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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Laurie Pryor (DFL)

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Legislative Update - March 30, 2017

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Dear Neighbors,

Today we are starting to consider omnibus finance bills on the House Floor. These comprehensive bills cover each area of the state budget and will set the stage for final negotiations between the House, Senate, and Gov. Dayton. I’d like to give you an update on one of these, as well as discuss a couple of pieces of other legislation I’ve heard a great deal of feedback about.

Omnibus Environment Bills

One of these such omnibus bills we’re considering is the Environment and Natural Resources bill. Throughout this session I’ve heard from many of you the importance of protecting our air, water and natural resources. Unfortunately, this bill contains many provisions that put the health of our environment at risk. It rolls back Governor Dayton’s buffer initiative, which projects our drinking water from nitrates and phosphorous. Further, it guts the Environmental Quality Board policy, which since 1973 has created long-range plans and reviews proposed projects significantly influence Minnesota's environment and development.

Overall, the bill cuts $94 million from current funding that protects our air, water, and natural resources. The bill relies heavily on shifts and gimmicks and has many controversial pieces of policy, many introduced without any opportunity for public input. I’m hopeful that our end product on this subject will be more aligned with science than politics. Minnesota is lucky to have abundant natural resources, but we can’t take them for granted. I will be advocating for a compromise bill that better protects our critical natural resources.

Hands Free Driving

One bipartisan piece of legislation that has moved through the committee process this year is to require drivers to use a hands free device while driving. I’m a co-author of HF 1180, the bill to require this, as 14 other states currently do. Data from the Minnesota State Patrol shows that distracted driving has increased sharply in recent years and that this bill would significantly reduce crashes due to that, and we hope save lives.

Firearms Legislation

I’ve heard from many constituents who are alarmed about a pair of bills that could put the safety of Minnesotans at risk. The first, HF 188, would eliminate existing background checks and safety training for purchasing and carrying loaded handguns in public. Though the permit process has loopholes, it is a deterrent to allowing dangerous criminals and domestic abusers from acquiring firearms. While some of us may disagree about the merits of having firearms in public at all, at the very least there should be a baseline for responsible gun ownership and use. This proposal is clearly reckless in that regard.

Another bill, HF 238 would allow people to "shoot first" when they feel threatened. The bill would allow this to happen even in public and even when there are safe alternatives. Unfortunately, this bill did pass the Public Safety Committee and may yet come to a floor vote this year.       

States that have passed similar laws have increased homicide rates. In Florida, a law like this was linked to a 32 percent increase in firearm homicides. Further information about this is available from the Journal of the American Medical Association.

While I support the right of Minnesotans to possess and use firearms under the Second Amendment, with these laws comes responsibilities. I hope any legislation that moves forward on this topic is done with the objective of increasing safety for Minnesotans, not decreasing it.

I hope you will continue to share with me your thoughts on these and other issues. Please feel free to write or call anytime.


Laurie Pryor

State Representative