The legislative session last year ended in chaos – a result of the Republican majority’s decision to pursue shadowy last-minute backroom deals instead of conducting their work in a manner that is transparent, accountable, and consistent with Minnesotans expectations of their state government. The Republican majority this year appears to be comfortable with repeating an approach that shut average Minnesotans out of the conversation. With five weeks left before the Legislature is required to adjourn, Republicans have yet to release a tax, bonding, or supplemental budget proposal. Minnesotans deserve better than late-night deals that take place behind closed doors. DFL senators are holding the Republican majority accountable and will be talking about the need for fair, transparent conversations about major issues that affect all Minnesotans.
Families and friends of veterans that died by suicide were encouraged every day this week to place the boots of their loved ones on the steps of the Minnesota Capitol. The week-long commemoration was initiated by Operation 23 to Zero, a non-profit started by local Minnesota veterans that raises awareness about the suicide epidemic facing veterans.An average of 20 veterans die by suicide every day, and the group hopes that this gesture will call on lawmakers to improve mental health resources available for veterans.
DFL legislators held a press conference this week to raise awareness of the Minnesota African American Family Preservation Act, a proposal to improve oversight of child-protection services and provide better outcomes for African American children and families who go through the system. The legislators were joined by parents and advocates who detailed first-hand experiences with the disparities in the child welfare system, calling for strong support of the bill.
On Building Trades Day at the Capitol, members from the Local 563 and Local 49ers spoke with legislators to advocate for living wage jobs, prevailing wages, and infrastructure. DFL legislators joined supporters and advocates at a rally in support of a $1.5 billion bonding bill to support state construction projects.
The organization “Howling for Wolves” led a rally at the Capitol this week to protect wolves for future generations. The group called for a ban on all wildlife snaring and requiring permission to trap on private lands, citing the dangerously low levels of wolves in Minnesota.
Since taking office in 2011, Governor Dayton and Senate DFLers have made it a priority to expand reliable and affordable high-speed internet access Greater Minnesota. Significant progress has been made to connect every Minnesota home and business in greater Minnesota to broadband, but there is still more that can be done. Governor Dayton urged the Legislature this week to support and pass his proposal to invest $30 million in rural broadband internet infrastructure.
Mental health services lag in rural Minnesota. Additionally, suicide rates are much higher for farmers in comparison to the average worker.
The Senate Bonding Committee this week held its first meeting of session.
Legislation to enhance and help schools invest in school safety were the focus of a recent Education Committee meeting. Four bills with bipartisan authors were discussed, with funding for the proposals to be determined later in session.
Student loan debt continues to be an issue for many Minnesotans.
The Senate Finance Committee advanced a bill affecting the state’s wild rice water quality standard to the Senate floor this week.
Bipartisan legislation was introduced early this session to raise money to combat the opioid overdose epidemic that claimed the lives of hundreds of Minnesotans last year.
In the $1.3 trillion federal spending bill that was approved last month, $380 million in Help America Vote Act election security funds were appropriated to the Election Assistance Commission to provide grants to states.
With five weeks left in the legislative session, legislators still have not seen a tax conformity proposal from Republican leaders in either the House or Senate.