Senate DFL Week in Review: February 10, 2017

This week featured two high-profile issues that divided members in committee along mostly party lines.

The week began with a hearing on preemption, which included a long list of testifiers and heated testimony. There were so many people interested in testifying that extra time was added onto the end of the committee hearing to allow everyone to make their voices heard. The bill, which strips power away from local units of government to make their own labor laws, (like setting minimum wages and creating paid and sick and safe time policies) passed on a party line vote.

REAL ID also featured prominently in discussions this week. The issue had a two-day hearing with much discussion. It ultimately passed out of committee but has another committee stop before the full Senate will vote on the bill. If the Minnesota Legislature doesn’t pass a bill, Minnesotans will not be able to fly using their driver’s license as their sole form of identification beginning in 2018.

Committees continue to hear bills, but major budget bills likely won’t be worked on until after the February budget forecast is released, which usually happens in early March. This forecast will tell legislators exactly how much money they have to spend to craft their two year budgets.

This Week In the Senate

Growing opportunities for Minnesota kids and families in every Minnesota county
Governor Mark Dayton outlined his proposal to grow opportunities for Minnesota kids and families across our state as part of his Opportunity Agenda for a Better Minnesota.

Preemption bill in committee
The Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee heard a bill that would prohibit local units of government from establishing their own labor benefit policies.

MinnesotaCare buy-in gives Minnesotans more health care options
This week DFL legislators participated in a media availability to discuss the details of the proposed MinnesotaCare buy-in with the Commissioner of Human Services Emily Piper.

Solitary confinement
Solitary confinement reform has been garnering attention over recent years, but gained attention here in Minnesota media in late 2016 when the Star Tribune ran a four-part series about practices in the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Grants would help schools provide STEM classes
A bill to provide grants to help schools design and provide science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) opportunities for students was heard in the Senate’s E-12 Finance Committee this week.

Reading Corps funding would expand program to serve more students
Legislation to increase literacy opportunities to children struggling to read was discussed in the E-12 Finance Committee this week.

Education transition grants
Middle school and junior high students would get help in making the transition to high school under a bill that was heard in E-12 Finance Thursday.

The REAL ID bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday evening.

Anti-protesting bills introduced in the Senate
Three bills have been introduced that would increase penalties or liabilities for people protesting in Minnesota.

Legislative Auditor issues report on use of Vikings stadium suites
The Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) presented its findings to a joint hearing of the State Government Senate and House Committees Tuesday after conducting a special investigation into the use of two Norseman Suites at U.S. Bank Stadium owned by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA).

Minnesota Gestational Carrier Act
The Minnesota Gestational Carrier Act was unveiled this week in a press conference on Feb. 7.

Broadband in Minnesota overview
The Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee heard an overview of broadband in Minnesota.

Joint Senate and House Higher Education Committees approve regent slate
Members of the joint House and Senate Higher Education Committees on Tuesday approved four candidates to forward to the full House and Senate for a vote to fill four expiring terms on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.

Tax Committee considers Governor Dayton’s tax plan
The Senate Tax Committee heard details of Governor Mark Dayton’s tax proposal for the 2018-2019 budget cycle this week.

Minnesota could ban handheld cellphone use while driving
A bipartisan bill was introduced this week that would prohibit the use of cell phones while driving except for the use of a hands-free device.