmakers to weigh in on the state budget surplus during an especially uncertain year.

With a lot of shuffling among political positions in the wake of the November election, Minnesota remains the only state in the nation with a divided House and Senate. Almanac Political Reporter Mary Lahammer offers this look at what that means for the political road ahead.

When former child actor Brock Pierce – who also ran for President as an Independent candidate – traveled to Minnesota, he got some pointers from former third-party governor Jesse Ventura and former U.S. Senator Dean Barkley, who earned major party status for the Reform Party, which later became the Independence Party. Almanac Political Reporter Mary Lahammer takes a look at the influence of third parties in Minnesota politics.