<&firstgraph>A donation drive hosted by Kenyon’s First Lutheran Church was a way for it to demonstrate its mission of “being generous in challenging times.”
In response to requests from Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s colleagues in St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Southeastern Minnesota Synod launched a donation drive to help meet immediate needs. The Cannon River Conference — which First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenyon is a part of — collected items June 4-5. The items were delivered to a food shelf in North Minneapolis near Gethsemane Lutheran, where the shelves are empty at the end of each day.
<&firstgraph>Members of the First Lutheran’s Stewardship Team — Pastor Julie and Dan Rogness, Jim Fountaine, Lindsey and Tanya Short, Sue Suedod, Kayo Kairchoff, Ed Fletcher and Chris Mallery — worked various shifts Thursday and Friday to take donations from the community.
<&firstgraph>After receiving word of the donation drive in the church’s conference, Julie Rogness shared the idea to the team and Tanya Short ran with it and helped make it possible.
<&firstgraph>Rogness said it has been good for the team in narrowing the scope of what they set out to do. Short added that she has enjoyed taking part in an event that involves the whole community, as opposed to solely parishioners, especially since it follows the church’s mission of “creating a vibrant, welcoming faith community, embracing all, providing harmony among generations, while lending compassion locally and globally.”
<&firstgraph>Seventh-grader Lindsey Short, who’s job was organizing the donations into different spots after Fountaine handed it to her, said she enjoyed helping those in need.
Some of the shelf-stable food products suggested were cereal, sugar, tuna, ramen noodles, flour, canned goods and peanut butter. Personal care products like soap, feminine hygiene products, paper towels and toilet paper were also some of the items requested. Additional items suggested were bottles of water and pet food. Donations were also taken for brat buns, hamburger buns, single-serving chips and single-serving juice boxes for the Minneapolis church’s hot food distribution.
<&firstgraph>Rogness said she was amazed at the number of people who she didn’t recognize dropping off donations and some who stopped by to see what was going on, grabbed a list of the items needed, went to the store/home to pick them up and dropped them off.
“They all said, ‘thank you, we needed something to do,’” she said of the gratefulness she witnessed from the community.
<&firstgraph>To draw more attention to the donation drive, Rogness said they were thankful to be able to use a “big, yellow” bus from Held Bus Service.
<&firstgraph>A sign located on the sidewalk of the church’s parking lot also helped to bring in traffic. That was just the case for Israel Hiller and his friend Zach, who saw the sign while biking and wanted to “help for the food drive,” so they went and grabbed several packages of ramen noodles to add to the carloads of donations.
<&firstgraph>Whether hosting one-on-one activities, setting up online meetings/video chats, developing “Topics of the Week” or encouraging members of the community to send mail, that staff at Kenyon Senior Living are keeping residents engaged and connected with family and friends through the facility’s extended closure to the public.
<&firstgraph>All departments — nursing, maintenance, dietary, laundry, housekeeping, administrative, activities and social service staff — play a key role in keeping residents healthy and safe.
<&firstgraph>Throughout the last several months, access to the facility has been restricted to staff, physical therapists and other essential service providers. Each person entering the facility is screened for COVID-19: asked if they have been exposed to a known case of COVID-19, have any symptoms of it or been in contact with anyone who has had it. Their temperature is also taken before they are allowed into the building, and then they are instructed to wash their hands/use hand sanitizer to clean their hands. Due to the high-risk population at Kenyon Senior Living, as well as federal and state guidelines, the restriction of group activities with residents and visitors will continue to be strictly controlled.
<&firstgraph>Although residents are unable to participate in group activities as they did before COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, activity staff members on duty stops by residents’ rooms for a one-on-one activity when time allows, to keep them active. Residents who like to keep active by walking the halls are still allowed to do so, but with some restrictions.
<&firstgraph>Director of Admissions, Social Services, Activities and Volunteer Coordinator Emily Quam says they try to limit hallway exercise/therapy to one person at a time, and whenever a resident leaves their room they must wear a mask. Meals are also directly to residents’ rooms.
<&firstgraph>“We are really trying to get everybody engaged in some way, shape or form and continue to be engaged in some way,” said Campus Administrator and Director of Development Chelsea Kalal.
