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Walz's executive order makes it easier for prosecutors to investigate COVID-19 violations

The order gives the attorney general, county attorneys and city attorneys the ability to investigate violations and recoup costs.
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Gov. Tim Walz's latest executive order makes it easier for state and local officials to investigate violations and recoup costs associated with investigations. 

Executive Order 20-96, which Walz announced Tuesday and goes into effect at 10 p.m. on Friday, puts new restrictions on bars and restaurants, as well as weddings, funerals and other social gatherings (read all about them here) amid surging COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

In addition to the new restrictions, the order updates how violations of the executive order can be enforced and investigated. 

Although the governor hopes people will voluntarily comply with the order, anyone who "willfully violates" the order could face up to a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail, the order states. 

What's more, business owners, managers or supervisors who require or encourage employees, contractors, interns, etc. to violate the order could face a $3,000 fine and up to a year in jail, the order says.

What's different about this order is that it adds language that gives the Minnesota attorney general, county attorneys and city attorneys the ability to investigate violations or threatened violations.

It also gives the attorney general and city and county attorneys the ability to recoup investigation costs, attorneys fees and other relief in accordance with state law from the business/violator. That's in addition to the civil penalties the attorneys can seek against businesses that violate the order in an amount to be determined by the court (up to $25,000 per occurrence).

Businesses that are regulated, like bars and restaurants, could also be subject to licensure actions. 

This has happened at the local level, most recently on Tuesday when Olmsted County officials suspended the license of Rochester's Legends Bar and Grill after "repeated violations" of the executive orders.

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