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Governor signs bills on COVID-19, election security, drugs

ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Walz has signed six bills into law as the regular session of the Minnesota Legislature winds down toward its adjournment date Monday.

One of the bills he signed Tuesday extended a state COVID-19 relief fund that expired this week. Another allows the state to tap $17 million in federal election security funds. A third requires prescription drug manufacturers to make information public for large price increases. And a fourth prohibits child marriages by setting the legal age for marriage at 18.

The elections bill includes preparations for increased absentee voting, switching some polling places to safer locations, and public outreach for implementing social distancing guidelines related to voting.

But it doesn’t include a wholesale switch to mail-in voting for the August primary and November general elections, as Walz, Secretary of State Steve Simon and other Democrats had sought. Republicans blocked that idea, raising concerns about fraud and saying state rules that already make it easy to cast absentee ballots by mail were sufficient.

Walz spokesman Teddy Tschann told the Star Tribune that the governor is still looking at other options to make it easier to vote by mail, given that a second wave of COVID-19 could hit during election season this fall.