For more information contact: Bennett Smith 651-296-6422
The legislative session has a constitutional deadline to adjourn at midnight Sunday, but there are many unresolved issues that remain before that set time arrives. As this weekend continues, legislators will be at the Capitol working to complete several remaining issues. I hope the legislature will be able to complete this work on time.
I’m sad to say that this week brings news of another tragic shooting at a school in our country, this time in Santa Fe, TX. We need to act together to pass common sense gun safety legislation. It is clear that the Republicans will do nothing to prohibit bad people from buying guns, but the least we can do is pass a stand-alone bill to help our schools increase safety measures protecting our students. Minority Leader Melissa Hortman sent a letter to Speaker Daudt, asking him to bring forward a clean stand-alone bill on school safety. We shouldn’t let this issue get bogged down in end-of-session political games. We will wait to see if Republicans do anything before we adjourn on Sunday night.
If we continue to work together and build a coalition of Minnesotans that want common sense responses to senseless gun violence, we can pass criminal background checks and extreme risk protection orders that will have a meaningful impact.
Taxes and Emergency School Aid Funding
Governor Dayton has been very clear that delivering Emergency School Aid was his first priority, and so he has vetoed the Republican tax bill that prioritized corporations and the wealthy. Minnesota has a modest budget surplus and schools facing projected budget shortfalls that will be forced to lay off teachers, support staff and cut important programming for students. We know this to be all too true in Minneapolis. We need to be investing in our students, and I hope a compromise on a tax bill and emergency education funding can be reached by Monday.
There was a push this session to change both legislative and statewide sexual harassment policies, including a measure from Republican House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin to effectively nullify a long-used "severe or pervasive" legal standard to determine if a sexual harassment case could be heard in court. Over the last several decades, judges had interpreted that standard it so narrowly that cases rarely made it to trial. This was a big step for Republican leaders, and it was one that would have real impacts on the culture of sexual harassment. It easily passed the House but sadly the measure failed in the Senate after it was aggressively lobbied against by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
Opioids and Elder Abuse
The conference committee finalizing the omnibus supplemental budget bill took up provisions of the bill relating to the ongoing opioid epidemic and the issue of elder abuse last night. The bill doesn’t go far enough because it lets big pharmaceutical corporations off the hook for paying for the addiction problems they helped create. Furthermore, it only passes a task force for elder abuse, instead of meaningful changes to make senior care providers crack down on the problem.
Bonding Bill with Local Projects
The House passed a bonding bill to fund approximately $825 million in capital investment infrastructure projects throughout Minnesota this week. I supported the bill, which included improvements for the American Indian Center and others. The Bonding Bill creates thousands of jobs while improving state infrastructure assets at the same time, and it’s important to make these investments now while interest rates continue to be low to get the most value for our investment. However, the Senate bonding bill failed on Wednesday, and I hope we will see an improved larger bill come back to the House floor for a vote before we adjourn.
Fighting for Investments at Little Earth of United Tribes
This week Rep. Susan Allen and I talked to press at the Capitol about our work to bring more investment and youth intervention program funding to Little Earth. Recent incidents have drawn important attention to the fact that we need to be investing in our communities and creating opportunities for families to have a safe place to raise their children, protect their loved ones from violent crime, and also to have the basic economic justice opportunities they deserve. We discussed our bills to bring housing improvement grants, youth intervention, crime prevention efforts, and other efforts that you can read about here. We’re working hard to see some of these efforts included in a final supplemental budget deal.
Lead and Radon Testing Issues Remain
You may have recently seen me on KARE 11 News discussing the failure of Minnesota schools to test for cancer-causing radon gas in ground level class rooms. I was disturbed by the poor job Minneapolis Schools have been doing to test for radon in classrooms where are children spend the majority of their time. I’m continuing to push to address this at the Capitol this year.
I’ve also had breakthroughs this year after decades of pushing for better testing for toxic lead in the environment, especially for the sake of protecting our children. Every year over 700 Minnesota kids suffer permanent debilitating brain and neurological damage from toxic lead poisoning, and it’s a huge cost to our society for something so preventable. I am cautiously hopeful because of my ability to work with other legislators, that this would be the year to include important pieces of my legislation to help families with the cost of cleaning up the lead in their home environments and for landlords to do the same. Hopefully this language survives the conference committee process and can be signed into law this year!
A House and Senate conference committee, with five members of each chamber, is hashing out differences in each area of the state budget. Governor Dayton is certainly weighing in as well, and he has identified at least 63 provisions to which he has strong objections. One area of unresolved disagreement is the DFL proposal to expand affordable health care for Minnesotans with the MinnesotaCare Buy-In. This would allow people to take advantage of premiums less expensive than those on the private market, and also with access to a vast network of quality doctors. I support this initiative as an option to improve the health insurance market.
Hands-Free Cell Phone Use
On Wednesday, DFLers renewed the call for debate and a vote on the ‘hands free’ cell phone bill on the House floor. This bill has earned broad bipartisan support and would ban handheld cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle. With numerous co-authors from each party and the support of 80 percent of Minnesotans, this bill deserves to be heard and voted on. Unfortunately, the effort was blocked by Republican leadership in yet another display of putting politics ahead of Minnesotans’ safety.
You can always contact me with questions or concerns at Rep.Karen.Clark@house.mn or 651-296-0294. For gavel-to-gavel video coverage of the House, here is a list of sources you can follow to stay updated on House committee and floor coverage:
Broadcast television schedule:
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Webcast/mobile streaming schedule:
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