It was a fairly light week here at the Capitol, as most of our time in Committee is currently being spent hearing overviews of different agencies and items that will help us craft legislation. I anticipate we will begin ramping up next week as we begin to look at candidates for Regents as well as the first pieces of legislation to pass out of their respective committees.
Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Senate celebrated this week what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 89th birthday. It was a day to applaud and remember Dr. King’s many accomplishments and take a moment to keep his “dream” alive. But for all of his incredible accomplishments, the state still has a long way to go in achieving racial equity and social justice.
The country is at a turning point. Rhetoric is heightened and the rights of many Americans, especially minority communities and traditionally disenfranchised communities, are at greater risk. Through distorting the protections of religious freedom to provide cover for discrimination, ongoing issues with the criminal justice system and voting rights, and the fear mongering against Muslim-Americans, these issues and others epitomize the words of Dr. King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
With these words, the state remembered a great man on January 21, who was the impetus for change in the country and whose legacy continues to be relevant for social change.
Press Conference about new legislation
My colleagues and I introduced two bills at a press conference this week; the bills focus on new gun laws aimed to curtail gun violence. The first bill, Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) or “red flag” laws, would allow law enforcement and family members to seek a court order temporarily restricting a person’s access to guns when they show red flags and pose a danger to themselves and/or others. The second bill would extend criminal background checks to most private sales, gun show markets, and online transactions.
I authored both of these bills last year and am proud to join my colleagues in offering them again. While this issue is controversial and there are those who disagree with me, I am always willing to talk with those of differing opinion to learn more about their point of view. At the end of the day, we all want less violence in our communities. Let’s continue the conversation on how we get there.
Agriculture Economy Reviewed
In the Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Policy Committee this week, members heard there are variances across the state, but 2018 was a challenging year for farmers overall. It was the fifth year in a row with very low profitability. Median net farm income was reported at $28,620 for 2017. Additionally, 2019 cash flow projections are troublesome for many farmers. Compounding this problem is the limited amount of credit available. Testifiers reported that this has all led to a tremendous increase in the number of Farmer-Lender Mediations. Agriculture is critical industry important to Minnesota and the United States. It is clear the legislature will do what it can this session to assist farmers as they continue to confront difficult economic conditions.
Helmets to Hardhats
A proposal that would allocate resources to aid the trades in recruiting military members and veterans to work in Minnesota’s construction industry was heard this week in the Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee. In the previous biennium, the legislature appropriated $400,000 for this program. The Senate author and the bill’s supporters are seeking $800,000 from the Workforce Development Fund to continue to, “…recruit, retain, assist, and support National Guard, reserve, and active duty military members’ and veterans’ participation into apprenticeship programs registered with the Department of Labor and Industry and connect them with career training and employment in the building and construction industry”, as written in the bill. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.