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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Jeremy Munson (R)

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Rep. Munson's Legislative Update - May 20, 2020

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wednesday, May 20

The Legislature has adjourned SINE DIE!

Late Sunday night (technically early Monday morning), the House of Representatives concluded our time together for the 2019-20 Biennium - kind of. MN law requires that unless the Governor gives up his unilateral power under the peacetime emergency, he must call the legislature back for a special session by June 12th. I explain the Governor's powers and the real numbers on COVID on ABC News in Rochester. 

The Minnesota law the governor is relying on to make all these executive orders was passed in response to hurricane Katrina. This law does not specifically address an emergency due to a health crisis, but rather was intended to allow the Governor to react no natural disasters, such as floods and tornadoes, when the legislature was not in session. The law is vaguely written, and it is unclear if the Governor's interpretation is valid. What is clear is these executive powers were never intended to extend indefinitely. We have three branches of government in order to prevent the consolidation of power and the Legislative branch is the elected body intended to write laws and represent the voices and interests of the people. Unfortunately, this law was poorly written with little foresight. At the very least, the law should be revised to include a short sunset for the Governor's powers, that requires the legislature to approve any extension. 

As the law is written now, the Governor does not need legislative approval to continue to extend his unilateral power indefinitely and bi-pass our Republican held Senate. In order to end his powers, both chambers of the legislature must vote to end the peacetime emergency. Unfortunately, this situation has become very political. It is unlikely the Democrat controlled House will ever vote to overrule a Democrat governor. Even if the Governor lifts or lightens his executive orders, so long as, the peacetime emergency remains in place, he retains the power to unilaterally give orders that could effect everything from our elections to redistricting next year. Rally for Freedom

The Governor will also likely call the legislature back in June to pass a bonding bill. Both the  House and Senate refused to pass the bonding bill last this session. 

Liquor Omnibus Bill Amendment

Liquor Amendment Presentation

I offered an amendment to the Liquor Omnibus Bill, which allowed breweries to sell their beer in various size cans and bottles. Current MN Law only allows breweries to sell beer from their breweries in half gallon growlers and 23.4 Oz cans (exact sizes only). Other states do not have such a regulation. 

Of the 170+ breweries in MN, 30% have canning lines and distribution to liquor stores in place - 70% of breweries do not have canning lines (12 or 16 oz cans). I offered this amendment last year with full support of small breweries and the MN Craft Brewers Association - in other words - they wanted this flexibility to help grow their businesses. The Teamsters Union fought hard against the amendment and when I wouldn't withdraw it, they had leadership pull all liquor bills so I couldn't amend them.

This year, breweries are really hurting since Governor Walz has shut down their tap rooms and only allowed curbside pickup. What makes this mandate worse, is only ONE company makes 23.5 Oz cans and they are now out of stock until the fall. Due to the supply chain disruptions, glass growlers are also in short supply. Supply chains have been disrupted. Without action on loosening restrictions, many breweries will not survive.

The Teamsters again opposes this amendment for fear breweries will sell 12 packs of beer and not distribute to liquor stores. However, this concern does not hold much weight, as existing off-sale and production caps would still apply: 750 barrels annual off-sale cap and 20,000 annual production cap for off-sale. The self-distribution cap is also set to 20,000 bbl/annually so any breweries who are not yet distributing by that point would need to contract with a wholesaler. 

This simple deregulation would allow consumers to purchase craft beer from breweries in smaller packaging, allow struggling breweries the ability to operate during these difficult times. It would also allow breweries to make their own business decisions and have more control over negotiating pricing for their packaging. Finally, it would allow small breweries the ability to slowly grow and expand their canning lines, before making the jump into distributing to liquor stores.

This amendment was about freedom for small businesses and consumers. Unfortunately, it did not pass. The opposition by the Teamsters union and larger craft breweries who already distribute beer, exemplified the power money and lobbyists have in Minnesota politics. I will continue to work to reform policy in this area to help our craft brewery industry recover from the economic contraction caused by the Peacetime Emergency.

But we did have some remarkable achievements! Keep reading.

Passage of the Freelance Hair & Makeup Artist Bill

The Minnesota government, through state agencies and executive orders, continues to expand its reach and over regulate individual's lives at an increasing pace. This is why I am a proud House author on SF 2898 a bill that was authored in Senate by Senator Karin Housley.  This bill allows freelance hairstyle and makeup artists who work at special events, such as weddings and graduations, to conduct their businesses free from government interference.  

The Board of Cosmetology was looking to expand its control and impose a cost and regulatory burden on yet another type of business.  They wanted to require individuals who style hair or paint nails at weddings or graduations to complete cosmetology school, apprentice and earn a salon manager license, and obtain a license and pay a fee for each location and event they worked. No public interest would have been served. It would have been a barrier to entry for an industry that is self-policing. People succeed or fail by reputation.  Fortunately, the House and Senate agreed to stop this bureaucratic interference.  The time could not be better, as these talented individuals cannot work at this time due to the Governor’s executive orders. They need to return to work soon, and when they do, at least they won’t have new regulations and fees to pay.

We Passed Cassy's Law

Cassy's Law Amendment

My legislation, known as “Cassy’s Law” (HF1864/SF1994), passed the Minnesota House of Representatives as part of a larger Public Safety Policy bill. This bill aims to help Traumatic Brain Injury, stroke patients and those with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder caught in the criminal justice system.  It has had broad bi-partisan support with 26 DFL and GOP co-sponsors in the House and Senate, including the chairs of Public Safety & Judiciary committees.  

I worked with Tim Barry, the father of Cassondra Barry, to write this bill. Cassy was 26 when she gave birth to her daughter and had hernia surgery, which resulted in a massive stroke, damaging her frontal lobe.  Her leg was amputated to save her life. Due to her lack of impulse control caused by her TBI, she is in solitary confinement today and will be through her release in October.

This bill directs judges to order a neuro-psychological evaluation before sentencing when a defendant has a prior history of a TBI. If the assessment reveals a lack of impulse control due to a TBI, then sentences could be adjusted to seek effective treatment.

I worked to have this bill pass through four committees this year and offered the language as an amendment to the omnibus bill, as it had bipartisan support and even included the author of the House Public Safety bill, Rep. Mariani.

Coming Up

Minnesota Legislators all now return to their districts. We have to continue to pressure Gov. Walz to lift his orders and allow the rest of MN return to work, and also to end the peacetime emergency. It is time to allow the legislature do its job and write any necessary budgetary or policy changes needed to address COVID!