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Wage theft penalties among House-, Senate-approved omnibus jobs and energy bill

Rep. Tim Mahoney, chair of the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division, describes provisions of the omnibus jobs, energy and economic development finance bill during special session floor debate May 25.

One of the House DFL’s top priorities of the 2019 legislative session is on its way to becoming law.

The omnibus jobs and economic development finance bill, approved 89-39 by the House and 65-2 by the Senate early Saturday, could give Minnesota what has been characterized as the toughest wage theft law in the country.

Sponsored by Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul) and Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake), the bill features a variety of provisions dealing with employment issues and energy sources. But Mahoney emphasized in committee hearings how hard the state would come down on employers that don’t pay employees for their work.

“This is a bill full of good provisions, but there’s more we should have done for Minnesota’s working families,” Mahoney said in a statement. “… It’s not perfect, and there’s certainly more work to be done on improving the economic security of all Minnesotans, but in the end this bill is a compromise that does well by our workers.”

[MORE: View the spreadsheet]

The bill would make wage theft a felony and would punish employers who retaliate against employees reporting it. It would provide funding to the attorney general’s office and the Department of Labor and Industry to enforce the new laws.

Also in the bill are several changes in labor and industry policy, and in the state’s unemployment insurance system, including technological updates.

In the energy arena, the bill includes language that would require reports about energy storage systems and the diversity of energy utility stakeholders, and make some changes in property assessed clean energy loans. But it features only a handful of the many provisions approved by the House Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Division, which advocated for accelerating moves toward non-carbon energy sources and other provisions that may slow climate change.

Among the largest appropriations covered within the bill would be:

  • $87.3 million to the Department of Employment and Economic Development for business and community development;
  • $75.2 million to DEED for vocational rehabilitation;
  • $65.9 million to the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board; 
  • $54.4 million to DEED for employment and training programs;
  • $37.1 million for Rochester’s Destination Medical Center;
  • $26.8 million to the Department of Labor and Industry for workers compensation; and
  • $18.1 million to the Public Utilities Commission.

 


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