<&firstgraph>Both Quam and Kalal encourage members of the local and surrounding communities to continue sending residents cards, pictures and notes as they brighten the days of both residents and staff. Other items welcomed through donations are word search books, coloring books and art supplies. Residents have also been enjoying getting the opportunity to video chat with family/friends. Quam said they have connected five or six residents with their families/friends so far.
<&firstgraph>Many generous, donors/organizations have also made cloth masks for both residents and staff to wear. Kalal said it’s “surprising” that even in three months, how much they have worn out. Quam added the high temperature of water required to wash the masks in also wears them down a lot faster. Any type of masks, whether cloth, surgical or N95, Kalal says are gladly accepted.
<&firstgraph>Although Quam and Kalal truly understand that it’s difficult for residents, families, visitors and volunteers to be away from each other, they want them to be able to come back sooner than later, so they are ultimately doing what they can to keep the virus from being at the facility.
<&firstgraph>“Most of the residents understand the basis of why we’re doing this,” said Quam of the restricted access keeping residents from seeing their family/friends. “But they’re also rightfully frustrated they can’t see their children, spouse, grandchildren. We understand it doesn’t seem fair, but it’s what we have to do to keep everyone safe.”
<&firstgraph>Some family members/friends have gotten creative in being able to safely see their loved one. Quam said they’ve had some people come to the front door see a resident while talking to them over the phone.
<&firstgraph>Kalal said keeping employees safe, who are still risking their health by coming to work, is also a key priority in the equation.
<&firstgraph>“In general, we truly do understand and appreciate everyone’s patience during this, we know it’s difficult for residents, families, visitors, volunteers,” said Kalal. “But we want to make sure we are providing them a safe place to live and safe place for the 80 employees who work there.”
A group of four conservative state legislators, two from local districts, filed a lawsuit last week that could nullify Gov. Tim Walz’s Declaration of Peacetime Emergency.
On May 28, Minnesota’s New House Republicans joined the Free Minnesota Small Business Coalition, a group of more than 40 businesses across the state, in filing the lawsuit in Ramsey County District Court. The filing was just the latest in a legal battle waged against Walz's executive orders by the Free Minnesota Small Business Association.
In late April, the group filed a lawsuit in the Minnesota Court of Appeals, arguing the governor’s orders violated the 14th Amendment, known as the Equal Protection Clause, because some businesses were allowed to remain open or reopen while others with similar profiles were not.
That case was ultimately dismissed because the court ruled that it did not have the authority to rule on the constitutionality of the governor’s executive orders because the legislature did not provide the court of appeals with the power of judicial review. The ruling dealt a blow to the FMSBC’s hopes of reopening the government as soon as possible, though another group known as the Midwest Law Center is continuing to pursue that line of argument in federal court.
Although it’s not part of the current lawsuit, members of the NHRC are sympathetic with that argument. They argue that the governor’s executive orders have hit small businesses disproportionately and unfairly.
“His executive orders are completely arbitrary,” said Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, who represents much of Waseca County. “He’s shutting down certain businesses and not others. We saw the candy store (in Belle Plaine) open while other retailers were forced to close, and that’s not fair.”
FMSBC took that opportunity to retool its argument. Its new lawsuit continues to claim that the governor’s Executive Orders run afoul of the U.S. Constitution, while adding the new claim that they violate the state Constitution as well.
Though they may have recently joined the state lawsuit, members of the New Republican caucus have long been skeptical of the Peacetime Declaration of Emergency, even when compared to other Republicans.
The four-member breakaway group is led by Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, whose district includes represents Kenyon and Wanamingo, and includes Munson. Staunchly conservative, it was created in January 2019 by legislators frustrated with the Republican caucus’s leadership.
On May 14, when the governor announced that he would again extend the Peacetime Emergency declaration while loosening some restrictions on businesses, the NHRC released a joint statement that didn’t hold back.
“Governor Walz’s decision to extend the peacetime emergency order is foolhardy, dictatorial and self-centered,” it said. “Clearly, the governor still believes he has the almighty authority to suspend our God-given rights.”
In addition to the NHRC’s longtime support for the cause, the collaboration is made less surprising by the FMSBC’s close ties to the Republicans. Its chief spokesperson, Dan McGrath, has long been an outspoken conservative activist.
