Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Governor Walz has called the legislature into a special session starting today chiefly to exercise a vote on the Governor's extension of Emergency Powers. Today marks the 90th day since the Governor first declared the peacetime emergency on March 13th, 2020. According to the Star Tribune, this is the "longest period of time residents have lived under a state of emergency since World War II." In addition to this vote, we will work on other issues and unfinished business. Items that may be considered are as follows: a tax bill (in particular passage of federal conformity to section 179), distribution of the federal CARES act funding to address COVID-19, additional small business grant monies to support businesses impacted by the extended closures, bonding, and police and criminal justice reform.
I'll keep you informed as the special session unfolds, but briefly wanted to address a few things from this week that many of you have written to me about.
AFTERMATH OF GEORGE FLOYD DEATH AND POLICE REFORM
The horrific death of George Floyd continues to be a leading topic of discussion at the State Capitol, and it should be. All Minnesotans need to be safe, and the color of one's skin should never determine whether a person's safety could be at risk. I have responded to hundreds of emails and phone calls from constituents about this tragedy and have voiced my outrage and condemnation of the acts that led to his death in my responses to you, through my weekly email updates, in letters to the papers, and on my Facebook page.
The aftermath of George Floyd's death has led to calls for police reform. Demands to defund and abolish police are extreme responses to a tragic situation and the recent protests underscore the need for changes to make sure all Minnesotans feel safe in their communities and can trust law enforcement to treat them with respect and dignity. I have always supported our local law enforcement agencies and the many men and women who protect and serve their communities with honor.
I have reached out to ALL of my police chiefs and county sheriffs across my district to let them know that they have my support, and will be asking them for insight and feedback on any legislation. I will also be reviewing the February 2020 report by the State of Minnesota Working Group on Police-Involved Deadly Force Encounters to understand the data, public testimony, and overall recommendations that came out of this work.
From what I've heard about so far, here are a few proposals I can support, and there may be others as the process moves forward:
" Moving the grievance process from arbitration to the Office of Administration hearings. The current mandates binding arbitration impede discipline of officers accused of misconduct.
" Creating an independent and specialized unit within the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate all officer- involved shootings and uses of force that result in death.
" Establishing a duty to report excessive force by an officer to the POST board.
" Increasing resources for training in the following areas: support for early-intervention to identify problems; de-escalation tactics in order to reduce use-of-force; and increased training to support interactions with persons of color and people experiencing mental health crisis.
I am committed to productive and thoughtful conversations that will unite legislators, emergency responders, and citizens in an effort to improve accountability and transparency in our criminal justice system and help ensure that all Minnesotans, everywhere, are treated with dignity and respect. I certainly don't have all the answers. There will likely be many options considered during special session and I look forward to hearing them all.
STATE CAPITOL COLUMBUS STATUE RIPPED DOWN
On Wednesday night, Minnesotans once again sat and watched in disbelief as the Governor's Office allowed property at the 'People's House' to be destroyed without repercussion. There is a legal process to remove artwork and statues at the Capitol.* Putting a rope around a Christopher Columbus statue and ripping it down isn't part of it.
I was shocked at the Governor's and Lt. Governor's comments at a press conference that seemed to give people the green light to destroy property at the State Capitol. This is not the way to bring understanding and unity back in our state.
* Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan chairs the board (the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board) that could take action on the statue, but the board hasn't met since December, and she hasn't attended a meeting since November 2019.
DVS TEST BACKLOG
When Governor Walz ordered people to stay at home and shuttered countless businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it resulted in all scheduled Minnesota drivers' tests coming to a screeching halt. Now there is a huge backlog of potential new drivers waiting to take their road tests, which is problematic as many families have young people who want to work and need to be able to drive to their new place of employment.
Prior to the end of the 2020 session, the Senate approved a bill to allow third party testing companies to perform drivers' license road tests, but the House majority did not take up the legislation. We have also asked the governor to issue an executive order to resolve the issue, but nothing has changed. I have heard from many of you on this topic and know I will be pushing for a solution during the special session.
STAYING IN TOUCH
As always, if you have questions or concerns regarding any issue, please contact me. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-8635.