No Joke: Senators to Convene ‘Senate Committee on Banned Bills’ on April 1st

Sen. Little to Chair; Sen. Franzen, Vice Chair;
Committee to Review Bills Barred from Senate Hearings

St. Paul, MN – “These bills could save many lives and tax dollars,” Sen. Little (DFL-Lakeville) previewed, “But they haven’t been given a single senate hearing. Our democracy isn’t supposed to work this way- it’s the worst kind of partisanship.” The fictitious ‘Senate Committee on Banned Bills’ will hold a very real hearing on April 1st at 9:00am in 1100 Minnesota Senate Building to review a variety of legislation that have been refused committee hearings in the senate. This committee hearing will be open to the public and people are encouraged to attend.

“These bills have huge public support and are common sense ideas,” Sen. Little continued, “They’ve been banned for completely crass partisan reasons; because they are targeting certain seats, and don’t want to give certain people any achievements to campaign with. But the senate can’t make good decisions if major options aren’t even on the table. Partisan games like this are rigging our democracy, and blocking bills that voters really want.” 

The Senate Committee on Banned Bills (COBB) is slated to review the proposed bills, take testimony from citizens and expert witnesses, and debate the merits of each policy.  A wide array of bills will be introduced during the hearing, including legislation dealing with paid family medical leave, gun safety, and the health care provider tax [agenda and complete list of members and bills below]. 

Until late yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka had declared that he would “do everything in his power” to prevent new gun legislation. Early this morning the Star Tribune reported that Leader Gazelka had changed position and agreed to allow a hearing on certain gun safety measures if the house passed the same bills first.

“I am encouraged by Sen. Gazelka’s apparent willingness to hear my background check and red flag bills,” Sen. Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) commented, “But his announcement comes only two days before the committee deadline. As of yet, these hearings have not been scheduled, so this April first hearing will make sure that the views of the majority of Minnesotans are heard in the Senate.” 

“Reforms like universal background checks are supported by over 87% of all Minnesota gun owners,” Sen. Latz noted, “These issues deserve to be heard in the senate.” 

For other senators, their motivations center around key issues, such as restoring the rights of felons after they have completed their sentences. “Restoring voting rights after people have done their time just makes sense,” Sen. Champion (DFL-Minneapolis) explained, “How can you expect people to feel they have a chance in life if we keep them on the outside forever? Restoring their right to vote isn’t enough, but it’s an important step toward making them a productive, whole person again, after they’re released. That would be life changing for thousands of people.” 

For Sen. Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury), Paid Family and Medical Leave is a test of Minnesota’s moral compass, “Whether we assist or abandon families during a medical crisis says a lot about who we are as a society. Forcing people to choose between a day’s pay or caring for a dying parent is a moral failure for Minnesota. The public is overwhelmingly behind paid family and medical leave. And many businesses want it because they can’t provide paid leave if their competitors don’t have to provide it too. If businesses and families want paid medical leave, why won’t the senate even give this bill a hearing? It’s a disgrace.” 

All the senate members of the Committee on Banned Bills share the view that the normal democratic process requires hearings on all major options. “We are not talking about small, obscure, radical bills here,” Sen. Franzen (DFL-Edina) noted, “These are consensus policies on major issues. These proposals deserve a hearing, and most importantly, the citizens who have poured their energy into these bills deserve to be heard.” 

The fate of these bills will be uncertain even after the Committee on Banned Bills hears them.  “We hope this hearing puts pressure on committee chairs to hear these bills,” Sen. Little noted, “But either way, we want voters to know about these crucial issues so they can make up their own minds. We can’t let crass partisanship prevent voters from learning about key issues.”

Sen. Little believes advocates for these issues have been left with no alternative, “If the committee chairs won’t do the right thing, then we have to. They’ve left millions of Minnesotans with no voice and no hope on some of the biggest issues facing families today.” 

Senate Committee on Banned Bills Agenda for Monday, April 1:

  1. SF 434 – Latz – Firearms transfers and private party firearms transfers criminal background checks requirement
  2. SF 399 – Hayden – MinnesotaCare provider tax repeal
  3. SF 1012 – Torres Ray – Increase Teachers of Color Act strengthening and appropriation
  4. SF 1060 – Kent – Paid family, pregnancy, bonding, and applicant’s serious medical condition benefits establishment; employment leaves authorization and regulation; data classification authorization and appropriation
  5. SF 856 – Champion – Right to vote restoration upon incarceration release or sentencing imposition; county attorney voter registration and eligibility investigation obligation repeal
  6. SF 208 – Pappas – Resolution memorializing Congress to remove the deadline for ratification of the equal rights amendment by the states SF 200 – Cohen – Constitutional amendment for gender equality under the law

Senate Committee on Banned Bills Membership:

  • Sen. Matt Little – Chair
  • Sen. Melisa Franzen – Vice Chair
  • Sen. Karla Bigham
  • Sen. Bobby Joe Champion
  • Sen. Steve Cwodzinski
  • Sen. Nick Frentz
  • Sen. Jeff Hayden
  • Sen. Jason Isaacson
  • Sen. Susan Kent
  • Sen. Sandy Pappas
  • Sen. Patricia Torres Ray
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Matt Little represents Senate District 58, which covers Lakeville, Farmington, a small slice of Northfield and more than a dozen townships and small communities including Empire, Vermillion, New Trier and Douglas.

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