Week Three: March 8, 2018

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    It’s Called the People’s House for a Reason

    The Minnesota State Capitol is better known as the People’s House for a good reason. Every year, hundreds of organizations and thousands of people visit Cass Gilbert’s architectural masterpiece to get involved in our democracy. This week was no different.

    Dozens of groups held Day at the Capitol events, visitors flocked to the rotunda to snap a picture with a live bald eagle, and more than 1,000 high school students marched from Central High in Saint Paul to the Capitol to demand that lawmakers do something to prevent school shootings.

    All of these events and gatherings give DFL senators an opportunity to listen to their constituents and participate in a conversation about the direction our state is heading. Stop by the People’s House this session to visit your senator and get involved in your democracy!

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    Enhancing school safety: a multi-pronged approach

    At least 879 Minnesotans have died as a result of criminal gun violence since the Rocori High School shooting in 2003 and 21 known threats have been made against Minnesota schools in the last three weeks. It is impossible for students to learn and succeed in environments where they are worried for their safety. Governor Dayton introduced his Safe and Secure Schools Act this week, including $15.9 million in needed investments to enhance safety for students, teachers, parents, and staff at schools throughout Minnesota.

    Equal rights for all

    Heightened awareness for women’s equal rights gained momentum with the Women’s March on Washington where millions of women came together and made their voices heard around the country and even around the world. Recently, the #MeToo campaign came into the picture with women becoming empowered to speak out against decades, even generations, of putting up with sexual misconduct. On March 8, nearly 1,000 women and supporters of the ERA from around the state converged at the Capitol to celebrate International Women’s Day.

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    Protect Access to Contraception Act

    On International Women’s Day, DFL legislators joined advocates to support legislation that would protect access to contraception in Minnesota. The Protect Access to Contraception (PAC) Act is designed to ensure no-cost birth control coverage for all women, regardless of actions that could be taken by the federal government to roll back this provision under the Affordable Care Act.

    Second Chance Coalition rallies for voting rights restoration

    More than 60 organizations came together on March 7 to promote one common theme – people deserve a meaningful second chance if they make a mistake in our criminal justice system. The state Capitol rotunda rally drew hundreds of people from all walks of life including churches, businesses, politicians, and private citizens. One of the issues they are fighting for is to change Minnesota law to allow people to vote after being released from prison.

    Eliminating statute of limitations for sexually violent crimes

    Several legislators gathered with community leaders at a press conference on March 8 to unveil legislation to repeal the statutes of limitations for criminal sexual conduct and sex trafficking. The statutes of limitations for these crimes are currently arbitrary dates that don’t help survivors of sexual violence reach justice. Our culture has a heightened awareness of acts of sexual violence, but we need our laws to reflect the support we want to give the survivors of sexual violence and human trafficking.

    PolyMet faces opposition in St. Paul

    There are sharply divergent visions for the future of Minnesota’s proposed copper mine, pitting the prospect of lucrative jobs and renewed prosperity against a determination to protect some of the state’s most pristine waters. The $650 million project could spur an entire new mining industry on the Iron Range, but it also carries new environmental risks for northern Minnesota’s water.

    Balancing the needs of farmers and the need for safe drinking water

    The Department of Agriculture is moving forward with the rule-making process in the application and monitoring of nitrates. Some legislators introduced bills to ensure the nitrate rules the department was considering would not unnecessarily hamper farmers. Those bills were heard for informational purposes only this week. During the hearing, Agriculture Commissioner Dave Fredrickson stated the department was taking a common-sense approach to the new rules and would continue to holding public hearings.

    Who’s driving this bus?

    On March 7, MnDOT brought an autonomous shuttle to the state Capitol for people to hop on and ride. Autonomous cars are in our near future and could help us reduce traffic congestion and make our roads safer. Self-driving vehicles are on their way to becoming a reality in Minnesota. To prepare for this huge change on our roadways, Gov. Mark Dayton created a 15-member advisory council to take up traffic regulations and other issues self-driving cars and buses will bring to the state.

    American Academy of Pediatrics Day at the Capitol

    The American Academy of Pediatrics-Minnesota Chapter (MNAAP) on Wednesday held its annual Day at the Capitol. Legislators visited with 100 residents, pediatricians, and medical students who gathered to discuss and advocate for issues that have a direct impact on the health of children across Minnesota.

    Senator Matt Klein spoke to the American Academy of Pediatrics at their rally at the Capitol today.
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    Mental health access for farmers

    A bill to appropriate $100,000 for grants to mental health counselors to provide support to farm families and business operators was heard this week.

    Additional resources sought for RFA

    A bill was heard this week that appropriates $20 million to the Rural Finance Authority for user financed loans.

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    Tackling the use of skimmers

    A bill heard in Commerce Committee this week would make it a felony to install or use “skimmers,” devices used to capture credit and debit card and other electronic payment information on ATMs, gas pumps, grocery store self-checkout lanes, and other devices used in sales.

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    Student discipline policy changes move forward in Education Committee

    Legislation to encourage school districts to change disciplinary policies before starting dismissal actions against students had its first hearing this week.

    Bills would change U of M Regent selection process

    Bills discussed in the Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee this week would change the way the University Board of Regents are chosen.

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    Bill expands eligibility for Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards incentive program

    The Energy and Utilities Committee advanced a bill Tuesday that makes solar energy systems of up to 40 kilowatts eligible for solar energy production incentives under Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards Program, essentially doubling the capacity allowed under current law.

    3M and Volkswagen legal settlement updates

    On Monday the Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee heard presentations by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) on two large legal settlements that will brings funds into Minnesota to help alleviate environmental damage.

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    Health facility complaints

    The Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) released their report this week on the Office of Health Facility Complaints (OHFC) at the Minnesota Department of Health.

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    Committee receives broadband update

    The Minnesota Office of Broadband Development updated the Committee on Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy on the progress being made in connecting Minnesotans to high speed internet.

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    Adding intoxicating substances to DWI laws

    The Senate Judiciary Committee heard a bill this week to include “intoxicating substances” in the driving while impaired chapter of law.

    Cracking down on fake service animals

    The Senate Judiciary Committee heard a bill this week to address the problem of fake service animals.

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    Met Council restructure proposal

    A bill was heard in the Senate Local Government Committee to completely revamp the organizational structure of the Metropolitan Council.

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    Effects of federal tax conformity becoming clearer

    Since Congress passed the tax reform package at the end of 2017, the Minnesota Department of Revenue has been diligently working to determine potential effects on Minnesota tax filers.

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    Corridors of Commerce

    The Senate Transportation Committee passed a bill this week that would require the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to provide at least 50% of Corridors of Commerce funding to projects located outside the seven-county metropolitan area.