Town Hall Recap
Thank you everyone that attended to the Senate District 46 Town Hall this past Tuesday. We had a great turnout, with over a hundred constituents packing the Council Chambers and even overflow watching in nearby rooms. My colleagues and I were excited to hear the legislative priorities that matter to you. We heard a lot of passion on issues including the Anti-Protest Bill (HF322), education funding, the Governor’s budget proposal, and health insurance access and affordability. Your input is valuable and always welcome. See the photos below:
Anti-Protest Bill (HF 322)
I have received numerous contacts regarding a controversial bill introduced in the House and heard by their House Civil Law Committee. HF 322 allows local governmental units to sue protesters in the court system. I strongly believe that such a measure runs contrary to our values, would have a chilling effect on our constitutional right to free speech and the right to assemble. New development: the bill was just introduced in the Senate, SF 679, so we will be on the look out.
On Tuesday, the Judiciary & Public Safety Finance & Policy Committee heard a proposal for the 2018-2019 biennium budget. This includes funding for the state court system, the Department of Corrections, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and other essential departments. The $2.36 billion proposal includes a $1.5 million increase to address a shortage of judges, and an increasing backlog of cases.
Real ID Hearing Update
We all realize that Minnesota desperately needs to address the problem of driver’s license compliance with Federal law so that passengers pass through TSA airport security to board their flights. Unfortunately, as was the case last Spring, the debate is getting sidetracked by the entirely separate immigration policy discussion. I believe that the Real ID legislation needs to be decoupled from the immigration debate to become law this year. Constituents that have reached out are frustrated about the expensive forms of identification (such as a passport) for domestic flights that would be required if accord is not reached.
Next Tuesday and Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be hearing this Real ID compliance legislation authored by Senator Pratt. Tuesday, February 7th, from 1:00 – 2:30 pm will be dedicated largely to public testimony, so if you would like to testify come to 1100 of the Minnesota Senate Building at that time.
Constituent visit this week: Minnesota Hospitality Day on the Hill!
Hate Crimes Legislation (SF 377)
Last session, we passed legislation that enhances the penalty for felony assaults motivated by bias. This was in response to the assault on a local community member, Asma Jama, who courageously has been speaking about her horrific incident at a local restaurant that resulted in serious injury for speaking a different language than the assailant. Our next step is to enhance penalties for other crimes by 25% that come from bias. A perpetrator of a hate crime is victimizing an entire community through their actions, and therefore it necessitates an enhanced the penalty.
DWI Forfeiture (SF 413)
Under current law, drivers who are found to be driving while intoxicated can have their vehicles seized by law enforcement under civil forfeiture proceedings. As many of you know, forfeiture is a program that does not reduce crime. This specific bill exempts forfeiture for those that enroll in the ignition interlock program within 60 days of the offense. This affords offenders who are dedicated to recovery a second chance by holding them accountable through the stringent interlock program.
St. Louis Park Water Treatment Bonding (SF 467)
This will help the city of St. Louis Park pay for essential improvements to their water treatment facility in the Minikahda Vista neighborhood. It provides $2.25 million in bonding and will support the efforts currently underway. I am a steadfast advocate of clean water—this will further promote those efforts locally.
Telephone Notification of automatic contract renewal (SF 532)
Telephone companies currently have no obligation to notify their customers of automatic renewal clauses. This bill would require them to do so 90 days prior to execution of their automatic renewal clause. This would be a positive step in consumer protection. Representatives Cheryl Youakim and Peggy Flanagan are authors in the House.
Golden Valley Douglas Drive and Highway 55 Intersection Bonding (SF 555)
Just north of the Perpich Center for the Arts School, this busy intersection at Douglas Drive and Highway 55 is currently presenting safety challenges for both pedestrians and traffic. It is a top priority for the city and Hennepin County infrastructure improvement plans. The city has designed the renovations and are looking for state bonding dollars to officially realize the project.
Watch my discussion with Shannon Lehrke on the Minnesota College Affordability Act SF 156: