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There will be 59 committees and subcommittees in the Minnesota Legislature when the 2021 session convenes in January, a slight uptick from the previous two years.

The boost in legislative committees is yet another change to state governance triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put certain policy issues in the spotlight while requiring lawmakers to gather in smaller groups to accommodate social distancing.

“Chairs and committees will have to focus on a limited agenda to make sure we can adequately involve the public, thoroughly assess priority issues, and do so while meeting in a safe manner,” said Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, who helped organize the new committee structure in the Senate.

Senate Republicans have added committees that will focus on issues such as property taxes, health and human services licensing and data practices. Democrats, who control the House, have added panels to deal with homelessness prevention, preventive health care and workforce development in the era of COVID-19.

And as the pandemic worsens racial disparities, House Speaker Melissa Hortman said they’ve appointed the most diverse group of committee chairs in the chamber’s history.

“Our committee chairs, like our caucus, reflect the diversity of our state’s population and our geography,” she said.