We completed work on a number of smaller single-subject bills this week. Of particular note was H.F. 1702, McKenna’s Law, which requires children age 10 and older be informed that they have the right to legal counsel with respect to juvenile custodial proceedings.
Despite the best efforts of our child protection services, occasionally the system may not make the best decision with respect to dealing with children in an abusive situation in the home. In McKenna’s case even at age 10 she understood that it was not in her or her younger sibling’s best interest to be returned to her single parent’s home.
Her right to independent legal counsel was waived by an adult without her ever understanding she could even seek counsel. Tragically, in some cases the adult that may be part of the problem may also be in a position to waive the child’s right to legal counsel.
McKenna’s Law seeks to ensure the child has a say in these very difficult situations. This change is not suggesting that our very professional and caring individuals in child protection services are not doing the right thing, but rather recognition that an additional safe guard was needed to better ensure the welfare of the child.
With respect to progress on the state budget, I regret to report that the governor has shifted to slow-walking work on the budget. Earlier this year he signed an agreement to work with the Legislature to develop overall budget targets with a deadline of today.
Despite the governor’s now less-cooperative approach, today we moved forward and announced joint House and Senate budget targets. Highlights can be found at this link.
By announcing the budget targets today, we met the April 28 deadline previously agreed to by Gov. Dayton. Although the governor has backed away from today’s deadline, we kept our word and put forward a single set of budget targets reflecting the position of the Legislature.
We have intentionally held our major agency finance bills open in conference committees to provide for participation by the governor and his staff. However, we will not let this obvious delay tactic disrupt getting our state agency budgets done on time. We welcome the governor to come to the table so we can avoid any further waste of time.