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Senate Media Services

Law Enforcement Officials Offer Views on Escalation of Violent Crimes

The recent shootings and criminal activities in the Twin Cities spurred the convening of a Senate meeting Thursday, October 21, providing law enforcement officials a forum to discuss their views on the tools needed to combat crime.

Their suggestions ranged from improving enforcement of parole compliance to allowing GPS tracking systems to be attached to stolen cars. Committee members expressed their concerns over efforts to defund policing activities and the rise in police resignations, while other members said that further information should be examined to identify the core causes of criminal activity.

The hearing was informational and any resulting legislative action would occur during the 2022 legislative session.


Frontline Worker Bonus Pay Proposal Remains Unresolved

Disagreements remain over allocating $250 million in bonus pay for workers who were on the frontlines during the pandemic. Members of the Frontline Worker Pay Working Group met for the first time in several weeks Wednesday, October 20, in an effort to advance a proposal for the legislature and Governor Tim Walz to consider.

DFL members of the working group propose a minimum disbursement of $375 in tax-free hero pay to anyone who qualifies for the award. The proposal recognizes workers in retail, food service, manufacturing, social services, the courts as well as health-related fields.

In contrast, the GOP working group members proposed $1200 in tax-free bonuses to workers in health care, long-term care, emergency services and corrections. The competing proposals come one month after the working group’s recommendation was due to legislative leaders.

Co-chair Senator Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, failed to gain the task force's support in moving the contrasting proposals to the full legislature for their review and action. Co-chair Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, spoke against the motion to advance two proposals, saying the working group is tasked with reaching a compromise.

Winkler adjourned the meeting after he announced that the working group will meet next week to review any potential compromise proposal.


Verifying Residency of Candidates, Forming a Reproductive Freedom Caucus

The controversy surrounding the residency of Representative John Thompson, I-St. Paul, and the decennial process of redrawing legislative districts prompted the Senate State Government and Elections committee to hold an informational hearing last week. Senator Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, chair of the State Government and Elections committee, joins Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to talk about potential changes to the candidate filing process and the impact of redistricting on lawmakers and citizens.

The Supreme Court is poised to hear arguments in a case that challenges Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that guarantees a woman’s right to end a pregnancy. Many states have recently passed laws to limit access to abortion care, most notably Texas. In response, DFL members of the Minnesota House and Senate recently announced the formation of a Reproductive Freedom Caucus. Senator Jennifer McEwen, DFL-Duluth, is a vice-chair of the new caucus and joins Shannon to talk about the group's goals.

Also in the program, highlights from recent press conferences by Republican and DFL members of the Frontline Worker Pay Working Group. Members remain divided over how to divvy up the $250 million set aside by the legislature to reward workers who continued to work in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Senate Holds Hearing to Examine State Employee Vaccination & Testing Mandate

Deputy Commissioner Kristin Batson of Minnesota Management and Budget appeared at a Senate hearing Thursday, October 14, to outline the state policy requiring some state employees to demonstrate full vaccination against COVID-19 or accept weekly testing. The recent policy applies to state workers who must work in-person.

"As an employer, state agencies have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace, both for state agency employees and for the Minnesotans that we serve," Batson said. She added that requiring regular COVID-19 testing for employees who have not been fully vaccinated will reduce the risks to other employees and Minnesotans who are served by the state.

According to Batson, about 74 employees have been placed on unpaid leave for failing to adhere to the policy. Senator Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, expressed concern over the policy that applies to workers that were on the frontlines during the early days of the pandemic. "Ironically, the ones for whom it is an issue would be law enforcement...the workers in care facilities that have gone to work all day through Covid and working for meager pay in many cases, and they are the very ones on the punishment end...that's what is provoking me," he said.

Senator Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, questioned whether the state's use of the progressive discipline process is appropriate for medical decisions. "That discipline process has never been used before for something personal like a vaccination," she said.


DFL Members Outline Frontline Worker Bonus Pay Proposal

DFL Members of the Frontline Worker Pay Working Group, joined by essential workers in grocery, janitorial and nursing, outlined a proposal Wednesday, October 6, for allocating $250 million in bonus payments to those who continued to go to work during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Representative Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope, said that the plan would allow for a minimum disbursement of $375 in tax-free hero pay to anyone who qualifies for the award. The proposal recognizes workers in retail, food service, manufacturing, social services, the courts as well as health-related fields.

In contrast, the GOP working group members proposed $1200 in tax-free bonuses to workers in health care, long-term care, emergency services and corrections. The competing proposals come one month after the working group’s recommendation was due to legislative leaders.


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