Two weeks ago, House DFLers, Senate Republicans, and Governor Walz reached a bipartisan agreement to fully replenish the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund while also supporting frontline workers including health care workers, first responders, child care providers, food service and retail workers, and more with bonus checks.
With this compromise in law, the state of Minnesota is currently developing an online application system. Workers can sign up to receive updates at frontlinepay.mn.gov. We expect the system to be up and running in just a few weeks, and workers will have 45 days to apply once the application process opens. A full FAQ document, including eligibility information, is available here.
The House passed its Public Safety bill and the contrast between the thoughtful nature of our bill and the simplistic “get tough on crime” approach in the Senate bill couldn’t be more stark. The Senate approach seems to only lengthen sentences for existing crimes and throw money at gadgets for law enforcement. For example, when the House Transportation bill came to the floor, our Republican counterparts offered an amendment to take money from rail transportation and give it to the State Patrol to buy two new helicopters for traffic enforcement (the State Patrol’s gas tax allotment can only be used for traffic enforcement on state highways).
Back in 2019 our nonpartisan House research staff produced a report entitled “Do criminal laws deter crime?” which was a synthesis of the nationwide research on this topic. This report concluded “if the goal of the policy change is to deter crime, research suggests that an increase in the likelihood of being caught is a greater deterrent effect than an increase in the potential penalty.” The House approach is focused on increasing the likelihood that the criminal will be caught and successfully prosecuted.
For example, we know that one of the most prevalent crimes in the suburbs right now is catalytic converter theft, so we included a provision in our Commerce bill that makes the possession of a catalytic converter that is not attached to your car a crime (so that prosecutors don’t have to prove that you stole the five catalytic converters that the police found in the trunk of your car).
I’m not a criminal justice expert, but I am a data management expert and I was asked to convene a group of law enforcement leaders to discuss possible gaps in the collection of criminal booking data. This discussion revealed that when a juvenile offender is arrested and referred directly to the juvenile justice authorities, no arrest record is created until the juvenile is actually booked, days later; meaning that law enforcement officials in other jurisdictions would have no timely visibility to these detainments. This is how some of the juvenile carjackers were able to go on week-long multi-city carjacking sprees without being held to account. As a result, our Public Safety bill includes a provision establishing a law enforcement task force to study these gaps in the data and recommend strategies for closing them.
In a similar vein, I am assisting with a Department of Corrections initiative to create a database modeled after the Department of Education’s successful Student Longitudinal Education Data System (SLEDS) which integrates educational, health and human services data into a comprehensive database which is designed to predict student success and identify learners who need help for early interventions. The purpose of the new Department of Corrections database would be to predict which prisoners are most likely to reoffend to better inform parole decisions.
My own Transit Safety bill includes a provision that actually reduces the penalty for transit fare evasion from a misdemeanor to a petty misdemeanor (like a parking meter violation) because the current misdemeanor penalty is never prosecuted or enforced (because it is so disproportionate to the crime) and, therefore, has no deterrent effect.
One of the main reasons why crime is so out of control in areas like North Minneapolis is that there is a mutual lack of trust and respect between the police and the community for reasons that were laid bare by the recent Minnesota Department of Human Rights damning report on its investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department. So, the House Public Safety bill devotes considerable resources to initiatives designed to repair these broken community – police relationships.
Our bill provides significant additional funding to the Judiciary branch, supporting public defenders and the courts, themselves, so that the courts can work down a significant backlog of criminal prosecutions and bring criminals to justice more quickly. We want to ensure a just, fair, and efficient system for all.
Measures such as these won’t fit on a bumper sticker, but they will be far more effective (and cost effective) than extending sentences at a cost of more than $40,000 per prisoner, per year, to incarcerate an offender at a state prison.
I’d like to go into more detail about some of our other bills, as well, but this note is already long enough, so these are brief summaries of some of our other bills, for now.
Health and Human Services
Our Health and Human Services bill is focused on delivering clear results for all, including lower healthcare/drug costs, expanding access and improving workforce conditions, including significant additional funding for pay increase for workers in the direct care professions to attract workers into this work.
This is also where our early childhood funds are housed. Our plan to invest in child care and early learning will put thousands of the youngest Minnesotans on the path to success. It will also help parents to work, employers to grow, and communities to thrive - now and long into the future
Our tax bill will increase affordability for Minnesotans across the state. It’s getting harder for Minnesotans to pay their rent and mortgage. Our bill will reduce Minnesotans’ housing costs by making the biggest investment in property tax refunds and renter’s credits in decades. Overall Families with young children, senior citizens living on fixed incomes, and people with student loan debt will benefit the most from the tax bill passed by the house.
We need to take climate change seriously, as one of the fastest warming states in the country, Minnesota is already experiencing impacts of climate change. Our climate and energy bill prioritizes clean energy, funds for weatherization, electrifications of our transportation sector, and investments in energy storage. The more we invest in climate action now, the more we will save in the future by reducing the negative impacts of climate change.
Workforce, Business Development, and Labor
This entire session has been focused on making sure that the workers who helped make our economic recovery happen receive the aid they need,our labor bill lifts up workers and small businesses, particularly those in disadvantaged communities, and businesses owned by women, veterans, and people of color. This bill delivers Paid Family & Medical Leave and Earned Sick & Safe Time as well as resources like a Redevelopment Program to help local units of government improve blighted properties for development, and Small Business Recovery Grants for businesses that continue to be impacted by COVID, inflation, supply chain issues, and the workforce shortage.
In the Commerce bill we take measures to help Minnesotans through the creation of a Student Loan Advocate who will improve borrower outcomes, new steps to prevent catalytic converter and automobile theft, and increasing funding to fight fraud which targets seniors. Kids deserve to have a childhood without being targeted by harmful big tech algorithms. This bill would also prohibit social media platforms from delivering harmful user-created content to people under the age of 18. Kids deserve to have a childhood without being targeted by harmful big tech algorithms.
Keep in Touch
Don’t hesitate to reach out if I can provide any assistance. Please follow me on my Facebook page for further updates and invite your friends and family to do so as well.
Thanks for the honor of representing you at the Capitol.
Representative, District 49B
Minnesota House of Representatives