Minnesota Senate scraps plans for outdoor ceremony amid concerns

The Minnesota Senate abruptly canceled plans to hold Monday's meeting on the south lawn of the state Capitol amid concerns about the event.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka called the outdoor meeting a “historic moment" that would allow retiring lawmakers to give speeches to all members in person on the final day of the 2020 regular session. 

But three Democratic senators quickly said they wouldn't attend. One called it a "slap in the face" to graduating seniors who can't have their own ceremonies because of guidance from Gov. Tim Walz's administration limiting crowd sizes.

Lawmakers would've been in the unusual position of celebrating despite major issues being unresolved. The Legislature failed to reach deals on several key issues Sunday night, and a June 12 special session is now likely

“We were going to have the program outdoors tomorrow, but for a number of reasons, it just wasn’t the right time," Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, told members shortly before the Senate adjourned late Sunday night.

Gazelka said the ceremony would likely happen on June 12.

The Legislature is exempt from the Walz administration's guidelines prohibiting groups of 10 or more people from gathering.

A spokeswoman for majority Republicans said the Monday meeting would've been spread out to accommodate social distancing.

DFL Sens. Matt Little and Chris Eaton referenced the canceled school graduation ceremonies in tweets explaining their decision to skip. Sen. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, also said she would not attend.

“I truly want to honor our retiring members too. Their service has been outstanding. However, a state full of graduating seniors have been told they can’t have an in-person ceremony. Us elected officials should be held to the same standard,” said Little, DFL-Lakeville.

“I will not attend either,” said Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center. “It is a slap in the face to graduating seniors in high school and college."

Four senators are not seeking reelection in November: Democrats Carolyn Laine and Dick Cohen and Republicans Scott Jensen and Paul Anderson.