Greetings from St. Paul, where this week we saw the governor ad-lib a State of the State Address and the House majority bring legislation to the floor that also seems to have been improvised.
On Monday, House Democrats approved on a party-line vote a bill (HF2265) which would allow individuals convicted of a variety of crimes including murder, drive-by-shooting, felony-level stalking, child abuse, and solicitation of children to engage in sexual conduct, to be eligible to work in a variety of positions that require Department of Human Services background studies. This includes positions such as personal care attendants, providers of home and community-based care services for Minnesotans with disabilities, adult day services, non-emergency medical transportation drivers, and more. Specifically, the bill would require DHS to consider granting a set-aside or variance to anyone who otherwise would have been disqualified as a result of a variety of serious felony and criminal convictions that are more than 20 years old.
I strongly oppose this bill because it unnecessarily exposes some of our most vulnerable citizens to dangerous situations. Our friends and loved ones who need assistance should be able to receive that help in a safe environment, but this bill puts people at risk. There is plenty of room to seek criminal justice reform without heading down such a treacherous slope.
A vote on another questionable bill is scheduled to take place on the House floor later today as House Democrats bring forward a proposal to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. A great many concerns have been raised about this bill and, actually, the strongest opposition has very little to do with the actual act of driving a car. Issues related to voting, data disclosure across law enforcement agencies and how a suspect’s legal status is considered during a criminal investigation, detention, search or arrest are just some of the concerns. I am sure many more aspects will be talked about during what is expected to be a good floor debate on this bill.
With the Easter/Passover break approaching, only five full weeks of legislative time remain before the May 20 date for adjournment. Time is running down to close some significant gaps in proposals.
For example, the governor and House Democrats continue pushing for a 20-cent increase to the gas tax, while the Senate proposes increasing transportation funds through existing revenue sources. That plan is in line with the transportation funding House Republicans delivered during the last biennium by directing sales taxes collected on the purchases of auto parts toward roads and bridges.
The governor used his State of the State to talk about working together, but his actions (such as having the state take itself to court and playing political games with senators) over his first few months in office tell a different story. Look for more as things move along in St. Paul and, as always, your input is welcome.