Our work continues at the State Capitol to help Minnesotans navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, including the flexibility people need to adapt to the current situations in various sectors. Yesterday the House approved a bill I chief authored to modify deadlines within the district and appellate courts. Last spring, lawmakers temporarily suspended certain deadlines to limit the number of in-person court hearings. This measure was set to end on February 15, and my bill extends this to April 15. The Minnesota State Bar Association and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid both supported this bill, and I’m grateful for the unanimous support from my colleagues.
Law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and civil liberties advocates all agree our state's civil forfeiture law is overdue for reform. Reaching a compromise on this issue has been years in the making, and I’m the chief author of legislation to provide some fairness and oversight of an area of law that has received scrutiny from courts on constitutional grounds in recent years. KSTP aired a story about the legislation last night about the problems my bill seeks to solve.
This week, the House Judiciary and Public Safety Committees each approved the bill, and Session Daily has a good summary here.
In my last update, I discussed the report of the Criminal Sexual Conduct Reform Workgroup, which recently offered a series of recommendations to update our state’s laws to better deliver justice for survivors. The workgroup identified many solutions to center those who have experienced unthinkable trauma to help ensure their voices are heard and stories are taken seriously. This week, I officially introduced bipartisan legislation to advance the group’s findings at the Capitol. The Star Tribune and KARE 11 have both highlighted this overdue effort. I anticipate the findings will receive a hearing in the Public Safety Committee soon.
With the temperature dropping below zero this weekend, I want to share information about Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program. No one deserves to be in the cold because they can’t afford their heating bills, and help is available with utility bills, to repair or replace homeowners’ malfunctioning furnaces, and to purchase fuel for delivery in emergencies. Homeowners and renters with young children, people with disabilities, veterans, seniors and those experiencing unemployment or financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are especially encouraged to apply.
In 2020, the EAP helped nearly 118,000 Minnesota households. New applicants have until May 31, 2021 to apply, however funding is limited and administered on a first-come, first-served basis. More information is available from the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Additionally, the state’s Cold Weather Rule is in effect until April 15 which prevents utility shut-offs if you sign up for a payment plan with your energy provider. More information on these protections is available from the Public Utilities Commission.
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