Lawmakers say Walz ‘weaponizing’ state agencies by increasing COVID compliance checks

"You are weaponizing state agencies and threatening businesses with fines, closure, and investigations at a time when so many are struggling just to keep their doors open."

Image credit: Twitter via @GovTimWalz

More than 50 Republican lawmakers have asked Gov. Tim Walz to reevaluate his “tone and approach” after his administration threatened the hospitality industry with increased compliance checks.

“We owe it to the establishments that are following the guidelines to address these issues of noncompliance,” states a recent letter sent to various hospitality groups.

The letter says teams from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Minnesota Department of Health, and Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry will visit “multiple establishments each weekend” to check for compliance with the governor’s executive orders.

“This additional enforcement effort is in response to concerns that have been raised by compliant establishments and customers about places where people gather without complying with requirements such as face covering requirements, adherence to social distancing, tables less than six feet apart and establishments serving to more than 50 percent capacity,” the letter adds.

In response, a group of House Republicans wrote the governor Monday, saying “bad actors” who are in flagrant violation of public-health guidelines should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

“However, sweeping inspections and heavy-handed punishments to businesses who are doing their best to stay afloat and to comply with state regulations are unacceptable. The state must be a partner in these efforts – not an adversary,” the Republican lawmakers say in their letter.

They note that the Walz administration previously said that compliance checks would be “educational” in nature and not punitive.

“Instead, you are weaponizing state agencies and threatening businesses with fines, closure, and investigations at a time when so many are struggling just to keep their doors open,” states their letter.

The letter concludes with a message of concern about the “aggressive and adversarial behavior” of the Department of Labor and Industry.

“The refusal of the commissioner to make adjustments to improve relationships between employers and DLI resulted in her dismissal by the Minnesota Senate,” they write. “You’ve asked publicly for feedback to improve the working relationship between commissioners, legislators, and the constituents they serve: this is a critical opportunity to show flexibility and willingness to be a partner in our efforts to rebuild our economy and keep Minnesotans safe.”

According to estimates from Hospitality Minnesota, just 2.3 percent of total state cases have been traced back to restaurants and bars, and there have been just over two dozen restaurants specifically identified as sources of outbreaks, Rep. Eric Lucero pointed out in a press release.

“Gov. Walz needlessly forced closed the doors of businesses across our state with many having been put out of business permanently and tens of thousands of jobs lost,” said Lucero. “Maintaining a business in the hospitality industry is incredibly difficult enough without additional threats coming from Gov. Walz’s administration. Minnesotans are outraged Gov. Walz is using an iron fist on the hospitality industry while, at the same time, he looked the other way and permitted lawbreakers to vandalize our Capitol despite having advanced knowledge of the attack last June.”