Prior to the start of the legislative session, I was honored to be appointed Deputy Speaker Pro Tempore by House Speaker Melissa Hortman to fill in from time to time when she needs a break. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to preside over the House. Managing the floor can be a challenging experience, especially when many members are participating remotely. Huge thanks go to Chief Clerk Pat Murphy and his knowledgeable, nonpartisan, and incredibly dedicated staff at the front desk and behind the scenes for helping ensure the sessions run smoothly.
Earlier this week, Derek Chavuin was found guilty. I’m relieved by the verdict, but am still incredibly sad for George Floyd, his family, and the Black Americans who have died without justice. The recent killing of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center highlights the work we have yet to do. In our House Public Safety, Judiciary, and Civil Law budget, we’re making significant new investments in tools for law enforcement, including $10 million for local police to issue body-worn cameras, reform-focused training, and updating policies. While including these important investments, it also builds upon the work of the Minnesota Police Accountability Act, enacted in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd, to further strengthen the police officer misconduct database in building a more effective early warning intervention system to eliminate and correct harmful practices. It also allows local units of government to establish civilian oversight councils and funds community organizations working to prevent crime in their communities while addressing the need for community healing after traumatic events.
Serving as Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, the bill includes a series of other provisions I’ve introduced. It incorporates a series of reforms to Minnesota’s criminal sexual conduct laws to better provide justice for survivors. It closes the “voluntary intoxication” loophole, highlighted by a recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision that when prosecuting a sexual assault case, “mentally incapacitated” doesn’t include a person who became intoxicated after voluntarily consuming alcohol. It also prevents sexual extortion and includes a series of measures to protect children, among other changes recommended by a survivor-led working group. The omnibus bill contains another provision brought to be my survivors who are National Guard members; it requires the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate those guard-on-guard sexual assaults.
Additionally, the bill includes my provisions to make our roads safer through expanded ignition interlock for drunk drivers, to reform civil forfeiture to improve fairness, and to give Minnesotans a “second chance” by allowing prosecutors to initiate sentencing adjustments when an offender has demonstrated rehabilitation. A comprehensive summary of this important bill for safety and justice is available here.
We continue to advance other parts of our House DFL budget to help Minnesotans emerge from the pandemic, and succeed and thrive once the crisis is behind us. Here are some highlights of recent legislation:
E-12 and Higher Education
I was proud to support our E-12 Education Budget with investments in students at all levels of learning. This critical funding will help students catch up from last year's challenges, close the opportunity gap and other inequities, and put school districts on the path to having the sustainable, predictable resources they can count on to provide all students a world-class education. The bill also continues our critical investments in early learning to not only ensure students can get a great start in life, but to boost our economy. When early care and learning opportunities are available, parents can work, businesses can hire, and communities can thrive.
I also supported the House Higher Education Budget. The legislation holds tuition flat at Minnesota State campuses, increases funding for the state grant program, contains several measures to reduce opportunity gaps and improve outcomes for Black, Brown, and Indigenous students, and expands the ranks of career and technical education instructors in our high schools.
Labor, Workforce, and Business
While our economy is turning the corner, workers, families, and small businesses have all felt hardship resulting from the pandemic. Our House DFL Labor, Workforce, and Business Development budget will help workers have economic security, strengthen health and safety in the workplace, and help businesses recover from the adversity of the past year.
The bill includes Paid Family & Medical Leave and Earned Sick & Safe Time so all Minnesotans can care for themselves, their loved ones, or a new baby without forgoing a paycheck. It helps laid-off hospitality workers get back to work, protects meatpacking workers, updates our unemployment insurance system, and provides assistance to those small businesses most impacted by the pandemic.
Commerce & Energy
This week I supported the House DFL Commerce & Energy Budget which protects Minnesotans’ economic security with safeguards and reforms that crack down on those trying to take advantage of others for financial gain. It addresses price gouging, advances solutions to address high prescription drug prices, protects student loan borrowers, and takes action to deter the plethora of catalytic converter thefts. Within the energy portion of the bill, it contains solutions to keep Minnesota a leader in the fight against climate change. It will help us continue transitioning to cleaner, cheaper energy like wind and solar, develop clean energy jobs, and address the disproportionate impacts of pollution on communities of color.
On a related note, help is available for those who have struggled with heating bills this past winter. Information on Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program is available from the Department of Commerce.
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