Similarly, the group’s lead attorney, Erick Kaardal, is a former secretary/treasurer of the Minnesota Republican Party. Though he's taken on plenty of conservative leaning causes in the past, Kaardal insists that his activism derives chiefly from a staunch opposition to government overreach. Kaardal said that by challenging the orders on state rather than federal grounds, and arguing that the governor has usurped powers rightly delegated to the legislative and judiciary branches, the lawsuit is able to sidestep questions regarding public health risks.
He added that his approach was inspired by the successful challenge to Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’s emergency executive orders. However, while Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices are elected on a technically nonpartisan basis, a majority of them lean conservative.
By contrast, a majority of Minnesota Supreme Court Justices was appointed either by Walz or his predecessor, former DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. As the arguments are centered around the state constitution, the Minnesota Supreme Court will serve as the final authority.
On the other hand, the FMSBC’s lawsuit provides three arguments regarding the Peacetime Emergency’s constitutionality. Should any be found to hold merit, every Executive Order authored by the governor under the Peacetime Emergency declaration would be null and void.
First, the lawsuit argues that the governor has overstepped his authority to write de facto laws criminalizing certain behaviors, such as opening a business during the pandemic without permission from the state.
“He is creating crimes, telling people they can’t run businesses, telling churches they can’t operate,” Drazkowski said. “He is writing entire laws, which is a legislative activity.”
The governor’s effective usurpation of the ability to write laws from the legislature isn’t the only issue, the plaintiffs argue. Because no provision exists that would allow the judiciary to review these de facto laws, the Judicial branch’s authority is also compromised.
“This comes down to the importance of having three separate branches of government,” said Munson. “The legislative branch can’t relinquish its own authorities to the executive branch.”
Secondly, the lawsuit claims that the executive order statute is unconstitutional because under state law, the Governor’s Emergency Declaration only ends, and pieces of it may be overturned, only if both chambers of the legislature vote to end it.
The lawsuit argues that combined with the first point, that effectively puts the veto power in the hands of the legislature and the lawmaking part in the hands of the governor, when the state’s Constitution demands the opposite. While the governor must seek permission for the orders from the state’s Executive Council, which includes every statewide official, all are DFLers. By contrast, Republicans have had control of the State Senate since 2016, though they won slightly fewer votes in that election.
In recent weeks, Senate Republicans have become increasingly critical of the governor’s use of executive authority. However, with the DFL-controlled House of Representatives still supportive, those criticisms have failed to gain much traction.
The lawsuit cites the 1983 Supreme Court case of INS vs Chadha in arguing that the “one house” legislative veto is unconstitutional. That case turned on a provision which gave either house of Congress the power to overturn the attorney general’s recommendations.
Part of the Immigration Act of 1965, the measure was designed to allow the Congress to overrule the Attorney General in specific deportation cases. The court found it unconstitutional because it regarded the provision as Congressional overreach.
Thirdly, the lawsuit argued that the governor’s emergency powers should not be construed as to cover a broad public health emergency like COVID-19. Instead, the plaintiffs argue that the powers are much more narrowly limited to short-term emergencies like a storm or flood. Kaardal noted that a DFL-controlled House committee tried to pass a bill explicitly adding a public health emergency to the list of situations covered under the executive order. He argued that shows even the DFL was skeptical that the governor’s powers extend that far.
Drazkowski said that by restricting its use to short-term emergencies, the governor’s power under the statute would be strictly limited. By applying it to the virus, he said that a nearly indefinite state of emergency could be perpetuated.
“We don’t believe that a virus is an act of nature,” Drazkowski said. “A natural disaster has a start and an end to it. This virus will be around forever, along with many other viruses.”
The plaintiffs have asked the District Court to respond to their filing by June 11. That’s because they anticipate that if the case fails, the governor will call the legislature back into session on June 12 to allow them the chance to veto a new Peacetime State of Emergency Declaration.
In addition to the Peacetime State of Emergency Declaration, the legislature will have a full plate for a special session. The bonding bill will be on the top of the list, after legislators failed to come to an agreement on it at the end of regular session.
Given the recent protests and riots against racism and police brutality, police-reform bills are also likely to get considerable discussion. Wracked by riot-related damage, the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul also have significant requests.