Torkelson: Redistricting to be delayed

ST. PAUL — District 16B Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, said Friday that 2020 Census delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic will delay legislative redistricting efforts this year.

“We won’t have it (2020 Census data) until the end of February. Then we will wait for more concise data to draw census results,” said Torkelson, the Republican lead on the Minnesota House Redistricting Committee.

“Everything is delayed. Normally, we would have known by now,” Torkelson said. “We have to wait for data from the U.S. Census Bureau that is being delayed into the summer.”

Torkelson said there is a chance Minnesota will lose a congressional seat after the redistricting, leaving the state with just seven seats in the House of Representatives.

“Redistricting is really important. It will really affect all of us for the next ten years,” said Torkelson.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, especially with the budget and COVID-19,” Torkelson added.

He said the Jan. 6 chaos, property destruction and take over attempt by far-right Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol did not affect legislators directly, but may have done so in other ways.

“All our sessions are online,” Torkelson said. “But the emotional impact is alarming. To see our national Capitol treated that way and see people destroying public property is alarming.”

Torkelson said he was encouraged by Gov. Tim Walz’s Jan. 6 announcement to lift some restrictions on in-person, indoor services at Minnesota bars and restaurants on Monday, Jan. 11.

“I just hope everybody is staying safe and healthy,” said Torkelson. “More and more people are getting vaccinated. It takes time. It’s nice to see they’re paying attention to our nursing home and assisted living residents and caregivers.”

In his seventh term, Torkelson represents Brown, Redwood and Renville counties. He will also serve on the Minnesota House Transportation Finance and Policy and Ethics Committees.

Dist. 16 Sen. Gary H. Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, is in his fourth term. He is Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee Chairman, Agricultural and Rural Development Finance and Policy Committee Vice Chairman and serves on the Capital Investment and Housing, Finance and Policy Committees.

Dahms represents all or parts of Brown, Lac qui Parle, Lyon, Redwood, Renville, and Yellow Medicine counties. “It’s going to be a very interesting session, especially with how we deal with the budget and COVID. Those are our top two priorities,” Dahms said.

“We’ll be working with the governor to try to get him to give up his emergency powers now that we are in (legislative) session,” he said. “And see what we can do to help small businesses, many of which are hanging on by their fingernails since the Nov. 18 shutdown. We also need to help other businesses.”

Dahms said legislators are looking forward to giving committee members, testifiers and presenters the option of in-person or Zoom (online) meetings by sometime in the first half of February.

Zoom meeting attendees would have to pre-register to watch and provide input at legislative sessions.


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