Another incredibly active week at the State Capitol is coming to a conclusion. After committees wrap up work today, the Minnesota Legislature will begin a customary weeklong recess to observe the Easter and Passover holidays. If you celebrate, I wish you a safe celebration with loved ones.
Earlier this week, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled under Minnesota’s criminal sexual conduct law, the definition of “mentally incapacitated” doesn’t include a person who became intoxicated after voluntarily consuming alcohol. Victims who are intoxicated to the degree that they are unable to give consent are entitled to justice. While this decision wasn’t entirely unexpected, it highlights the urgency we have to close this and other loopholes throughout our state’s sexual assault statute.
Even the Supreme Court’s opinion noted, verbatim: “nearly half of all women in the United States have been the victim of sexual violence in their lifetime—including an estimated 10 million women who have been raped while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.” I’m the chief author of legislation that includes recommendations of a working group to comprehensively update Minnesota’s criminal sexual conduct code. KSTP aired a story about our bipartisan effort to ensure justice can be delivered to those who experience unthinkable trauma.
Governor Walz today announced that starting next Tuesday, all Minnesotans aged 16 or older will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. If you haven’t done so, now is the time to sign up for the state’s Vaccine Connector which will alert you to vaccine opportunities.
Keep in mind that despite the eligibility there won’t necessarily be a vaccine available for everyone on Tuesday. Providers will be directed to keep prioritizing older Minnesotans, those with underlying health conditions, and those in frontline jobs. Following that, they will have the flexibility to give appointments to others eligible. Starting next week, we’re expected to receive much larger quantities of the vaccine which should quickly accelerate distribution.
This is another moment of optimism in our journey to put the pandemic behind us, and I hope everyone will get the vaccine just as soon as they are able.
Throughout COVID-19, Minnesotans have been repeatedly asked to stay home if they’re sick. Unfortunately, over 900,000 workers, many of whom are in the service industry and already earn low-wages, don’t have access to paid sick days. Last night, the House passed Earned Sick and Safety Time legislation to ensure workers aren’t forced to choose between losing a paycheck and taking care of themselves or a family member. Under this bill, workers would earn at least one hour of paid Earned Sick and Safe Time for every 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours per year, to recover at home when they’re sick, bring a loved one to the doctor, or get help following an event like a domestic assault.
The House also passed a bill that ensures health care and public safety workers will continue to receive workers’ compensation should they become afflicted with COVID-19, extending a deadline from this May to December 31.
We also approved a measure barring employers from requesting a job applicant or prospective employee’s pay history, a key step to delivering pay equity for women and people of color. Wednesday was Equal Pay Day, representing how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. States that have implemented similar policies have seen an eight percent increase in pay for women and a 13 percent increase in pay for Black workers.
Finally, we approved legislation to help hospitality workers – many of whom were laid off during the pandemic – return to work. The bill requires certain employers to provide eligible workers information about available job positions for which they qualify, and rehire employees based on a preference system.
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