Walz administration opposes GOP business reopening plan

Gov. Tim Walz's economic development commissioner says a Republican plan to reopen Minnesota businesses is "not practical."

The GOP proposal would require the Walz administration to give up-or-down approval within three days to any business that submits a social distancing plan. But Commissioner Steve Grove said it would "micromanage" businesses and require hundreds of new staffers.

Walz has said he is planning modifications of his stay-home order, which runs until May 4, and he has already allowed outdoor recreation businesses -- including golf courses -- to reopen. But GOP lawmakers have complained that the pace of the changes has been too slow.

"The only nonessential business is the one you didn’t pour your heart and soul into," said state Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake.

But the GOP reopening plan drew concerns from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. A chamber official said Monday that nonessential businesses shouldn't be forced to apply. Instead, the group said state lawmakers should extend tax deadlines for businesses.

"In order to truly vet every single plan that a business would create to reopen, you’d need a couple hundred staff probably," Grove told lawmakers.

At a hearing of the Senate Jobs committee, business owners said they couldn't understand why some of their competitors had been allowed to stay open while they're forced to close. One said a group of boutique shops in downtown Prior Lake have just days to go before they'll have to close for good.

"I don’t know if all of them will be able to come back,"said Lynn Loehr, who owns GG Pretty Things, a clothing and gift boutique. "It’s dire in downtown Prior Lake with our boutiques and we need help soon – very soon."

Indeed, a drive through the downtown district Tuesday revealed several shuttered small businesses with signs mentioning the coronavirus or the stay-home order.

Walz said Monday that business disruptions could last for 18 months regardless of the stay-home order because customers may be unwilling to return to stores quickly.