Hagedorn addresses pandemic
NEW ULM — Minnesota’s First District Rep. Jim Hagedorn held a telephone town hall Thursday.
Hagedorn said the purpose of the town hall was to answer questions and concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The congressman said the district’s economy had three main sections: agriculture, small business/manufacturing and medical care. Hagedorn said these were the three aspects of the economy he was paying attention to, especially since COVID-19 stalled the economy.
The first question of the town hall was related to schools and whether they will reopen. Hagedorn has been outspoken about reopening the economy in Minnesota. His position on the schools was the decision should be left to local officials, school boards and parents. He was against Gov. Tim Walz making decrees for the entire state.
“Rural Minnesota, our district, is not the Twin Cities, and we don’t need to be treated that way,” he said.
Hagedorn was later asked about his position on the requirement of face masks. The congressman said he believes mask policy should be an individual decision for people and businesses.
“I don’t like that our governor is using emergency powers to have a one-size-fits-all policy for the whole of Minnesota,” he said.
Multiple times Hagedorn compared southern Minnesota to South Dakota. He believes southern Minnesota could emulate South Dakota, which he said has remained open through the pandemic and only has a per capita death rate of 33% that of Minnesota. He said most of Minnesota’s deaths were in long term care facilities and believes to focus should be on the elderly rather than younger people with a higher survival rate.
“These things were just arbitrary decrees, and really should have been worked out with the Legislature, and should have been more of a private matter,” Hagedorn said.
On an upcoming coronavirus relief bill, a constituent asked why corporate liability shields were a sticking point in the bill. The liability shield would prevent businesses or schools from being held liable if a person contracted COVID-19 on site. Hagedorn supported these shields because he believes it would be harder to convince businesses to reopen.
Hagedorn also did not want a provision that would grant people an additional $600 on top of regular unemployment because it would be harder for businesses to get employees to return to work.
On prescription drugs, Hagedorn supported recent executive orders attacking the high prices of prescription drugs. He also supported legislation ensuring Americans would pay the same price on prescription drugs as people did in other countries. He called the policy “one pill, one price.” He supports capping costs on medicine for chronic illness, like insulin. Another executive order could allow the import of cheaper drugs from Canada.
Hagedorn wanted to ensure that prices came down, but also allowed innovations on new medications to treat illnesses.
State Sen. Mike Parry asked the congressman to explain the significance of the Mayo Clinic signing the Mission Act.
Hagedorn said the Mission Act was an alternative option for veterans seeking medical care outside of the VA. The Mission Act expands out of network options. On Aug. 1, the Mayo Health System and VA will sign an agreement that allows veterans to attend Mayo Clinic Health facilities.
Hagedorn said he was committed to supporting rural hospitals. Congress recently appropriated $100 billion to help hospitals, and he was working to ensure rural hospitals received a share. In addition to rural hospitals providing timely medical care to citizens, these facilities are often one of the top employers in the community. For these reasons, he wanted to protect rural medicine.
Hagedorn answered questions on assistance to small farms. The congressman said the shutdown caused restaurants to close and meat prices dropped. In addition, the packaging plants were hit by COVID. Hagedorn believes $20 billion was needed to sustain farmers. Bills to help pork farmers were put through, and work for beef and cattle was forthcoming.
He was confident relief funding for the pork and beef industry would come through in the next coronavirus relief bill.
Hagedorn stated his opposition to defunding the police. He said he did not want to defund or defang the police.
He blamed the destruction in Minneapolis on police being prevented from doing their jobs which led to chaos spreading across the country.
Hagedorn supports President Donald Trump’s decision to turn down Walz’s request for funds to rebuild.
“Not one penny from federal taxpayers, and I don’t think Minnesota taxpayers should pay for it. That is the city of Minneapolis that let that happen, they should deal with it.”
The congressman was later asked if the Black Lives Matter movement had gone too far with protesting. Hagedorn said everyone has the right to protest peacefully.
“There wasn’t anyone in the country who thought the police officer in Minneapolis did the right thing,” Hagedorn said. He said the problem was when protesting turns into rioting. “I don’t care what group is behind it, it has to stop.”
Hagedorn gave an update on Highway 14 improvements. He said the final segment to be completed was the four-lane expansion from Nicollet to New Ulm.
Hagedorn said there was a bipartisan effort to secure federal money through build grants. He said there was $25 million in build grants. With this, he believes Highway 14 could be completed. He said this corridor improvement was a top priority in transportation for safety and economic reasons.
On mail-in voting, Hagedorn believes Minnesota already has voting laws to handle this election.
“In Minnesota, we have the most liberal voting rules in the whole country,” he said. “We have no-excuse voting by mail.” His only concern with voting by mail was that a witness signed the ballot. He did not want to see universal mail ballots where everyone possibly received a ballot. Hagedorn’s concern was some homes would receive extra ballots if an individual moved.
He reminded listeners Minnesota also had no-excuse early voting. People are able to go to the polls to vote weeks in advance if they wanted to avoid crowds. The congressman believes Minnesotans would be able to vote on Election Day without issue.
Free speech and social media was a concern. Hagedorn said there was a recent hearing on this issue. He said because sites like Facebook were a platform and not a media site there were different standards for censoring.
“They are getting pretty big and pretty powerful,” Hagedorn said. “In the history of our country when companies have become too big and powerful and too influential, the government has looked into ways to break them up and make them more competitive.”
Hagedorn said if anyone has questions or needs, he encourages them to contact the district office at 507-323-6090. He could also be contacted at hagedorn.house.gov.